Star Ocean EX Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Star Ocean EX

Star Ocean EX Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     August 09, 2005
Release Date: July 19, 2005


Star Ocean EX Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Claude makes up his mind to participate in the dog-eat-dog Armors Tournament in order to be received in audience with Dr. Leon, who might know how to save the planet from the atrocious creatures. To his astonishment, Claude's opponent in the finals is…


The Review!
Adding yet another character to the cast, Doctor Leon arrives and provides new shouta material for fangirls out there.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. We also listened to it in English in full the next day. Both tracks for this show are pretty solid but not terribly engaging stereo mixes that make decent use of the forward soundstage but without a whole lot of noticeable directionality but rather in a more full manner. We had no issues with dropouts or distortions on either language track during regular playback on two separate players.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The show is filled with a lot of rich colors and vibrant pieces but it's not entirely free of problems. Mostly visible when it comes to the large areas of a single color in the character animation itself, some scenes exhibit some amount of color banding going on and some minor blocking associated with it. On our 50" setup, it was pretty noticeable when it came to some of the greens or hairs with characters, but down on the 20" set it was far less pronounced and much harder to see. Otherwise, the transfer is pretty much problem free as there isn't any noticeable cross coloration or much in the way of aliasing during movement.

Packaging:
Geneon continues to do a great job with a lot of their series by getting the Japanese artwork. The artwork for this cover is given over to the Doctor Leon character that gets plenty of screentime in this volume and has a fairly bland background behind him. But the artwork does showcase his shouta nature; short shorts and even some cat ears, so it'll definitely pique the interest of a certain segment of fandom. The back cover provides a small number of shots from the show and the background reuses parts of the front cover to provide a fairly dark looking piece. The episode numbers and titles are listed here as is a good summary of the premise and the shows video game origins. Mix in a clean and easy to read set of extras and basic disc features as well as some production info and you've got a good looking back cover. The insert provides another shot of the front cover on one side while the reverse lists the episode numbers and titles for this volume as well as the release dates for the remaining volumes in the series.

Menu:
The menu layout for the series is decent if somewhat uninspired with a series of blocks in a science fiction style where inside each of them there are different pieces of static artwork or animation from the show running around. It's not set to music per se but the thumming sound you'd hear if you were watching Star Trek: Next Generation and listened to the background noise of the ship there. Access times are nice and fast and the menus load quickly as well as correctly use the players' language presets that I have, earning it a few extra bonus points.

Extras:
The only extras to make it into this volume is the continuation of the character profiles which as mentioned previously are fairly useless with a minimal amount of information provided for each entry.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The setup for the tournament took up part of the last volume and now that event is about to begin. Pitting the two swords, Ohma and Kohma, against each other as well as throwing them into the hands of both Dias and Claude means that there is a lot of tension going into the battle. Who will win? That will have to be determined by whoever can button mash the best… oh, wait, this isn't a video game…

The tournament actually adds a new bit of tension to things after the realization that Dias was involved in this fight as Rena tries to figure out what's going on with him only to end up seemingly on his side. She doesn't return with Claude and the others and later that night Bisque comes to tell Claude that Rena was with Dias as they looked for a way into the castle before the tournament could actually start so they're now wanted for questioning. Claude and the group manage to convince him that Rena's not really the problem and that it's Dias but everything comes back to the basic idea of it must be settled within the tournament ring itself.

Overseen by the king and his lead general, the tournament is surprisingly short and kept to just one episode. The show changes gears a little bit here as Dias reveals that he's been using the tournament as a rouse to draw out the monsters that had supposedly infiltrated the castle and some of its highest ranking members of the court and the entire area turns into a battlefield. The difference from before is that they're able to free Doctor Leon first, though they are surprised that he's a child genius. This completely deflates Precis which is amusing since she continues to lust over older more powerful men.

The introduction of Leon brings some unbalance to the show but moves it forward much faster towards its conclusion. Leon is something of the brilliant type character and right from the start he draws out a weapon that eliminates monsters quickly and efficiently. Even better, he's built a massive cannon like weapon that can destroy the sorcery globe if they go and do a quick side quest to find an energy stone and then ship the whole thing to the other continent and bring it over to where the sorcery globe is so they can destroy it. It's all straight forward and they kick off things to a couple of small adventures in preparation for moving to the final arc in the next two volumes of the series.

All of this is in service to moving the characters around and providing some new bits of information in order to setup the final arc. It's done in the real makeshift manner that we've come to expect so far. Such an example is when the professor arrives in town to reveal that he's translated a paragraph of the book only to have everyone run off to go do something else really fast. Nothing like keeping your eye on the ball. Even better, the professor reveals the paragraph later on and they all interpret it for present day issues. But that's not all. Apparently it's taken awhile to translate this part but the professor will now hustle back to his town in order to translate the rest of the book really quick. Apparently once you get a paragraph done the other couple hundred of pages are a snap.

In Summary:
It's been a nagging problem for me from the start but so much of how this show is written just screams of a bad video game adaptation and it hurts. I've seen a number of games be very well adapted in the last few years so the excuse of it being from a game really doesn't hold much weight anymore and if anything it's starting to turn to the side of you expect a decent story out of it instead of expecting mediocre material. There are some amusing moments throughout it and even some of the tournament material was fun to watch but more than half the time I feel like I'm watching an old cutscene and waiting for my chance to play the game.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Character Profiles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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