Getting deep into a JRPG these days is a bit tough for me, but the latest Star Ocean game is out, and I'll be damned if I let that one slip by me. So I've been playing it for the past week or so, and man, this is going to be tough. I've been a fan of the series since I tried an import copy on the SNES, I couldn't understand a damn thing at the time, but I enjoyed the combat, and the visuals were astounding at the time. Here we are, twenty years later, with Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, which is a title I certainly can't understand, and the visuals are still astounding.
So the short of the story so far, I'm Fidel Camuze, I've got a little sister in Miki Sauvester, who also comes across as a slight love interest, and their town of Sthal is under attack, I've got to go petition Fidel's father, who serves as the military adviser of Resulia, a kingdom under attack from forces in the west. It's a story that is really cutting to the chase very quickly, and I've seen numerous reports that the game is much shorter than your typical RPG, which seems very strange for a Tri-Ace game as those are known to have copious amounts of content. There aren't much in the way of cutscenes either, with most of the story exposition taking place out on the field with the player in moderate control of where the characters are facing. It's a pretty unconventional system, and it's actually made worse by the fact that the subtitles do not state who is talking at the time. Thankfully characters are distinct enough that you can make out who is talking, but it seems like a glaring omission.
Another glaring flaw, the game's camera. I very rarely get motion sick from a game, in fact the last time that happened was Quake 64, so it's been a minute, but holy hell, what is wrong with the camera in Star Ocean? The camera is incredibly spastic, constantly moving, and doesn't do a good job of focusing in on the action. It also likes to move with the player's movement, so you'll see it constantly shifting with all the little undulations and bumps in the road. It's absolutely maddening to play with and I wish the damn thing could just stay locked, or not feel like it's attached to a pole, with wheels that are stuck to the floor. There's plenty of youtube videos out there that call this out as well, so you don't have to look far for examples. Otherwise the game is quite attractive, thanks in part to the character designs of Akiman, and the locales are absolutely gorgeous, it's just a shame that a lot of it is ruined by the terrible camera. Seriously, Square Enix, Tri-Ace, patch this thing and make it functional.
Combat's pretty fun, but I totally recommend setting the camera distance as far back as possible, since the combat is pretty hectic, and you can have a rather large number of characters on your team at once, up to six in total. The combo system is a little simplistic in the early going, as I've only got a handful of skills at my disposal, but it's pretty fun, and though it's no Valkyrie Profile, it's got plenty of potential. The skills system is pretty deep as usual, giving you a really large pool of character customization to dive in to. I've got Miki set up with a ton of skills that increase her MP and make her a defensive stalwart, since she's my healer, while Fidel is being given everything that increases his raw attack power.
It's early in the game, but I'm hopeful that I can get past these camera issues, because they are absolutely killing this experience for me right now. I seriously can't manage more than two hours a session just because of how motion sick I'm getting. I don't understand how the game could have shipped with this camera and people thought it was okay. Have they not played any other video games in the past ten years? I'm actually hard pressed to think of another game with a camera this bad and I'm drawing a blank. This is game development 101, and it feels like a massive failure already. I'm hoping the gameplay can salvage things, so I'm going to keep trekkin' along, and I'll have a full review in a few days.