We’re in the dog days of summer now, and that means there’s slim pickings on a lot of different genres, including, the JRPG. Square Enix is trying to fill that gap with something that old-school fans can appreciate, a new Star Ocean game. The last time we had one of those was back in 2009, so you could be forgiven for forgetting that the series even exists, kind of like Square Enix and Valkyrie Profile (that mobile Japan-only game doesn’t count). But the quirky series born from Enix on the SNES has always had a place in my heart, with colorful graphics, a lighthearted story, and gameplay that is equal parts fun and challenging, I’m kind of disappointed to see that I didn’t get all of those things in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, I’m not sure what I got to be honest.
Let’s start with the biggest problem facing this game. The camera single handedly almost ruined the entire game for me. Right off the bat, I was getting motion sickness from it. And while I eventually got used to it and stopped feeling ill, it’s still one of the worst cameras I’ve seen in a game in a while. Rather than be a free floating camera, it actually feels more like a camera, attached to a pole, that rides on tank treads. So every little bump in the road, the camera reacts to, causing a ton of pointless jittering and shaking. Why this wasn’t a simple free floating camera is beyond me, it moves about like a free-floating camera when the user takes control of it, but when it’s just following behind you, it’s a mess. During combat the camera loves to swing and shift as if it were looking for the most optimal spot to watch the action from, this makes it difficult to switch between enemies and seeing who else is on the battlefield. It’s a shame there wasn’t a ‘classic’ option that gives an isometric view of the field ala Star Ocean 2, or at least something to lock the camera in place.
When the camera isn’t swinging wildly out of control or moving like the tires in the old arcade game Moon Patrol, you’ll see that Star Ocean is actually a rather nice looking game. The character models are nicely detailed, and on the PS4 maintains a pretty good frame-rate. It doesn’t remain at 60 frames per second at all times, occasionally dipping during hectic combat or when you’re rotating the camera too much. But the graphics are great, not really pushing the PS4, but they remain in line with the Akiman character designs. You’ll see a lot of similar enemies though, with a lot of palette swaps, and a bunch of faceless humanoid characters, just in different suits of armor, which is kind of weak. The audio is definitely that Motoi Sakuraba flavor, full of synthy-prog-rock goodness, and even has some extras available in the form of music from the past games. The voice acting is pretty good for the English speaking side, and Japanese audio is included. And while the dialog is subtitled, you’re never told who’s talking, which seems like a rather glaring omission, yes each character’s voice is distinct, but I don’t see how anyone could have thought that was a good idea.
The story is moves along at a quick beat, with a rather no-nonsense start, as Fidel Camuze, your journey to protect your town of Sthal from raiders gets you swept up in a larger war that expands a lot farther than his home planet of Faykreed. All of this stems from Fidel’s desire to protect Relia, a young girl who had been found in a crashed spaceship. But the story doesn’t go very deep and is over pretty much before you know it. It took me less than twenty hours to reach the end of the game, but the game has a decent amount of post-game content, and features a ton of quests that can easily stretch out the game by about another ten or so hours. You’re not going to find much in the way of replay value though, but if you need a quick RPG hit, this isn’t a bad proposition.
The only problem with the length of this game, is that feeling of being on autopilot for a great deal of time. The older Star Ocean games were known for their difficulty and challenging combat. Unfortunately I didn’t feel like I was struggling nearly as much as I was in older games, which felt kind of uncharacteristic, until I reached the post-game content, then the challenge really set in. There are a few difficult fights that are only difficult because you have to keep a particular ally from dying, but if you fail, then it’s immediately game over, and considering that enemies will gang up on this character, it can be difficult to spam healing items and spells to keep her alive. Leading up to that though, you have plenty of time to get your characters up to snuff, learning all sorts of roles, which give your support characters various properties, altering their abilities, which means Miki has better healing spells and will avoid enemies as much as possible, while your other swordsman, Victor, will attack enemies more frequently, and expend as much MP as possible to make sure enemies drop.
Combat is a simple affair for the most part. The X button is used for weak attacks, and Circle is used for strong attacks. You can also block by holding the Square button, which rounds out a sort of rock, paper, scissors system. Blocking protects you from weak attacks, but will be broken by strong attacks, which can be interrupted by weak attacks. You also have special attacks which can be used by holding down the X or Circle buttons, and by canceling your attacking you can increase their damage output by nearly double when you string enough attacks together. Skills can be leveled either by repeated use, or through books that can be found in chests or picked up in quests.
The quests you’ll undertake will also help unlock other roles and specialty skills that can help you dig deep into the item crafting system. Most towns have a board where you can pick up quests and most of them require you to slay enemies or deliver items. This in turn will give you books to improve skills or unlock specialty skills, which can provide random hints, or display where enemies are on the mini-map, or point out treasure that can be found on the field. You’ll also earn a good chunk of experience and cash from doing quests, so it’s a pretty efficient way to level up. What’s odd is that your character levels don’t seem to matter too much, in fact, trying to find your character’s level is actually confusing, as it’s buried underneath multiple levels of the status menu.
Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is a game that should be better, but is oddly mediocre. The story is short, the camera is terrible, and the combat is a bit too simplistic. Once you get through the story though, the post-game content is where the game sort of blossoms and you’ll see some familiar faces if you’ve played other Tri-Ace games, including some ridiculously challenging bosses. Provided you can stick it out that long, you might find something to enjoy, maybe buried in all the quests or item creation, or a character might grow on you, or that Motoi Sakuraba soundtrack does it for you. There’s plenty of things to like about Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, but it doesn’t quite gel together, and it’s too bad, I was really hopeful about this one.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
In a past life I worked with Interplay, EA, Harmonix, Konami, and a number of other developers. Now I'm working for a record label, a small arm of casual games in a media company along with Gaming Nexus, and anywhere else that sees fit to employ me.