I think Dale was more insulted by this title than I was, though I was particularly appalled at the horrendous art direction. Like some kind of outsourced nightmare, everything from the cut sequence, to the pre-rendered backgrounds, to the character sprites, don't just look as if different teams did them, they look as if different companies did them! There isn't any visual cohesion to ground all the other elements in the game.

This isn't an easy game to get into either. There's confusion right from the start and the initial setup before the actual meat and potatoes of the game seems to drag on forever. The dialogue is needlessly long and seems to plague every conversation. That wouldn't even be so bad if it wasn't so poorly written. The game is riddled with RPG cliches and stereotypes. Everything pertaining to story seems recycled and regurgitated.

Still, I gave it a slightly below average review because for the most part it delivers what I have come to expect from the genre. There's an extremely long quest (for better or worse), a huge cast of characters, and attempts at innovative gameplay such as the private action sequences, numerous endings, and extensive skill development. Unfortunately, none of these positives can overcome the overwhelming level of mediocrity and staleness. For me to sum up Star Ocean, I need to refer back to those tiny 16-bit RPG characters, who were only able to express emotion through little gestures such as a drop of sweat or jittery shaking. It was cute and clever years ago considering their graphic limitations, but when huge 32-bit cousins try to incorporate the same conventions, it's a bit like watching an adult behave like a baby. What used to pass for adorable is now tired and actually rather disturbing. Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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