Archives for posts with tag: Star Ocean

Note: this piece was written just after June’s E3 trade show. It turns out I’d forgotten to hit the publish button until now. Oops.

With the madness of E3 now over and all those glossy big-budget trailers still rattling around our heads, perhaps it’s time to take a brief look at some of the games that didn’t have the benefit of massive marketing budgets behind them at last week’s video game spectacular. This isn’t to say these games didn’t appear at E3 at all, of course – just that they didn’t get the limelight they might have deserved.

NieR Automata
NieR Automata's 2B
Announced last year to the absolute delight and disbelief of NieR fans everywhere, here was an E3 moment to rival Shenmue 3 for some of us – those that love the game truly, utterly adore it. So it was sad to see this improbable Yoko Taro/Platinum Games collaboration not get a slice of the big-time at Sony’s press conference. With Square Enix declining to hold their own conference this year, the only look we got at the game was through a Square Enix Presents livestream, and thankfully it looked and sounded absolutely brilliant. But it was a slice out of an eight-hour livestream that couldn’t hope to have the reach of a platform holder’s live show.

Star Ocean Integrity and Faithlessness
Star Ocean's Fidel and Miki
Another game that could have showed up at Sony’s show was the upcoming new Star Ocean instalment. Granted, the reason we didn’t see this at E3 is probably just the simple fact that its release is now mere days away, but with the series having been in limbo for a number of years following 2009’s Star Ocean: The Last Hope (like NieR Automata, this is a sequel the fanbase thought it’d never see), it would have been a really nice gesture for the venerable franchise to get a bit of recognition at a major conference again.

Phantom Dust HD

Not to be confused with the sequel/remake/spiritual successor/whatever it was supposed to be that Microsoft announced back at E3 2014, this is basically a port of the original Xbox game to Xbox One and PC. It seems like a pretty small-scale project, small enough that MS didn’t even announce it at their conference, instead choosing to do so on a YouTube Live stream with Geoff Keighley – the news almost managed to slip through the cracks entirely. It’s obviously not going to be a big tentpole title for Microsoft, and I do wonder if this is just them throwing a bone to the fanbase that was waiting for the new game before it was apparently canned last year. If so, perhaps it was left out of the conference itself for strategic reasons – it may have left something of a bad taste in the mouths of those that were waiting for a new title in the series.

Yakuza 0
Yakuza 0
Likely absent down to Sega’s miniscule presence at the trade show, Yakuza was nonetheless at E3, with series’ creator Toshihiro Nagoshi turning up to demo the game for various outlets. The 80’s prequel was announced for the West (well, sort of) at last December’s PlayStation Experience, so Sony have certainly given it stage time before. Perhaps that’s why they chose not to feature the game at E3. It would have been great to see it on a big stage again, but Yakuza has always had a bit of a hard time in the west so it’s almost expected to see it fly under the radar. It is also an intensely Japanese game.

Gravity Rush 2

After the recent port of the original to PlayStation 4, presumably to help build a fanbase on the console, it was a shame not to see this lovely looking sequel make an appearance at Sony’s show. Niche franchises need all the help they can get, so would it have hurt to stick this beautiful minute-and-a-half trailer on the big screen? It would have given the game some much-needed exposure without taking up much time at all.

Mass Effect: Andromeda
Andromeda's Ryder
This may seem a bit of an odd pick, but it feels like all we’ve been getting for god knows how long is dev diary-style sneak peeks. Mass Effect is a huge franchise, and it feels like EA and BioWare have been stringing fans along for ages now; overlong hype cycles tend to have a negative effect on us these days – just look at Watch_Dogs: plenty of people felt they were sick of the game by the time it actually released. With Andromeda out early next year, it really felt like this would be the E3 to host its big reveal party. No doubt we’ll see more on N7 Day in November, but it’s still very disappointing that so little was shown. It was a frustrating moment in EA’s conference, and that’s really saying something.

You’ve probably noted that five of the above games are Japanese, and I do wonder if that points to the reason they didn’t get much love; Japanese console gaming had a bit of a hard time last gen, and while it looks like the industry is bouncing back in a big way this time out, perhaps the market for these games just isn’t big enough to advertise directly to at a huge, western-leaning show like E3. Of course, we saw Final Fantasy XV turn up at Microsoft’s presser, but that series is almost a culture unto itself at this point, and still a massive touchstone for gaming in general. Even then, the Trial of Titan demo shown on-stage by Hajime Tabata and Mat Kishimoto drew plenty of criticism. It’s great that Japanese games are starting to have a bit of a comeback – especially on PlayStation 4 – but whether they can find a decent market in the west is the challenge. Featuring them on the big-screen at E3 would surely help.

