In the not-too-distant future, the earth has gotten into World War 3 and has become so corrupt it’s basically no longer inhabitable by humans. Because of this everyone has moved into space stations and has been trying to find life on other planets that they could help colonize for a place for humans to inhabit. Unfortunately due to the quick evolution by other extraterrestrial tribes, it has offset the balance of the universe and created the CHAOS that only our blonde Square Enix protagonist can destroy. 🤣
Hooboy so before I dive into the characters and story I just want to give my usual disclaimer of having to inject cheats into this game because the game play was absolutely an unbearable grind fest. In fact it’s so bad if you look at steam achievements, just beating the story only 11% of people who bought the game beat the final boss. Why? Because it requires such insane grinding, and even with all the shit I injected, it still took quite a bit to defeat. Actually it’s not even the final boss that was hard, but the 2 bosses before that that were stupid and I will explain why.
The bosses in this game all have a “weak point”. If you do not hit that weak point you basically do 0 damage so you can only hope that your AI team eventually finds it and does damage because the camera and movement in the battle is clunky as hell and even though I started as Edge, I ended up just switching to Reimi so I can just shoot from the distance and not have to bother moving around like a drunk goat. In order to brute force or even attempt to take on these bosses you need a lot of high level characters, because levels in this game make a huge difference between enemies doing 2 damage or 200 damage to your party members. So yes, even on “easy” mode, the game basically forces you into a grind from the start. The moment I got to my first dungeon, I had actually thought I was in the wrong place because compared to the field mobs the enemies in the dungeon murdered my entire party instantly. This is where I called it quits, searched up cheats and just 1shot my way through.
[Kanade]: The maps are simply MUCH TOO BIG. They don’t have the Tales of the Abyss problem where they’re impossible to navigate spatially, just that there’s far too much space in them combined with nothing really of any interest within that space. You’re just running and running and running and running simply trying to get from Point A to Point B. It’s also not particularly hard to avoid and outrun enemies, so the maps almost feel at times like you’re playing some kind of infinite runner mobage. Okay I guess you can also harvest from some of the resource nodes in them as well. Yawn. But at the same time, since the game is pretty linear, it didn’t even really feel like we were missing much by not having a fast travel option since it wasn’t even like we were backtracking that often, yet all the movement still felt annoyingly endless.
This did save me a lot of time however there are SO MANY trash mobs in the game. Everywhere you go you get ambushed non stop and depending on some of the “forced” trash fights, you have to fight not 1, not 2 but 5-6 trash mobs in a row. W T F. ಠ_ಠ I didn’t understand the stupidly complicated combat system and since the steam port refused to let me see playstation buttons vs ABXY ones (typical SE steam port bullshittery) I didn’t bother going through the tutorial because none of the buttons they told me to press would work anyway. Mouse controls didn’t work at all in the game except maybe wasd when it felt like it, and the patch for injecting DS4 buttons on screen screwed up my game and resolution so I was basically out of luck right then and there.
The biggest problem by far is the combat. Our first big problem was that like WAY TOO MANY games these days, the PC port only has Xbox buttons regardless of what kind of controller you use with neither an auto-detection for the type you have attached (in our case, a PS4 controller) or no way to manually set your button layout. So because of this, whenever there were any prompts in the opening battle tutorial that were like “press Option for the menu” it was like “wait which button is that on here?”. Since we couldn’t even really keep track of what we were supposed to be doing in the first place, it killed any kind of motivation to actually learn how the combat system even worked.
Even if we did take the time though, we immediately soured on the combat because THERE’S SO MUCH OF IT. It’s CONSTANT. If you stop moving for a few seconds in a dungeon or the overmap you’re likely to get aggored and pulled into a fight. The enemies appear to continuously respawn as well so you can’t even clear out an area to make it easier to navigate. Fortunately there aren’t too many puzzles in most of the dungeons so you don’t have to deal with these fights destroying your train of thought while trying to figure out which button to press next or whatever.
As all JRPGs would have it, there were puzzles. They weren’t Tales of the Abyss level bad (which is now basically my gold standard of the worst puzzle dungeons of all time) but they were still pretty annoying especially in a really dark dungeon where it was hard to tell what was what. Basically the visuals made it difficult to tell in a lot of places what I had to do and we had to constantly refer to a guide and back track because “oops you forgot to click on a random statue in this side room you didn’t go into”.
I have a much much much higher tolerance for puzzles in my games, so to me it wasn’t really that bad. They were probably more tedious than frustrating. For example, there was one puzzle where you needed to light a series of torches in order by triangulating their position against a group of statues. There wasn’t really anything to actually figure out (just follow the visual lines), but it was still annoying because you’d need to run between them all to make sure you’re aligned properly, and then you need to light NINE of them rather than say, three or four.
