Japanese games big and small are coming out of the woodwork for their big Tokyo Game Show debut next week. It's the biggest game party in the country, and everyone is gonna be there, so a Japanese company missing its chance to show off its wares to the public at TGS would be akin to it not shipping the game to stores because it just didn't feel like getting out of bed that day. You wouldn't do it, in other words, if you wanted to get any money out of it.clicky
So it is with Star Ocean: The Last Hope, fourth game in the series and -- for now, anyway -- an Xbox 360 exclusive. Square Enix and tri-Ace's latest is hitting stores spring 2009 in Japan, and it'll be playable at the Microsoft booth in TGS next week. Weekly Famitsu magazine celebrated today be releasing more details behind the game's story, characters and plot. As far as Star Ocean's plotline goes, this game covers what could be considered prehistory -- the second half of the 21st century. World War III breaks out in 2064, razing the planet and forcing people to live in underground cities. The world governments see space development as a solution, and after the world's first working warp drive is invented in 2087, a new planetary exploration force is created to search for a new home for the human race.
Edge Maverick and Reimi Saionji, two childhood friends, are members of this elite team, with more characters joining them later on. Two new party members were introduced this week: Faize Sheifa Beleth, a rapier-wielding 18-year-old from planet Elder who's cool, emotionless, and resembles a Japan-designed, blond-haired Mr. Spock; and Lymle Remli Phi, a villager from planet Remlik who's gifted in magic and looks like a prepubescent young girl even though she's 15 years old -- not because the character designer's a perv, but because some incident in her past caused enough emotional trauma that she hasn't matured correctly. (Both of these characters' native planets are new to the Star Ocean universe, and presumably we'll be visiting both of 'em as the game goes on.)
The Famitsu coverage also gives us our first detailed look at SO4's battle system, a powered-up version of the 3D-based one from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. You control your four-person party in real time, using a mixture of regular attacks, special moves, and magic as you maneuver around your enemies. One new facet of the system is a "sight in/sight out" concept -- every enemy has a field of vision, and suddenly leaving your opponent's line of sight (say, by jumping into the air or sidestepping out of view) will temporarily disorient him, giving you a clear shot at a slow-motion counterattack. Party members can be changed in and out of battle at will, and if things are how they are in previous Star Oceans, the result's going to be alarmingly hectic.