Well, this is a solid example of an otherwise decent game swiftly going downhill due to a certain story reveal. When I started Star Ocean 3, I was having a blast — by the time I got to the final dungeon, I just wanted my suffering to end. Oh well. The game was still overall okay.
But fuck me, that twist.
So, as you may or may not know, I was a big fan of the original two Star Oceans back in the day, so it felt only natural that I’d eventually play the third one, too. So here we are now. And if you’ve read the first few lines I wrote above, you can also probably figure out that my feelings on this game are… kinda mixed.
I’m still a bit too salty (I’ll explain why later) to write a proper intro so here’s what you get: you play as Fayt, some blue-haired twat with a childhood friend (Sophia) who clearly has a crush on him but his donkan ass won’t realize it. Because of course. Fayt is also voiced by Souichirou Hoshi so 90% of the time I was like “what the hell is Hinata Youichi doing in this game, go back to banging Aqua or something”. Anyway, in usual Star Ocean fashion, you start out in an ultra sci-fi hi-tech civilization but by some twist of fate, end up crash landing on a planet with a civilization level equivalent to the middle ages, if the middle ages had magic and dragons and cute kuudere oneesans (I’ll also explain that last one later, bear with me for now).
You spend the first few hours in the game looking like a dork in your slippers (Fayt was in the middle of some vacation iirc when Shit Happened), but that doesn’t stop you from murdering unarmed people in cold blood. Who beg for their lives before you fucking stab them with your sword.
You think I’m joking.
Soon enough, you meet up with muscular broseph Cliff and the aforementioned redhead kuudere, Nel, and the three of you spend the majority of the game adventuring in Medieval Fantasy Land. Nel is best girl, by the way. Let’s just make this clear. Fuck Maria and fuck Sophia, I don’t give a shit about either of them. Mirage doesn’t count. The brown loli also doesn’t count.
By the way, I went to painstaking lengths to do all of Nel’s optional events (Private Actions) to finally get her ending in the epilogue, and then I didn’t even bother finishing the game. How funny is that? Anyway, before you start freaking out, I did play through like 99% of the game, I just quit at the final dungeon because I couldn’t take this shit anymore. I guess it must be because I didn’t spend ages messing around with the item creation system to make my weapons the best they can be, or maybe I didn’t level up enough. I’m not sure, but fights towards the end became increasingly more frustrating and difficult, so I was like, screw this I’ll just watch the ending on Youtube. And I did. And Nel’s ending too, because that one’s also on Youtube. My soul is now at peace, and I rest easy knowing that Fayt and Nel spent the rest of their lives making babies like no one’s business.
Oh, right, I should talk about the game, too. Right. Okay. I got this. No more rambling about how much I want to smell Nel’s hair and drink her piss. None of that. Promise.
So, the battle system. I keep seeing people say how this game has a really amazing battle system, apparently. Did we… did we play the same game? Well, okay, maybe this was amazing back in, like… 2003 or whenever this game came out, but I honestly found it kinda clunky. The fact you have to hold down a button to do special attacks, how enemies have a bunch of moments where they can’t be damaged (like when they get knocked to the floor and are getting back up; I’m here to stunlock bitches, not to politely wait for them to pull their pants back up), the way your idiot character will keep slashing at empty air if the enemy moves two pixels to the side, and how I spent most of the game demolishing everything by spamming/cancel comboing the same two or three attacks… Well, I dunno. It wasn’t terrible, but it didn’t exactly rock my world and shake my foundations (Nel did that). It did grow mighty repetitive, though.
Take a shot now if you’re playing the “Gare Mentions Nel” drinking game, by the way.
Anyway, let’s talk about more important things. Like Nel. She has the most soothing voice ever. Near the end, I was getting really burned out on the story so I kept skipping the text once I read it (instead of letting the voices play), EXCEPT FOR NEL’S LINES. I always listened to those. Always. At times, I wished she would sit at my bed at night and sing me lullabies. I’m not exactly sure how much of that previous sentence is a joke, and that scares me a little. As I’ve previously mentioned, I didn’t care about the crafting system because I play JRPGs to explore cool worlds and get to know cool characters, not to stare at a menu that tells me I’m cooking borscht. (Note: I have no idea if you can make borscht in Star Ocean: Till the End of my Patience, but maybe you can. Or maybe you can’t. It doesn’t matter.)
EXCEPT… that one time I did go into the crafting menu just to look at Nel chopping vegetables. Look how adorable she is. Look!