I’ve mentioned Sony a fair few times, and that’s because most of these games would have only made sense in their live show. It’s worth noting however that, as well as needing time to properly showcase PSVR, now confirmed to be launching in October, they dramatically cut back their show length this year; whereas previous E3s have seen the company offer up a bloated, meandering two hours, 2016 saw that reduced to a lean, well-paced 75 minutes. Could that have been pushed to 90 minutes and afforded a bit of space for these games? I don’t see why not.

Of course, E3 may be the biggest spectacle in gaming, but it’s no longer the only kid on the block. August will bring Gamescom, Tokyo Game Show hits in September, and Sony may well host their own PlayStation Experience again later in the year. While it would have been great to see these titles on show at E3, hopefully a few of them can get the attention they deserve elsewhere.

SOV_17
Star Ocean : Integrity and Faithlessness, the fifth main instalment of the long-running sci-fi/anime jrpg series, will see release in the west this summer. The release window was announced in a Square Enix livestream, entitled Star Log #1, this week. It was also announced that the western release will include dual audio options, and while the game will be available for both PS3 and PS4 in Japan, we’ll be getting the PS4 version only.

The stream marks the beginning of Square Enix’s western marketing for the game, and we’re promised more to come in the months leading up to release. In this first broadcast, we learned some details on the story, which takes place between Star Oceans 2 and 3, and also got a look into a couple of the main characters. Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness is set on the planet of Faykreed, some 6,000 lightyears from Earth, and our leading man, Fidel Camuze, is a swordsman from the village of Sthal. He’s joined by Miki Sauvester, his childhood friend and the party’s healer, who refers to Fidel as ‘Fiddly’. Which is a bit odd, quite frankly. Together, they set out to protect a young amnesiac girl called Relia, who is being targeted by the story’s antagonists for reasons as yet unknown.

relia

Developed by series’ creators tri-Ace, Integrity and Faithlessness will be the first new entry in the franchise since Star Ocean: The Last Hope, which launched to somewhat muted reviews on Xbox 360 in 2009. Since tri-Ace’s acquisition in February last year by Nepro Japan, a mobile company, fans had thought the series effectively dead, at least on home console, and gave up hope of ever seeing another mainline Star Ocean game. Yet here we are, mere months away from a new instalment on PS4.

While the previous game drew some ire for attempting to appeal more directly to western gamers, producer Shuichi Kobayashi told VentureBeat that Star Ocean V will be more true to the series’ earlier entries: “[I]n Star Ocean IV, we did exactly that. We wanted to give the visual element which we believed would be appealing to western gamers, and it didn’t really work for either western or Japanese fans. It was a bit of a muddle, really. We don’t want to repeat that. We just want to establish our image and stick with it.” He continued, “[i]n Star Ocean V, we’d like to bring back the attitude we had in the first three games. Our priority is going to be to push out a very tri-Ace creative direction. That’s our main pillar and we’ll stick with it. Story-wise and visual-wise, number five is going to have the feel of a direct sequel to Star Oceans one, two, and three. It’ll be very different from Star Ocean IV.”

The development team hope that the focus on their core strengths will reassure fans that tri-Ace still cares very much for the Star Ocean franchise. And that reassurance couldn’t come at a better time. We’re seeing something of a resurgence of the jRPG after a bit of a fallow period last generation, where many questioned if the genre would even survive. Not only are franchises that we thought lost coming back, but we’re even getting sequels to last-gen titles that we never thought we’d see; who would have thought just a couple of years ago that we’d be waiting on a new Star Ocean, a new Valkyria Chronicles on home console, or a Platinum-developed sequel to NieR, of all things. And then there’s Ni No Two-ni (yeah, I’m going with that), and after something of a lost generation for Final Fantasy, it looks like the venerable franchise may well recapture the public’s imagination with Final Fantasy XV, which is looking very promising indeed. It’s a good time to be a fan of jRPGs.

The livestream promised that we would find out the full release date “very soon”, and also promised that the announcement would come with some “very good news” – perhaps we’ll see a limited edition? The next Star Log, which will be focusing on the battle system, is scheduled for April 12th, so hopefully we’ll have more news in just a few weeks. Until then, you can watch the latest English trailer below.