Star Ocean EX Vol. #5 - 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     September 06, 2005
Release Date: September 20, 2005


Star Ocean EX Vol. #5
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
After a shipwreck on the way to El Continent, Claude and Leon drift ashore and find themselves separated from the rest of the group. Bewildered by their predicament, they determine to keep their faith and set off on foot, hoping that they will find their friends alive and their missing miracle weapon, Lacour Hope, somewhere on this doomed land with numerous evil monsters.


The Review!
As Star Ocean EX gets closer to the finale, we finally arrive on El Continent and it's monsters ahoy!

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 provides one of the best ones yet with a great detailed illustration of Rena while having a purple filter over the image of planets and stars in the background. The combination of the background color and the foreground artwork really looks great here and this is a really eye-catching piece. 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 extra to make it into this volume is a set of character artwork images in a gallery format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Star Ocean EX hits its penultimate volume and the show feels like it's going by surprisingly fast now and that the end is closer than it first appeared. A lot has happened overall and progress has definitely been made but the feel of side quests has certainly made it a bit of a challenge to get here.

After moving along towards the ocean and getting their Hope of Lacour weapon away from the problems at the last outpost, the group finds itself once again subject to the same kind of border commander who falls easy prey to the demon monster that's been haunting the area. Though there's a basic plot of having the commander be twisted into someone who tries to steal the energy stone in order to be saved, what the episode is really about is the fallen hero Dias who is rather badly wounded after the last exchange. Rena reveals his history to Claude so that he can understand – at long last – why Dias is the way he is, from losing his parents at an early age as well as his brother. The pain of losing them forced him into a role of not wanting others to fall to it and for him to be strong enough to handle things.

With Dias out of the picture now and El Continent so near, the group acquires the ship they need to move across the ocean and the massive Hope of Lacour is loaded aboard. Interestingly, the three thieves whose goofball appearances every few episodes manage to find their way on board as deck hands as well and so the journey goes. Or does for a little bit before crashing down into a massive tidal wave that was sent towards them from El Continent. The tidal wave is brutal as it hits the ship and things go so badly as to split the thing in two at a truly bad moment as Claude is holding onto Rena. They end up separated, submerged and thrown to the waves.

The show takes on a slightly different feel now as we follow the groups as they wake up spread across different areas of El Continent and try to figure out how to go on. Claude and Leon are together and Claude is as you'd expect, resolute in continuing to do what needs done and make his way to the Sorcery Globe as well as trying to find Rena. Leon is completely despondent however and doesn't see any reason to go on and is ready to give up utterly. To my surprise, the three thieves get a fair bit of time in this arc as they struggle to figure out what's up with them and they discover the remains of the ship as well as the Hope of Lacour. For Rena and the rest, they end up a bit further inland when we catch up with them and apparently being helped by a woman named Opera who came from the same place Claude did and is trying to figure out what's going on.

El Continent is given a fairly decent tour of its beaches across this as we see remnants of a village that's been devastated by the monsters as well as a wide variety of creatures that have taken over the land since the arrival of the Sorcery Globe. Claude ends up discovering some interesting critters as they move along and his reasoning for continuing on is given more space again which isn't surprising after they talked so much about why Dias does what he does. Claude's motivations work out nicely for inspiring Leon to continue on but what's surprising is that the three thieves end up becoming more interesting characters as they work together more now and end up helping Claude and the others.

In Summary:
With so much forward movement going on here and less eye-rolling areas as the secondary characters are kept to the side for the most part (unfortunately, Precis returns in a bad way) the show works rather nicely for a bit and the move to El Continent introduces a variety of interesting new monsters as well as the robot like monsters that are nicely designed. It does head in very obvious directions and there isn't anything truly unexpected here but it's moved away a bit from the side quest idea and is setting things up for handling the ending which is just a scant four episodes away. Star Ocean EX is still just barely mediocre though and unless you have some real interest in the characters from the game, you probably didn't make it this far otherwise.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Illustration Gallery

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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