Opinions: Star Ocean V

Earlier this year I made a post about Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness and talked about how I was excited for the game’s release. Now I have played and beaten the main story, so I feel as though I’m now suited to talk about my opinion on it. No! I shall not give it a grade! And no! I shall not talk about the game with a minor knowledge of it and then harshly critique it like others (you know I’m talking about you IGN. It’s always you, you fu–I mean…yeah). I want to talk about this game on the basis of me being a mainly JRPG player. I’ll talk about the characters, the voice acting, the story, graphics, battle system, and miscellaneous game mechanics. It’ll be a fun ride or a bunch of nerd talk.

But before I say continue with this review, let me give you an brief opinion. A lot of people have gone up to this game and have shat all over it. I don’t know why, but it seems as though it’s a trend. JRPG comes out. Shit on it. Rinse. Repeat. And though I must say that this game has flaws, plenty of them, I don’t understand the perspective of critics who believe that the best course of action is to actively trash it without fully going into why. Don’t just say it sucks and give no insight, and don’t just pile on only negatives. If you’re doing that then you’re not a critic. I can’t say I’m a professional critic, so I won’t say that I’m the voice of example for this, but the way that I’ve seen criticism for this game is sad. It almost makes me wonder if these miserable people have anything they care for. Even with Warcraft, which I hate, I can see what is good about it. It’s an okay movie, and this is an okay game. This is a fun game. I love this game. It’s flawed to hell and at times feels rushed, but I love it regardless (random note: I’m more willing to love games than I am to love people). Now I shall tell you why.

Story

So the story is your average boy from a small village goes on an adventure finds a mysterious creature that a government is after and tries to help/ find out more about her. Is it deep? No. Will it win any prizes for its story? Hell no, but it does the job. The story is run of the mill. You travel around the planet, help out a small girl, help with a war, and save the world. Let’s face it, most JRPGs/ anime start small and then end with you saving the world. And this is no different. It’s a fun ride. You can get attached to the characters quite easily.

Throughout the story there’s a lot of emphasis between our main protagonist and the little girl he saves, but we don’t see many scenes that provide a basis for it. I wished there were more scenes and fun times between the characters so that at the last few scenes I could really get into the spirit of it all (like I did, but it was due to me artificially caring for a character rather than a story providing it for me. If you don’t know what I mean, ask a tumblr person about a literary or tv character).

Other times in the story we get a bit too muddled with sci-fi terminology and world building. There are cutscenes dedicated to explaining gravitational warp drives, and though that may seem unnecessary, with a series that has a rich lore of sci-fi, it kind of needs to be there if only to insert itself into the history of the game. Some might say the story drags, but I didn’t feel that way. If it had been fifty hours long, I would have stopped caring, but the game took me thirty hours (I did a few side quests along the way). I enjoyed running through the story, taking breaks, and then going back into it. I always wanted to know more or watch more scenes, and though the story might not have been great, it was the cast that kept me there.

One of my main problems with the story deals with my knowledge from previous games. I wanted to know reasons for things and never quite got them and was disappointed by that. Examples would get a tad too nerdy, but one of them dealt with our main character. He had skills that in Star Ocean 3 were said to be exclusive to the main character in that game, but we never got a clear reason why. SO5 main character just had the skills and there’s no reasoning (before you say, “Well he might have learned em from SO3 MC!”, SO5 is periodically before SO3–much like Street Fighter 5 and 3. The skills SO3 MC know were supposed to be invented by his father, but here we are with So5 MC whipping em out all willy-nilly…well me whipping them out via him).

Cast

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So the cast is kind of diverse. There’s a fun group of people. First off is: Relia (Space Babby). She’s a twelve year old girl that both our enemies and our allies are after. She has special magic symbols (signets for this game or symbology for previous entries) on her that control space and time. She has amnesia, is finding out about the world, and is made out of adorableness. In the main party (group) she just gives you magic buffs, or when facing bosses, will help you in a pinch or just for story reasons. I liked her. Your moments with the character are adorable and in each decision-making Private Action you can make genuine choices you’d make for an actual twelve year old.

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This is a rare picture of our main character not scowling.

Fidel (Main Character Pretty Boy/ Sword Guy #1/ Fayt Originator) He’s our main character. From his character model I expected him to be stoic and emo like many Square Enix characters, but he’s not. He’s pretty expressive and far more fun than I thought he’d be. He plays the straight guy to most jokes and he has powers that aren’t explained and that only gets to me on the inside and I’m not still mad about the point that they aren’t explained–nope, not at all. He has moments of awesomeness, and because I essentially played only as him, he’s my favorite of the bunch.

