Well, guys, it’s finally happening. The fifth Star Ocean game is almost upon us, and I don’t know whether to be happy or horrified. I really want this game to do well, if only because I love the Star Ocean series—well, I love the third game, at least—and considering SO4’s less than stellar reception, I can only hope that Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness will be the improvement the franchise needs it to be. Unfortunately, there are some things about what I’ve seen of the game so far that have left a rancid taste in my mouth.
I was less than impressed with the previous Star Ocean game, Star Ocean: The Last Hope. I didn’t like that many of the characters, and it didn’t help that its main character, Edge, accidentally murdered two billion people. Another problem with the game is that it had a very stereotypical anime-esque feel to it, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, something about it just didn’t work. Its cut scenes were too long, and it had some really odd character arcs. Not only was our main character an accidental genocidal murderer, the game also featured a romantic relationship between a nineteen-year-old boy and a girl who looked and acted as though she was five. The strategy guide says she’s fifteen—which doesn’t make it any more legal—but I don’t believe that for one second. The gameplay itself, while fun, ending up being rather tedious when it came to trophies, and all that is not to mention that the main villain was rather underwhelming as well.
There were thankfully some things I did enjoy about the fourth game, however. The game had more female characters than male characters. The story could easily have been gender neutral—the game could have genderbent just about all of its characters with the narrative having to change very little—but it quickly ruined that possibility with awful sexist stereotypes. However, I’m still a huge fan of the third Star Ocean game, Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, and I was definitely still willing to give the franchise another chance. I eagerly started Googling everything I could about the upcoming fifth game. Already, there’s a trailer out, and well, take a look:
Though this trailer doesn’t have subtitles, right away the game looks fun. Visually, it also has a lot of the same designs as the third game, specifically when it comes to monster and ship designs, which gives me some hope for it. Originally, I thought this game takes place immediately after SO4, but according to Forbes, SO5 actually takes place between SO2 and SO3.
Like all the previous games in the franchise, SO5 is going to be a mix between sci-fi and fantasy and juxtapose magic and science against each other. What we know about the plot of the game is that a couple hundred years have passed since humans first left Earth and that the Federation has already been established. Our main characters are Fidel, our obligatory swords master, and Miki, his obligatory childhood best friend whom he views as a sister. They live on the planet Feycreed, which looks to be undeveloped—technologically, it’s where Europe was in the 16th century—and at the start of the game, a 300 year-long peace has crumbled away, leaving our inhabitants living in “the Seven Years of Darkness”.
Interestingly, the battle system this time around is going to be a bit different. Instead of using just three or four members of your party, battles will include all members. I am so excited about this. I actually really hate when I can’t use everyone in my party and for the most part, I never thought it made sense for some characters to sit battles out. So I am really looking forward to the gameplay and seeing how this is going to work.
All in all, I am excited for this game, but while we’ve been promised a more SO3 feel, there are some things about what I’ve seen so far that don’t sit well with me. While I loved the characters in SO3, I was unimpressed with them in SO4, for numerous reasons. The sexist clichés weren’t the only things I hated, but they were a big part of it, and SO5 looks like it’ll be following that same pattern if our new character designs are anything to go by. Specifically, I’m concerned about our new mage character, Fiore.
Like, why? Why is she dressed like that? Our characters are running around numerous floral-covered planets and fighting monsters out in the wilderness, and she has that much skin showing? I understand that mage characters like Fiore don’t usually wear armor and tend to use robes, but that’s not even a robe. That’s just skin. You know, it’s possible to make a character look sexy while still giving them a decent outfit that makes sense.
We do have a reason for Fiore’s clothing choice, but I wouldn’t say it’s a very good reason. From Gematsu:
One of the world’s leading Spellmark Mages who belongs to the superior-in-magic Randock Kingdom’s Spellmark Research Institute. She wears a revealing outfit, but it’s probably because she wants to show off the advanced magic symbol carved into her leg.
Yeah, that still makes no goddamn sense. I’m sorry, it just doesn’t. If she wants to show off the symbol on her leg, then by all means she can do that, but the rest of her body? There’s no reason. While it is not a problem for women to dress however revealing they want to, characters don’t get to choose their own outfits. Often, sexy revealing outfits on female characters are only there to look sexy and revealing, without any consideration to the characters’ personalities or what they’re doing in the story. Right now, I feel like the only reason Fiore’s character even has clothes at all is because her designers were obligated to put something on her other than a black sensor box.
I don’t have much hope that I’ll like Fiore all that much because of this, and her design only brings back memories of SO4’s shitty characterization. It makes me wonder what else this game plans on doing. SO4 had a similar design with Myuria’s character—she wore a revealing outfit when her personality dictated otherwise. On top of that, the other female characters weren’t that great either. Meracle—a twelve-year-old cat girl—ran around in an equally revealing outfit. There was the pedophilic relationship with Lymle. Sarah’s character had a plotline revolving around a virgin sacrifice. And through Reimi’s character, the game made jokes about sexual harassment. I can only hope that these same problems won’t present themselves here as well.
Right now, it may be a little premature to start making judgement calls, but considering how bad SO4 was, I feel as though my concerns are legitimate. I hope that I am wrong about how SO5 handles its characters—and who knows, maybe we’ll even get an in-game reason for Fiore’s outfit that doesn’t diminish her to nothing more than a sex object. One of the things that made SO3 so great is that it didn’t rely on gendered stereotypes for its character development, so hopefully SO5 will pull from that example. Despite these concerns, I still look forward to Integrity and Faithlessness. Overall, the game looks worthwhile, and I can’t wait for yet another opportunity to explore the Star Ocean universe.