“I’m not angry, just disappointed” are some of the harshest words a parent can speak to their child. It stings so much more than mere anger, as anger can come from nothing. Disappointment though, requires there once to have been hope and confidence. This is how Star Ocean V: Integrity and Faithlessness made me feel this past year. Even as I played it to completion over dozens of hours, I knew something just wasn’t right. This wasn’t the game I had waited years for.
To see some of my expanded views on this game check this out:
To understand what Star Ocean V meant one must understand its developer Tri-Ace as well. Formed from former staffers of Namco Bandai’s Tales of series, Tri-Ace was a prolific Japanese Role Playing Game developer. In terms of popularity likely one of the biggest second-tier JRPG makers alongside Namco Tales Studio and Atlus, under only Square Enix which is often its publishing partner as in this case.
In 2010 following the release of Star Ocean IV: The Last Hope, the studio effectively stopped making full-scale JRPGs, only assisting in their development. Some of the most notable of these collaborations were Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns. However all hope of a new Tri-Ace RPG seemed lost when in 2015 the company was bought out by Nepro Japan a mobile game developer... It seemed one of the pillars of the JRPG development community had fallen to the dreaded siren song of mobile game profits.
Which is why in late 2015, that once again Square and Tri-Ace would team up to produce Star Ocean V was such an amazing announcement. Nobody had thought it would happen, but it did. In short this was Tri-Ace’s return to the market that made them popular, the game had to be good there was never any doubt.
However once the game was spinning in my PS4's disk drive there were little annoyances that just kept popping up again and again. First there was the camera which one needed to get used too, however what if you couldn’t? Well for some it made them nauseous, not myself but I can understand where it likely came from.
Hell at times my character couldn’t even run properly. Yes I’m not joking if you hold down the joystick too hard your character stops moving in a jolting fashion. To this day I still can’t figure out for the life of me how things so basic such as movement and the camera could be so annoying and never patched.
Then there was the character designs and the blank porcelain doll like features of some. The tacky and over sexualized outfits of others. The oh so basic design of the enemies and creatures. There wasn’t any heart in the designs and coming from a franchise that had some of the coolest character designs in gaming that really hurt. I mean seriously check out this guy:
That wasn’t the saddest part. No, the saddest part was one I should have known this was coming as it was touted as a feature: the game’s pace. This game is fast paced, oh so very fast. The game was designed and touted to be playable by new fans, not just those of the RPG genre. However in doing so the game lost what makes the genre so unique and engrossing.
Lengthy CGI cut-Scenes? Gone, too expensive and people find them boring. Exposition and world building? Ditto for boring, keeps people from the action. Touching moments of levity and connections? They’re here, just now they happen on the field and sometimes in battle... yes characters still talk about others’ cup sizes but now, now it’s when they are fighting gigantic plants.
By making it accessible to more people, the developers forgot what made it a JRPG in the first place. By making it so fast the game is short, even the extra and optional content is as soulless as the designs. Primarily fetch quests and move here, kill that type missions. Ironically the most fun I had with the game was playing it on my Vita via Remote Play - for some reason the game felt more at home on the small screen then it ever did on the TV. Perhaps because sadly it has the design ethos of one, where cutting corners wasn’t exactly a minus.
On top of all that the game is painfully easy. In an attempt to simplify the game, new levels and strength came over you like water in the ocean. Only rarely did the game truly challenge you, even the mighty Gabriel Celeste fell to my blade relatively quickly. This though was inspite of the chaotic and poorly conceived six party battle system that was often times more aggravating then fun.
It’s final sin and for this writer its greatest sin must be the fact this STAR OCEAN game forgot the star ocean... as the majority of the game takes place on the same medieval style world. While there is the requisite spaceships and the odd cool use of extra dimensional rifts, that stuff is far too rare. Hell, a climactic space battle is never actually shown, instead we see lines converging on circles on a Heads Up Display. Likely the studio was too cheap to animate the actual battle.
Star Ocean V: Integrity and Faithlessness isn’t a terrible game, I have been blessed with not playing one of those this year. It was merely my most disappointing, much like Fallout 4 before it which shares this dubious title for 2015 Star Ocean V could have, nay SHOULD HAVE been good. Tri-Ace could have returned us to the rich world they have crafted over these many years, instead searching for mainstream gold and they lost their way. Hopefully this won’t be our last dive into the world of Star Ocean as I know there are stories worth telling. This was just not the way to do it.
PS: Welch Vinyard the awesome immortal is still awesome in this game.
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