When Japanese development studio Tri-Ace was acquired by mobile company Nepro Japan, many thought that would spell the end for the veteran RPG creators, most famous for their work on Square Enix’s Star Ocean franchise. As luck would have it, Square Enix had no intention of handing the franchise off to another team so Tri-Ace is back at the helm for Star Ocean 5, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness. Star Ocean 5 will be the first entry in six years and will release on the Sony PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles.
In an interview with Famitsu, it was revealed that the Star Ocean 5 project had been in the works for some capacity with Square Enix producer Shuichi Kobayashi leading the project. Kobayashi said that when he was working as head of marketing he quietly had hoped that something new would come out of the Star Ocean series. Ultimately taking things into his own hands, Kobayashi changed positions to producer and began work on Star Ocean 5 by bringing in series creator Yoshiharu Gotanda of Tri-Ace and Star Ocean 2 and Star Ocean 3 designer Hiroshi Ogawa on to his team.
After the tepid response to 2009’s Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Kobayashi hopes that Star Ocean 5 is a return to the franchise’s roots, citing Star Ocean 3 as the source of much of his inspiration. Star Ocean 3 was a massive game that I remember fondly for its rich assortment of characters, tertiary depth and Tri-Ace’s signature combat innovations. Canonically, Star Ocean 5 will take place between Star Ocean 2 and Star Ocean 3, making it the fourth story chronologically (Star Ocean 4 is the first on the timeline).
What has me worried is that while Star Ocean is known for the gamut of party members that can be added over the course of the game, they always fall back on incredibly base and stereotypical personas. Plucky headstrong lead, slightly shy but capable female childhood friend, cold but calculating female stranger and prodigious but emotionally immature child. This isn’t so much a problem except for the last trope, which proved to be a deal breaker for me in Star Ocean 4. That game’s gifted child was so irritating of a character with the shoddiest of vocal performances, I haven’t made it back to that game in years.
Sadly, Star Ocean 5 might have one of these characters as well.
But shallow support characters aside, Star Ocean is one of my favorite JRPG franchises and I have high hopes for a game that touts the history of the best moments of it franchise. Kobayashi certainly has the framework to make something good, I just hope it is more like Till the End of Time and less like The Last Hope.