As a long time gamer, JRPG enthusiast, and all-around man about town, I was more than eager to jump at the chance to review the latest Star Ocean game – Integrity and Faithlessness. To be fully transparent with my review, I also have to admit right now that up until this point I had never played a Star Ocean game before. Being that it’s the 5th main game in the series and the 9th in the franchise, and also developed and published by two JRPG Titans in Square Enix and tri-Ace – it’s safe to say I walked into this game with high expectations.
For those who are both initiated to Star Ocean or are new like me, the game takes place chronologically between The Second Story and Till the End of Time, which are the second and third games in the series respectively. Integrity and Faithlessness follows the story of Fidel Camuze, a young fencer who is trying to protect his small village from invading forces and is joined by a diverse band of characters along the way to help complete his quest. Right away, I was a bit iffy about the setting. I’ve mentioned this before in a previous review, but I’m not a huge fan of sci-fantasy in general. Sure, I love science fiction and fantasy separately, but, in most instances, I find this is not a chocolate and peanut butter scenario, and the two just don’t mix very well. The other issue is that Integrity and Faithlessness clocks in at only 30 hours, which, for those of you who have played a JRPG before, will know that this is a pretty small portion of the time. Unfortunately, this shone through in the narrative, with the only genuinely interesting plot point being the ending, which was varied depending on choices you made throughout the game.
Another sticking point was the game’s design – especially the camera control. The development team for Integrity and Faithlessness came out on record stating that they wanted to reduce the number of cut scenes in the game to make it appear more seamless in transition between combat, story, and character interaction. I honestly thought it was a horrible move – I enjoy cutscenes as it offers respite from the usual visuals of the game and provides a far more cinematic feel as opposed to a natural composition. While I could easily see this sort of cinematic decision-making working well in film to inspire a natural aesthetic and atmosphere, in a video game it felt incredibly awkward and out of place. Regarding the levelling systems and upgrades, a lot of this will remain familiar to those who have played Star Ocean games before – with a relatively simplified skills upgrade system, as well as existing equipment that requires improving throughout the game.
Staying within the realm of familiarity, the combat system continued to be deeply rooted in the real-time action standard that seems to be slowly becoming the genre standard for JRPGs. To its credit, the combat system while being generic is incredibly polished and is relatively smooth to operate and handle, even for someone like me who hasn’t played the series before this. It did seem a little jarring at points as these games can tend to, having to pause part way in a battle to activate potions or select abilities, etc. which does take away from the gameplay flow. However, I did enjoy the parrying system that allows you to get extra attacks on enemies if timed correctly – adding another level of engagement to a system which can be fairly limiting at times.
The creative elements of Star Ocean are where I think the game shone. While I am usually a big fan of JRPG art as an anime fan, I couldn’t help but feel that the design of Integrity and Faithlessness for characters and the games locations were bland and uninspired compared to other games in the genre which are kicking around at the moment. Regardless, the musical composition and voice acting work were both great – especially with Kaito Ishikawa voicing Fidel, who has starred in some high calibre anime recently such as One Punch Man, Terror in Resonance, and Gangsta amongst others. He lends a quality and stability to the dialogue which is hard to stomach sometimes, so a lot of praise has to be given to him for being able to produce a great deliverance.
Ultimately, while Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness isn’t entirely terrible, it is, however, a title that is not inspired to any degree. Heavily borrowing systems and design from previous games in the series, amongst a poor, diluted, and rushed narrative, as well as sub-par artwork, makes for what turned out to be a disappointing recipe. This is especially surprising given the big studio backing that the Star Ocean series has, as well as the lengthy period between releases – with The Last Hope released six years ago. While it pains me to say it, I can’t recommend for anyone to rush out and pick up this game. Despite the polish the game does possess, there’s just too little offered to get it across the line.