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Miki (Main Girl/ Childhood Friend/ Force Love Interest/ Heal me Dammit) Miki is our eighteen year old healer. She’s in love with Fidel. She heals better than most healing A.I. in JRPGs. She’s fun. She really likes food. Her Private Actions usually lead to jokes and exaggerated moments for the sake of humor.

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Victor (Knight Man/ Sword Guy #2/ He spends more time with your father than you do) Victor is a knight. He’s been taught under your father. He’s the serious guy. Most moments are about his seriousness and the point of him lightening up. He’s cool. He’s suave. He fights the same style as Fidel with small deviations, but there isn’t a rivalry between them. Actually there’s no rivalry between any of the characters, which is fine, I guess.

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Fiore (No. You have the lines in your head/ Why Square why? You knew what was going to happen if you made a character that looked like this!/ Fan service/ Powerful mage) Fiore dresses in patches. It’s a weird style. The developers chose for her to look like that regardless of how impractical it would be in battle. She’s the alluring member of the party. She’s smart. She asks personal questions to the main character. She’s very adult. But she’s more than fan service which is surprising and made me like her.

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Anne (Chun-Li/ Pugilist/ Cat Lady) Anne comes into the story with Emmerson. She punches and kicks. She’s really cool. There’ll be a few times where she’s hacking into things and you have to protect her and it’s really annoying. She enjoys cats and cute things and it’s a nice clash with what you’d think her character would be.

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Emmerson (Oh shit he’s a Kenny / Flirtatious arrow guy/ Raven Copy) Emmerson is your regular old, arrow/ projectile shooting, flirtatious, humor guy that every JRPG needs. Except there’s a catch! He’s related to a prestigious family in the Star Ocean lore and only for that reason do you ignore his overly flirtatious ways. He’s a load of fun in private actions and he’s your humorous but deep character.  

The overall cast was a blast to be with. In the game there’s a function, called private actions, and I spent a ton of time just trying to watch em all because I enjoyed watching the characters interact with each other. I just wish that there was also more time in cutscenes of interactions, beyond the main story, rather than just having to rely on private actions. A lot of people didn’t like the characters. That’s too bad. They’re missing out.

Graphics

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From the pictures that are presented from each character, you could probably tell that the graphics are pretty good, though some would gripe that they aren’t realistic enough. To that I must say that there’s a difference from realistic and aesthetically pleasing. Know your audience. Most JRPG players like anime. The graphics play well with an anime styling and have realistic backgrounds. To me, the graphics suited my wants. I’d hate playing this game as a super realistic character, it’d be no fun. The cartoony aspect plays into the world we’re in and the humor that we’re living with. What I’m saying is, “I like the graphics.”

Voice Acting

When it comes to JRPGs a lot of the fan base has gripes due to voice acting. They always want the Japanese voices and English subtitles because, to them, Japanese sounds better. Which I get it. It’s the original language for the game, but the voice acting wasn’t bad. It was actually pretty good, and I’d know because I played most of the game in English. What I loved was Fidel’s voice acting. It just wasn’t what I expected and that was refreshing, but don’t get me wrong. There are some problems with the English voice acting. A lot of it deals with the point that in Japan a common way to voice act is by having all the actors in the room talking with each other. For English VA-ing the actors are usually in solitary booths. The problem with this is that sometimes pitches and delivery of lines seem off or awkward in conversations. Sometimes it feels as though the actors didn’t know the context for the lines and just chanced on the delivery. I see this mainly with Emmerson’s voice actor,  but besides that I have no real problems. But then there was Pauvine. Pauvine was a villain and a reason why only most of my play through was in English instead of all of it. It just made me so sad. But I got through it and switched back to English, having a grand ol’ time.

Battle System

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At first the battle system seemed slow. I didn’t really like it. It almost felt like a step back, but then I kept playing the game, and mid-way through I got used to it. Then I enjoyed it. Side stepping and guarding and attacking became easier. I had a flow for the combat. It seemed as if the battle system was something that you had to ease into, much like with a fighting game. You can’t just expect to be awesome. After a while I really started liking it (one I got Shotgun Blast. Then I super loved it when I got Air Raid…mmmm…Air Raid).

