Fandom Explained: Star Ocean

Doug Trein

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness marks the triumphant return of the Star Ocean series, a long-running sci-fi RPG franchise that has laid dormant for several years. In console generations past, Star Ocean was a major force to be reckoned with in the Japanese role-playing game genre. The series began with the title Star Ocean, released for the Super Famicom in 1996, the first game ever developed by the Japanese development studio tri-Ace (who would later create other famous JRPGs, such as Valkyrie Profile and Resonance of Fate).

Star Ocean established game-changing battle and story conventions that would improve in later titles. Gamers in the United States weren’t able to experience the series until its sequel, Star Ocean: The Second Story, was released for PlayStation in 1998. The series exploded in popularity with the release of Star Ocean: Till the End of Time for PlayStation 2 in 2003, selling over a million copies worldwide. Till the End of Time brought the series into full 3D and featured a deep storyline that cemented the series’ legacy.

The series was quiet for six long years until the release of Star Ocean IV: The Last Hope for Xbox 360 in 2008. After the lukewarm reception to the latest game, fans were concerned they might have seen the last of this historic franchise. Thankfully, developer tri-Ace has remained dedicated to their first major game series. Let’s break down what makes these sci-fi adventures special to fans of role-playing games.

Sci-Fi Backdrop

The most defining element of the Star Ocean series is the focus on science-fiction and space travel. tri-Ace have stated that Star Trek was one of their primary influences for the game’s visual style. The first Star Ocean game included more fantasy elements to appeal to a broad audience, but subsequent installments naturally shifted to a sci-fi focus.

One of the major plot devices used in these games is the discovery of ‘underdeveloped’ planets. These underdeveloped planets have significantly weaker technology and are unaware of space travel. This disconnect provides an excellent sci-fi-meets-fantasy vibe. Some major party characters, like Nel Zelpher from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, originally hail from underdeveloped planets and slowly learn more about the expansive universe. Environments in the game are also beautifully crafted, whether lonesome forest or sprawling futuristic city.

Real-Time Battle System

Star Ocean games are defined by their real-time battle engine. The series was one of the first console RPGs to feature continuous combat. Battles take place on a separate screen, but all characters are fully mobile in three dimensions. This allows them to chase down foes, dodge attacks and cast spells and special attacks.

Most Star Ocean games feature up to four characters on screen simultaneously. Non-controlled party members are controlled by AI, but players can give commands to alter and enhance their battle strategy. Mages can cast spells using Symbology, which utilize symbols to summon a variety of elemental and paranormal effects.

Other unique elements of the battle system include the Fury Gauge and Battle Trophies. The Fury Gauge is a meter which decreases with every action preformed. Players must balance their attack and defense according to the limited Fury Gauge. Bonus Trophies are in-battle achievements that are granted to players for accomplishing certain tasks. By collecting trophies, players gain helpful rewards.

Expansive Lore

Beginning with Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, developer tri-Ace fully fleshed out the world of Star Ocean with an immensely detailed backstory. The universe of Star Ocean contains a rich history of technology, races, planets and more. By reading in-menu primer files, learn more about the Star Ocean lore. This in-menu information, combined with NPC interactions, helps players appreciate the immense scope of the entire Star Ocean series. Each successive game adds on and improves its universe-building. Players who love science fiction, and expansive worlds Mass Effect, will fall in love with the world of Star Ocean.

Varied Plot Outcomes

Star Ocean is known for being one of the earliest action RPGs to allow players to alter the plot through character action and dialogue choices. The original Star Ocean introduced the Private Actions social system, where the protagonist’s relationships with other characters are affected by the choices the player makes. These choices can effect the overall story line, leading to branching paths and different ending scenarios.

The system was further expanded in Star Ocean:The Second Story, which included up to 86 different endings! This affection system is rooted in dating sims, which each character holding friendship and relationship points with each of the other characters. The player can pair together characters throughout their playthrough, similar to the systems found in the newer Fire Emblem games. The relationship system in Star Ocean effects both the larger narrative and the gameplay. Characters can react differently towards each other in battle depending on their relationship, bringing a nice emotional touch to every battle.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness will be released on June 28th, 2016. Be sure to check out our wiki for more information about this wonderful game series!

Doug Trein
Doug Trein is a staff contributor at Fandom and focuses primarily on video games and animated television shows. His game genre favorites include strategy and turn-based role-playing games, first-person shooters, 2D fighting games, and action/adventure titles.
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