It’s been 7 years since Star Ocean had last gotten a major console release. The last game came out in 2009, can you believe it? 2009 was the year Glee became a thing and everyone was suddenly into Journey. No one even remembers Glee today. Over time all hope for a new game eventually disappeared and anyone hoping for a new entry in the sci-fi JRPG series would be better off waiting for Half-Life 3. What came as a shock then was the announcement of a new console Star Ocean game. Indeed, it was nothing short of a gaming miracle. Myself and fans all over the globe cried tears of joy. The prospect of playing another game in the series was extremely exciting, and now, having completed it, I find myself crying yet again. Unfortunately, these are no longer tears of joy.
Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness’ story follows the adventures of a young swordsman named Fidel. He, along with his childhood friend Miki gets entangled in the politics and war between 2 nations. Unknowingly, that was the least of their problems. They soon encounter a young amnesiac with strange powers and there seems to be some really powerful people chasing her. Fidel decides to protect and reunite her with her family, even if it means going up against these unknown and powerful foes.
The story itself is pretty straight forward and never really deviates from what you would expect. There are bad guys, said bad guys need to be defeated, a girl in danger needs rescuing and the world needs saving. Simplicity is not inherently bad, if the story and characters are engaging and interesting, but everything about this game’s narrative is just so bland. Characters are generic and tick every JRPG trope box there is. We got the honourable protagonist willing to sacrifice his life for his friends, but who also has daddy issues, a womanizing yet wise elder figure and let’s not forget the protagonist’s cute and often childish childhood friend. The only character I really liked was Fiore who is a smart and caring scientist but her entire character is undermined by a ridiculously scant outfit. None of these characters are ever really developed. There are little interactions called Private Actions that I hoped would’ve fleshed them out a bit more, and while a few of them do, most are nonsensical, failed attempts at comedic skits. I don’t even know if I like this cast more than the one in Last Hope.
While I managed to get through the awful story, the biggest issue I had with this game is the way it’s structured. There are only a few towns and fairly linear explorable environments that you’re forced to backtrack through over and over, and over again. Side quest objectives are often spaced so far apart that I eventually stopped caring, even though they yielded lucrative rewards. The same problem extends into the main story as well. There was one point near the end of the game where the party got to a specific town but then proceeded to split up with the intention of meeting back there later on. The camera fades and the next thing you know, you’re back in the first town that you started the game in. Once the scene ends and you regain control, the game didn’t warp me back to the meeting place, instead I had to run all the way back, through numerous areas that I had seen for the umpteenth time. It was nauseating. This was the first time, in a really long time, that I put down my controller and walked away from a game out of anger and frustration.
The battle system does a bit better though than everything else in the game. Much like Tales of Zestiria, battles happen right where you encounter the enemy. It’s a system that has its perks, and the smooth transition from exploration to combat is really nice. One of the main features of this game is that the entire party now participates during combat, which means you’ll have all 7 of your characters on screen at once. To be honest, while it is pretty cool, it added absolutely nothing for me. More characters reduced the need for any tactical management as I just couldn’t keep up with what everyone was doing. To make matters worse, there are times when spell effects take up most of the screen, so it makes it really, and I mean really hard to see what’s going.
Once I accepted the battle system for what it is though, I found myself somewhat enjoying combat. Attacks fall into two categories, weak and strong and like previous games, each category falls into either short or long range, depending on how far you are from the enemy. You can set up to four battle skills, two for your weak and strong attacks at short range and two for long. Most of the time you’ll be alternating between your short range weak and strong skills, and while it does become a bit spammy and ends up feeling unbalanced, it’s flashy, mindless fun. The one thing I hated though was the fact that all of Fidel’s skills come from previous characters in the series. From Ethereal Blast to Mirror Blade, none of his skills are unique and it makes Fidel feel even more forgettable.
One thing I really did enjoy however was the Role system. You can customize character’s general behaviour and stats with different roles. These act mostly like AI setups, but with the added benefit of buffs and perks with more advanced options becoming available as you level up existing roles. While this does little to remedy the fairly dumb AI, this system did allow me to create some awesome character loadouts and it added that much needed layer of customization and strategy.
Overall, Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness is not a good game. It’s plagued with a bland narrative, generic characters, repetitive gameplay, unskippable custcenes with sparse savepoints, unbalanced battle system, dumb AI, a jarring camera, inconsistent visuals and performance and an unsatisfying ending. I was glad Star Ocean came back, but as I watched the credits roll, I couldn’t help but feel sad that this was probably one of the worst JRPGs I’ve played in recent memory.