On a more serious note, Cliff and Nel were probably the only two characters I really liked, the rest I couldn’t give two shits about, sadly. Maria is not bad, I suppose, Mirage is barely in the game, Fayt is Fayt, Sophia is Boring Osananajimi #631, Albel is the Edgy Edgelord and there were a few other characters as well but who cares. I guess Clair was cute but she’s not playable, goddammit. And the villains do the typical shounen villain cackle while throwing their heads back. I mean, come on. Also, some of them look like the morbid lovechildren of Humpty Dumpty and a manatee:
Anyway, back to the battle system. This game has MP death. Have I told you that? No? Well, this game has MP death. Yes, really. If you run out of MP in battle, you fucking DIE. If you run out of HP in battle, you also fucking die. Wow. It’s also kinda weird how the game gives you peanuts for XP so in the end, it kinda-sorta expects you to unlock the 300% XP bonus and exploit the shit out of it if you want to have any chance at leveling up in a timely manner.
Incidentally, and this is not related to the battle system at all, but you can climb every ladder in this game, even if it makes no sense. I’m serious. I loved this. As such, I made it my mission to climb every ladder, even if it was completely pointless. Look:
There’s also a picture of Thomas the Tank Engine in this house for some reason. I don’t even know.
So what did I like about Star Ocean 3? Well, the world was sort of cool. The environments, the cities, the interiors… all that stuff.
*Hot Take Imminent* As I kept playing Star Ocean 3, I was thinking to myself “damn, the oft-praised and tremendously overrated Tales of Berseria had a bunch of garbage-tier locations/dungeons, and here I am, playing a game from 2003 that has a way lower polygon count but ends up making its world way more interesting. Imagine that.” Indeed. Star Ocean 3’s cities were fun to explore, were decently big, and had a bunch of NPC houses to barge into where you can talk to the locals. You know, the way all JRPGs used to do things before we suddenly started praising the likes of Berseria as the second coming of JRPG Christ. I bet people think the J in JRPG even stands for Jesus. (70% of my body is made of salt right now, in case you were wondering.) Anyway, despite the aged graphics, the interiors all felt cozy and had a certain lived-in feel to them. Here, I’ll even show you a pretty picture or two:
And this is what a town should look like.
This game even has proper (and fairly lengthy) dungeons, by the way. With puzzles. Actual goddamn puzzles. And you can check a lot of things in houses. Like shelves and such. There’s a lot of stuff to just inspect and read. Like, if you go into the room of the King (who’s looking for a bride), you find this book about romance. Another shelf has some cool tri-Ace references. Or silly jokes. Oh, and items have actual 3D models you can check out on the inventory screen. Games should do that more. There’s lots of little things that all convey how much care went into the world. I always appreciate stuff like this, and it’s something that tends to be missing from a lot of games, I feel.
The not-so-cool part about Star Ocean 3’s world is that the game also has a LOT of backtracking, where you’ll just be running back and forth between cities. A side quest even has you running all the way from one end of the world to the other, just to deliver some letter. And there’s really no fast travel in this game, except for that one guy who offers to take you between two specific spots, but that’s all I remember. The rest of the time, you walk. Bleh.
Right, so about the storyline. It honestly plays it fairly straight at first. You land on this fantasy planet, start to get into some trouble, meet some new faces and all that jazz. I’ve always enjoyed how Star Ocean mixed fantasy with sci-fi, and it was pretty interesting to see Fayt go on about how he must keep his hi-tech gadgets and origins a secret so as not to interfere with an underdeveloped planet’s history and such. So eventually you start getting more and more involved with the various major powers on Fantasy Planet, and then some dramatic stuff happens, more problems arise… well, it’s typical JRPG fluff, but I didn’t mind. I came to play a standard but solid JRPG and that’s what I got. In the first half, anyway.
And then The Twist happened.
Let me illustrate what my reaction was:
Yes. I obviously won’t spoil what the twist is, but it honestly made the entire game, no, the entire franchise feel kinda hollow. I don’t think I’ll be able to look at Star Ocean games the same way again, all thanks to this one reveal. I mean, it didn’t piss me off or anything, I’m not frothing at the mouth here, but I kept asking “why?”. There could’ve been a dozen better ways to wrap up this storyline, and they went with this load of baloney.
After The Twist (*laugh track plays*), the rest of the game mostly focuses on sci-fi stuff, and your adventures in Fantasy Land are mostly over, and you’re stuck wandering boring steel hallways and boring spaceships and other boring places. The ending is sort of meh, plus the final villain comes out of nowhere and suffers from Generic Villain Syndrome, even if some of what he says is mildly thought-provoking, though I won’t go into details so as not to spoil The Twist.
I think this review ended up being a bit rambly, but that’s okay. It might also be proof of my gradually unraveling sanity, which is… not so okay, but I’ll deal with it. For now, all I can say is that Star Ocean 3 was fine until it decided to shit the bed with its second half, and by the end, it kinda left me burned out and exhausted. It’s worth a playthrough, and there’s much to like about it (not just Nel) if you want a decent JRPG from the good ol’ PS2 era, but don’t expect too much.
Are you still doing that drinking game, by the way? Is your liver okay? I’m starting to get worried.