Review by: Jonathan Hynes
Published: September 13, 2004
More than five years after the release of The Second Story and 18 months behind the Japanese launch, the aptly named Till the End of Time has finally crossed the Pacific, ending what not only seemed like, but almost was an eternity of waiting. Patience is golden, however, and with a special Director’s Cut, complete with bonus areas, monsters, cutscenes and even a couple of extra playable characters, North American role-players are reaping the benefits of the near torturous wait.
As you would expect from a Square Enix production, the first few hours of the game are dedicated mainly to familiarizing you with the backstory while simultaneously introducing the main conflict. Things begin to get interesting after the protagonist, Fayt Leingod, is separated from his mother and father in a brutal attack on a utopian world. Soon thereafter, he is forced to abandon his search for them in order to safely evacuate his companion, Sophia, from the ruined planet. Unfortunately, the transport ship that he boards isn’t off limits to alien hostilities, either, and just as was the case with his parents, Fayt loses contact with Sophia after boarding their escape pods. Though he is fortunate enough to survive the long trip through space and the eventual crash landing, Fayt still finds himself alone on an alien world, desperate to find out what happened to his family.
Though the amount of characters and potential endings have both been reduced from the number found in The Second Story, Till the End of Time still allows you to participate in the same private actions, or mini-events. Unlike normal conversations or conflicts, these encounters usually require you to go out of your way or backtrack before becoming available. Also unlike your standard event, these eighty-or-so scenarios will, based on your decisions, affect how certain characters feel towards Fayt and each other. Ultimately, this will determine which ending you’ll see at the game’s conclusion.
Combat in Star Ocean is a real-time affair, and though you may control just one party member at a time, you can switch active characters on the fly. On the battlefield, basic attacks are divided into two categories: minor and major. As you might expect, minor strikes deal relatively little damage to your enemies, but they’re also quick to execute, meaning that you can easily sneak in a few hits before your opponent retaliates. Major attacks are used to dish out the real pain, but the time that it takes to carry out the command is most definitely a factor, as you’re extremely vulnerable to a quick counterattack from your foes. What’s more, since you strike the area where the monster is at the time you press the button, more mobile creatures can simply move out of range in the second or two that you spend charging.