Miscellaneous Game Mechanics

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This is where the game differed from usual JRPGs. There were various game changers that were mashed in with the usual JRPG elements. I’ll first start with the usual suspects. Making a return to the game was side quests, which should be in all JRPGs otherwise they be delegated as linear and then criticized–yet for some reason given three iterations of (yes this is me referencing Final Fantasy XIII. You should play it, and then stop like most of us did). Though the side quests were at times fun, they were quite standard. They usually had no extra scenes, you just went out and fought an enemy, crafted an item, or harvested for a material for hours, and then reported back to a town’s bulletin board. One of the fun side quest lines dealt with Welch because it gave you a private action every time, and it gained you crafting specialties. This was unlike the previous iteration of Star Ocean because with SO4, you just gained certain crafting abilities once different members joined your party. Overall some side quests were fun, and others were quite tedious even when you had the ability to fast travel to locations.

Also, since I mentioned private actions, private actions returned to the game. This time it was even easier to deal with them. Remember previous games where you had to track down and talk to each member of your party to figure out if there was a private action available? Well fear no more! Now there’s a logo on your mini map that says when private actions are available! And no need to talk to each member of your party, your mini map tells ya which ones are doing private actions. Private actions are always fun for Star Ocean games because you get to know more about your party members (sometimes through interactive showing, and other times through wonderful exposition dumps). I spent quite a bit of time just going town to town and running through private actions. It was almost an addiction. And with it being easier to figure out, I looked forward to it more.

Then there were roles. Ugh. It took so long to figure them out. Unlike other JRPGs where you get a “tactics” or “strategy” menu for combat and get to choose where your characters start fights or set how they’ll go about battling, this game gave us roles. Roles almost do the same thing except without any of the directly choosing their play style. You set up your character’s roles to things like “attacker” or “defender” or “brawler” or “assassin” etc (you get to assign four per character), and you hope that the roles you choose will mesh into something that’ll keep Miki from dying (seriously…you think this is a joke, but Miki keeps dying and a dead Miki makes for a dead Fiore which leads to a dead party). There was a point in the game after facing a fearsome boss (and actually beating him on the first try) where there was a just a random difficulty spike. I did not enjoy it. And for once I had to force myself to learn the roles and make them work in order to advance in the game. Though it was frustrating, it felt rewarding after making it all work. So for some who just wanna play a game, this’ll be annoying. For others who like to get into the nitty-gritty of game mechanics, this might be fun (look at how I had a definitive sentence for annoyance and used a meta hedge for fun–there’s still a chance it won’t be fun for ya).

Last but not least is the controversial way that the game handled cutscenes. I’ve looked at comments on the internet and underneath the usual cesspool of irrational vitriol there were some rational concerns for the way cutscenes were done in-game. Either to try something new or simply show off the game engine, most cutscenes were done in game with no cut and as your walked around the city or dungeon or field the cutscene went on. Your characters would interact with each other or enemies or environments and it was pretty much up to you to view your party members talking and all that jazz. To most it was a funky way to deal with cutscenes as usually they’re cinematic. For me, I enjoyed walking around the cutscenes and tinkering with camera angles because they made the cutscenes different. A fun aspect they added was allowing the player to do emotes during the cutscene, so you could directly react to and interact with the cutscene. I’d do it all the time and sometimes it would be hilarious when one character would talk about something super serious and I’d have Fidel cheer and the rest of the party would shift their attention from the cutscene to the psycho cheering about an enemy kidnapping a girl. Though outside of my positive remarks, I’d still say I would have preferred an only cinematic cutscene situation, but I can’t and shall not trash on a game for trying something new. I don’t know why we’d wreck a game for attempting an innovation even if it kind of failed. While I realize that a released game, that many people spent money on, is not the place to test out your risky concepts, I still admire the idea. To some it might be a waste of sixty plus dollars (or for smart people, like me, who use Amazon Prime: $50.99 before tax. Seriously just buy things off of Amazon Prime it’s worth it most times), but to me it was a well flawed try.

So overall, should you buy this game? If you like JRPGs, then yes. If you don’t, then why have you reached this point of the blog post? While the game has flaws and the internet isn’t doing it any favors with their feral gang criticisms (think of it like workshop), this game was a nice refresher and fun time. You’ll like it. It’ll be fun. It wasn’t bad. Don’t trust the internet (usually I’d say unless it’s Google, but Google’ll just lead ya to the bad reviews so…I mean…). Do what you think is fun. Buy the game and go save your Space Babby.

 

 

 

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