So, last Thursday, two of my favorite things—Star Ocean and Twitter—combined to announce something big. The Star Ocean marketing team tweeted from the brand spankin’ new @StarOcean account that the first English-voiced Star Ocean V: Integrity and Faithlessness trailer was coming out the next day, kicking off the game’s marketing to Western audiences.
While this may be the first time that some of you have even heard of Star Ocean, the series has been going on since the Super Famicom era—1996, to be exact. In a nutshell, the Star Ocean games combine your traditional fantasy RPG setting with Star Trek influences and a healthy dose of anime tropes. (Hoo wee, the catgirl is strong in this one.) They’re a mashup of all of the nerdiest shit you can think of—not to mention they had crafting systems before it was cool.
It was also the series that first gave me the chance to play as a woman, and Little Melissa thought that was awesome. In Star Ocean 2 on the original PlayStation, you could play as either the Earthling Claude Kenny or the pointy-eared alien Rena Lanford. There are definitely some bonuses that you get only by playing as Claude, but when I was seven, I was just happy to be a girl who punched monsters. I remember one winter when my dad gave me these kinda grubby work gloves that were my Rena gloves, and I romped around my backyard pretending to cast healing spells on my dogs.
Unfortunately, the second installment is the only one in which you can play as a woman, and the series went downhill overall from there. Star Ocean 3 was pretty good, don’t get me wrong, but the plot certainly wasn’t as cohesive as the second game, and its major plot twist left fans either awestruck or put off. And then came Star Ocean 4, the shitshow to end all shitshows. The series’ addictive gameplay and cutting-edge graphics returned, but the plot felt like a disconnected series of references to previous games, likely due to a difference in writing staff. With Star Ocean 4’s release, developer tri-Ace considered wrapping up the series altogether.
But Anime Tropes in Space: The Game is back, promising a return to Star Ocean’s original roots. While Star Ocean 2 to 4 featured protagonists from Earth coming into contact with underdeveloped alien species, Star Ocean V mirrors the plot of the first game in which the roles are reversed. Producer Shuichi Kobayashi made this move intentionally. Originally a marketer for the series, he picked up the role as producer for a sequel because he didn’t want the games that he loved so much to end on a sour note.
Does the new English trailer indicate that Kobayashi follows through with that statement? Let’s take a look:
There’s a bit of mood whiplash going on with the sudden switch from explosions and destruction to friendship and solidarity, but this is a direct dub of a Japanese trailer, so it’s probably a more logical transition in its original cultural context. Representation-wise, there’s the issue of Fiore’s (the witch’s) outfit, but this is nothing new for a Star Ocean game. In fact, I’m surprised that there’s only one fanservice character of that variety this time around.
However, the scenes portraying the first contact with an advanced species are definitely spot on and show a level of depth that the first game couldn’t due to technical limitations. They show a brief glimpse of a ragtag group of space adventurers who have to put aside their differences to make the universe a better place, and if that’s not the spirit of Star Ocean, I’ll eat my hat.
Anyway, I’ll be in my room blasting “Star Ocean Forever” and playing my air synthesizer, but you can share your thoughts and feelings about the trailer either here in the comments or at my Twitter, @LongLiveMelKing. Whether or not you’re a long-time fan, I think it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on this new entry in the Star Ocean saga.