I like Star Ocean 3 quite well, but there are definitely parts of it I am not a fan of. I’m not big on its difficulty curve, for one. It’s not an easy game to start with unless you really have an intimate knowledge of how to abuse it, but after a certain point, if you’re not brutally abusing the item creation system (I hate item creation in general, by the way, should probably rant on it at some point), it gets damn near impossible to continue on with the game at all. Beyond that problem, you may recall that I definitely am not fond of its Hauler Beast minigame. I also think it’s incredibly stupid and tedious that Enix once AGAIN has a significant portion of the science-fiction game just be dicking around on some backwater little fantasy-land planet, ignoring the actual plot (thank heavens it takes a lot less of the game’s time than SO2 and SO1’s pointless camping trips did). Additionally, Albel Nox may be pretty hot,* but he’s a stupid, one-dimensional asshole.
And of course, there’s the Map Completion aspect of the game. Ugh. Ugh many times over.
The idea is that every time you’ve explored 99% or more of any area’s map in the game, you get 1 of 3 possible reward items, all of which are mostly meant to be sold for a rather hefty sum, since they don’t really do anything.** SO3 is one of those RPGs where you’re pretty much always scrambling for enough money to buy the equipment and pay for the item creation you need to keep going, and while the reward items for completing a map are not an incredible monetary windfall, they’re nonetheless definitely a significant source of your cash flow. So if you want to save yourself hours of boring money-grinding, hours you could instead spend by doing something actually enjoyable and/or meaningful with your limited time on this Earth, you’ll want to do this for each map you can.
The problem with Map Completion in SO3, the reason it becomes a real pain in the ass, is how picky the game is about what constitutes “seeing” all the map. See, the game doesn’t just count the area of the map that you can actually see and travel over as its total area. SquareEnix wants you to explore the very furthest reach of every map entirely, from every angle. That means that in order to unveil the outermost edges of the map, you’ve got to run against the entirety of the playing area’s edge, hugging that wall as closely as you can. The game can be so incredibly sensitive about how far you test the area’s boundaries that you can miss uncovering bits and pieces of the map just by running against the area wall at the wrong angle. Does the area map have any nooks and crannies along its edges? A small obstacle like a stone or bush or something along its edge? Then you better SLAM yourself up against that obstacle and keep running over it from all directions, you better cram yourself into every inch of that cranny and press into it from every possible angle, because if you don’t you’re going to miss those precious tenths of a percentage point of map completion that will determine whether or not you make it to 99%. A 1% margin of error doesn’t leave you enough wiggle room to miss that single little pixel on the map roughly 3 miles away from the furthest corner of the play area you can reach!
Hugging the wall? You’re performing osmosis with the wall.
Also worth noting is that a lot of these maps can't be completed anyway, at least not the first time you traverse through them. Several areas have hidden spots that can only be accessed with the Ring of Disintegration, an item that you'll only acquire once you're many hours into the game. By the time you have a chance to return to these areas, the monetary reward matters far less to you, and you'll be constantly harassed in at least some of them by weak, under-leveled enemies who no longer have anything to reward you with but wasted time. As if the process of completing these maps wasn't infuriating enough, SquareEnix just had to throw a dash of mindless tedium into the pot.***
I know it’s ultimately a small irritation, and I wasn’t sure whether SO3’s Map Completion might just be too small and insignificant to deserve a rant.**** But I suppose the real axe I have to grind with Map Completion in SO3 is not just that it’s annoying, but also that it’s an idea I would have actually liked if they’d implemented it better. Bad ideas are a bother, but good ideas turned bad are so much worse, you know? When I played Shin Megami Tensei 4, I went out of my way to uncover all parts and corners of each area’s map. Not because there was any particular reason to do so, but because I’m a bit of a completionist when it comes to that sort of thing; I like a nice, clean, fully-revealed map in my RPGs. There was no reward for it beyond the appeasement of my slightly over-compulsive whims.
Rewarding me for this with something practical, like a game item worth some game cash, would have been something I’d have liked, something I’d like in pretty much any RPG I play, particularly since I’m inclined to want to do it anyway. And if Star Ocean 3 had had its Map Completion feature designed better, so that you’d only have to cover the actual play area without humping every centimeter of the wall from every direction like you’re the star of some bizarre geography-fetish gangbang porno, I would have been here making a rant praising the game for this feature instead. Sadly, it was not to be.
* Yes, I said it. So what? It’s true. He is.
** Technically not true. If you have the most expensive of the items in your inventory, you move 50% slower on the battlefield, which of course is a great incentive to sell the thing as fast as you can. If you have 1 of the others in your inventory, you move 5% faster on the battlefield (an effect which does not add to itself; holding any more than 1 does not add more than that 5%), so that’s incentive to keep 1. But with those exceptions and for all practical purposes, they’re just there to make you money.
*** This paragraph thanks entirely to reader Ecclesiastes, who pointed out that I had forgotten the Ring of Disintegration aspect, which is just annoying enough that it really needs mention.
**** Ha! That’s a laugh. As if there’s anything in RPGs small enough and insignificant enough that I won’t waste my time and yours with a rant about it.