On the topic of needing a guide, we constantly needed a guide to figure out where in the hell to go. There was a synopsis but it wasn’t really that great. Despite being a 2009 game, there was no quest markers and it felt like questing in a game from the 1990s instead. You had to vaguely remember and figure out based on what someone told you and a lot of it was “talk to every NPC in the vicinity until one of them eventually triggers a cut scene”. And the worst “old timey game mechanic that should have not been in this game” award goes to: Having to run all the way back to the start of the dungeon after a boss battle, through all the trash mobs all over again for no reason. Hell even in FF2, at the end of the boss fight usually you either got teleported to the start of the dungeon OR you had an item you could use to get yourself out. In here? Time to run through the god damn maze AGAIN LOL. SERIOUSLY WHY THOUGH. (ノ# ﾟдﾟ)ﾉ ┫:･’∵:．┻┻:･’．:∵
The game falls into that really awkward gap between the (hardware-enforced) simplicity of retro games and the QOL improvements in more modern games. The plot doesn’t start to really come together into fairly late in the game, so there’s never really a sense of why you are going where you are going or what you’re supposed to be doing there. Because of that, it’s often hard to figure out on a “big picture” level what you should be doing since the narrative isn’t really communicating this well, then on a micro level there’s the simple frustrations of like “what EXACTLY do I need to click on here now that I’ve reached what I’m assuming is my destination in order to get the game to acknowledge this?”
So as you can see, the entire game’s gameplay basically had me so sick of it from the very beginning that it just became a huge slog. The protagonist, Edge, had some Tidus vibes at the start, but then unfortunately that transformed into Slay vibes and man I hate Slay-type protags(aka “I trust everyone and absolutely nobody can be evil ever-oops I just screwed over my whole party”). In fact Edge’s bff Crowe was so much BETTER I actually wished he was the protagonist. I was so upset that the game (spoiler)basically kills him off and then adds a retcon end (that I of course never got) with some cougar BBA😩😩😩. Apparently this retcon end is actually canon too because I found out this game is the PREQUEL to all Star Ocean games and the protag of SO1 is their FREAKING SON AAAA.😱😱
My other favorite character was Faize but uh he also got a weird retcon end and the game shipped him with a 15 year old with the mental maturity of a 6 year old. ಠ_ಠ Finally my favorite female chara was probably Welsh and she was a side character there for comic relief basically. 😂 Reimi was okay but had too much anime heroine vibes. The Miqote was better when she was a cat or translating cats talking. Miyuria gave me Judith vibes so she was ok in my book but I wish she had gotten a happy ending (aka I deadass shipped her with Crowe but he got the wrong
oneesan obasan ending.😱) Amurot (or whatever emo elf man’s name was ) was only there for a short time but the only thing I remember about him was that Edge tried to lick him in one of the skits and the fact that his seiyuu is basically in every single Star Ocean game. 🤣🤣
Now one thing that I did find amusing about the setting is that we encounter multiple different kinds of Space Elves. Not even multiple kinds of figurative Space Elves (like how the Asari/Draenei/Arilou are Space Elves because they’re like long-lived, aloof, enigmatic, etc.) but straight up pointy eared Tolkien elves in the form of both the Morphus and the Eldarians. Then you can also throw in how Bacchus is a Robocop Elf and how Eleyna is technically a catgirl but nonetheless has (furry) elf ears rather than Miqote cat ears.
Anyway for my first Star Ocean game, this was a huge let down. Even though the game had shipping (with several people in fact!) it was a pale comparison to say Tales of Arise, which also had SPACE PLOT but was so much better in every way. From graphics, to character interaction to an EASY mode to let you just breeze through the game to see the story!! Apparently Star Ocean 5 was a complete mess and now with Star Ocean 6 coming out next month I’m very wary of touching any other SO games at this point. I saw the SO6 trailer and while the combat and graphics appear to be better, I think I’m just going to hold out on reviews first.
Anyway, it’s your your typical Star Trek-style “first contact” story (but not literal Star Trek First Contact aka my favorite Star Trek movie, I mean.) Mankind is taking their first steps out into space, aided by some benevolent aliens, that kind of thing. Not remotely as good obviously as my favorite sci-fi RPGs (Sutaa Kontouru 2 and the Masu Efekuto series), but still pretty serviceable. It does start off a bit slow where it feels like you’re just walking around random unconnected planets before finally tying it into a overarching story, which as I mentioned above also makes the questing awkward since you never feel like you really understood why you were at a given place. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut who can even care about the story or the characters when the endless, unfun combat and boring maps suck out any of the potential fun.
I leave you with a video compilation of all the Edge x Reimi moments I’ve encountered.
For more highlights from the game with other characters please check out my Twitch collection.