Star Ocean 4 Looks Amazing, Plays...The Same

Most games at TGS had one booth. Maybe two. Some more high-profile titles had 3-4 booths, some AAA titles like LittleBigPlanet had 10-12. Star Ocean 4, on the other hand, had around 25-30 machines running at the Microsoft stand, giving you a fair indication of how important this game is to the company, who are hoping it can be their next big thing after Tales of Vesperia. So how's it shaping up?

It's shaping up as a safe, safe game. Like most Japanese games on the showroom floor, if you stripped back the graphical improvements a new generation of hardware has brought, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were playing a PS2 game. You still wander a linear overworld, you still encounter enemies, you still engage in closed-off battles with your party, the action is still punctuated by text-based conversation.

Basically, if you like Star Ocean - or JRPGs in general - you know what you're getting yourself into before you even drop the disc into your 360.

What you won't be ready for will be this game's graphics. The in-game action looks crisp and clean, with a vibrant colour palette and bold character designs helping the game stand out on the 360 amongst the its Square Enix & Mistwalker competition. Cutscenes using the in-game engine look even better, with so few ragged edges around the player models that they trump many other game's rendered sequences.

As for Star Ocean 4's rendered sequences...they're simply amazing. I didn't catch many on the showroom floor, but in an interview with the game's producer Yoshinori Yamagishi, they had a 50" LCD running the game's intro sequence. And I know, this was so rude, but I couldn't help but be continually distracted by it. If you're the type to grind through a JRPG for the fluff sequences, you won't find many better than those in this game.

As for the mechanics of the game, new nuts & bolts, etc, sadly the demo ran for only 10 minutes or so, enough time to only get a few quick battles in and go for a run outside before the game shut down. Still, from what I saw, I didn't notice much new stuff. Combat did seem a little easier than previous games, with switching between characters being a lot faster, and there were a range of new charged attacks available for each character, and...that was about it.

As with most JRPG titles this generation, it seemed a case of same old gameplay, shiny new graphics. Which may seem lazy to most (including myself), but hey, to Star Ocean fans, it's probably exactly what you're after.


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