There is now a new contender for the title. Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time.
I had high hopes for SO3; Star Ocean 2: The Second Story had maintained a steady position of #2 or #3 on my list. But even that didn't prepare me for what I found. (It should be noted that when I get a new game, I *NEVER* look for details on it. I do not want to know anything about the plot, characters, or anything else. All I ask for is the evaluation "is it good or bad or indifferent" from people whose opinions I value. I want to experience the game unaffected by prior knowledge)
Trying to avoid spoilers... we have things that seem to be stock ideas that turn into unique variations on the "mysterious powers". World-shaking menaces that run all the way to Dragonball Z levels of power; clever plot twists that left me staring at the screen slack-jawed. The opening animation -- which often sets the entire tone for a game -- is awesome and uplifting. It gives VALUE, too; my criterion as to whether a CRPG was worth the money is whether it gives me a number of hours of entertainment equal to the number of dollars I paid for it. Many RPGs make that standard by only a short distance -- if I've paid $40 or so, they make 45 or 50 hours. I have not yet FINISHED SO3; when I finally got to the second disc, I was ALREADY over 45 hours. Currently I'm over 70 hours and I'm not sure how much further I have to go. Probably not THAT much further -- I can't imagine it could possibly throw in many more plot twists at this point! -- but it might well approach 90 hours before it's all over. I am hoping that, like SO2, there are multiple endings to this one.
Time to go put the soundtrack on my Wish List on Amazon!