This game is the third and last installment of Tri-Ace's venerable space opera science fiction RPG, spanning across three consoles , and it's a good finish. I finished the main story just before the year's end . But I've still been actively playing it, going through the bonus dungeons 
The fact that I finished it, and the fact that I am still playing it, and the fact that I am still planning to finish it on both of the higher difficulty levels, all of these facts speak volumes about how good this game is, given that I don't have nearly as much time to play as I did before I was working.
The story/plot is so-so, not too strong, but some of the characters  are cool. Space-faring lad gets stranded on backwards-planet, gets involved and suddenly gets thrust into a conflict against the Creator that threatens the existance of the very universe. The usual sort of thing. There's a giant plot twist somewhere in the second disc that changes the very nature of the Star Ocean universe and guarantees that this is, in fact, the last game of the series. Actually, in retrospect, the plot is fairly okay, but it could've been pulled off better.
The gameplay is where it's at of course. As well know, RPGs are about gameplay, not story.  Gameplay-wise, the single best feature of this game is: Battle Trophies! Battle Trophies are awards granted to you for certain things done in combat, such as avoiding certain spells, winning with no damage, winning by tiny slivers of life, etc. Many boss battles have associated battle trophies such as "Defeat so-and-so in 1 minute" or "Defeat so-and-so without taking damage." Accumulating battle trophies means unlocking higher difficulty levels, extra costumes and extra modes.
The other good things carry over from Star Ocean 2. The real-time battle system is the same, with a bunch of improvements. The Fury gauge stops battles from being a button-bashing-fest, and the anti-attack auras add some tactical element to the battles. Damage bonuses for chaining together special moves are neat.
Item Creation is still here, but the system is vastly different from SO2. Instead of just crafting items yourself anywhere you are, you can hire inventors to work for you in workshops throughout the world. You can work with them of course, in an assembly line fashion that shows your characters going through various experiments to make stuff. However, I greatly miss that feature of Star Ocean 2's Item Creation where you are shown a blob of some sort of raw creation material that slowly but surely transforms into a wonderful item. Losing that feature sort of removed the joy of item creation. =p
There are however, some bad things about this game. Mostly minor nitpicks actually. The most important one is this:
The menu interface for the battle arena sucks.
Seriously, everytime I go to fight the ranking battles, I have to go through three or four menus. One to ask whether I need to be given a tutorial. One to choose what type of battle I want to fight. Before I beat the champions, I get asked whether I want to fight them. One where I choose the opponent for my battle. The one with the tutorial really ticks me off every time I see it. I've already read the tutorial! Must you ask me every single time? Would you like fries with that?
Really, the "I'd like an explanation" thing could just be placed in the second menu. I should only have to decide two things: One, I want to fight a ranking battle; and two, I want to choose my opponent. Single battles or team battles are slightly worse, as you must choose your fighter and your difficulty level in addition to the above choices. I wonder how hard it would have been to make a simple menu system for the arena, instead of relying on the conversation system?
I realize this is a really petty thing to note, but when you start playing the battle arena, you have to go through those menus repeatedly every two or three minutes. It got annoying fast. And don't get me started on those bunny races...
The other bad thing is: bad endings. Well, I wasn't expecting much given that the story wasn't that good anyway, but eh? The general ending wasn't much more than "Hey, we're still alive! Cool!", and the individual endings were a bit sleepy. Or maybe it was just the lackluster music playing during the endings?
Overall though, a decidedly good game, one I'm going to try to finish at least two more times, and a worthy end to the Star Ocean series. Looking forward to Tri-Ace's next series...
- and a side-story for a portable ↩
- that means I actually finished two RPGs last year. That's right. I think FF X-2 was an RPG and was released last year ↩
- just finished the Maze of Tribulations today. Quick tip: the boss there is cake if you have paralysis immunity. Mmm... cake ↩
- read: Nel ↩
- which is why I never finished Xenosaga. I hope we get more RPGs that don't try to be a cinemafest like Metal Gear Solid 3. Gee, two quick reviews of games I didn't finish in a foot note! I'm proud. ↩