Sci-fi role-players return to the Star Ocean for the first time in The Last Hope, a prequel game set centuries before the original game's story began. Gameplay begins in the year S.D. 10, or about 2087 A.D. Humanity has waged World War III, and Earth is the greatest casualty. Lands have been upturned, civilizations have been razed, and survivors realize that they must find a new home, on a new planet. Players follow the adventures of young Edge Maverick and Reimi Saionji, two childhood friends who have grown up to lead humanity's first intergalactic mission, in a spaceship called <i>Calnus</i>. <br><br>At times, piloting the ship themselves -- a first in the Star Ocean series -- players have some choice as to which planets they visit and which adventures they encounter there. Exploration takes place from a standard third-person perspective. In combat, the view can change as players shift from character to character, and is accented with zooms and cutaways to display special attack graphics and other effects. Between battles, role-playing as the captain in conversations with other crew members allows players to build rapport between the characters, which lets them work better as a team and unlocks additional strengths and abilities in combat. Cut-scenes help to fill in the story between the action.<br><br>Battles play out in real-time. Players can control up to four party members, flipping between them with the trigger button. Each character has different strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities, which can be enhanced and customized with combat experience. The game's "BEAT" ("Battle Exalted Action Type") system lets players assign different general fighting styles to characters, pushing them to behave more aggressively, defensively, or to focus on special attacks, for example. Increasingly sophisticated BEAT scripts become available as characters level up. Star Ocean: The Last Hope also introduces "Rush" gauges, which build slowly in regular battle and allow characters to perform distinct, powerful special moves when full.