Star Ocean 5’s producer is clearly not happy with 4, explains what went wrong

Star Ocean as a series has always been in the upper echelon of JRPGs. The original Star Ocean and Star Ocean 2 on the PS1 were one of the best games on the console and the same goes for Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time on the PS2 which is still one of my favourite games of all time. Star Ocean 4 however, as we can all agree wasn’t as good as its predecessors. Luckily for us Star Ocean 5’s Producer Shuichi Kobayashi has assured fans in an interview with Gamesbeat that they “don’t want to repeat that”.

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Kobayashi explains that due to Square Enix’s vision at the time; with Star Ocean 4 they focused more on Graphics, Western appeal and outsourced a lot of staff:

As you may know, Star Oceans 12, and 3 were a kind of trilogy, if you like,

That was over. When they started making 4, they didn’t continue to take on the same attitude about development. The feel of the game was slightly different, and the way they produced the story was different as well. I was the producer for 4, and looking at it, there was something not really right. Something didn’t really click. I knew some things weren’t in the right places.

When we were making Star Ocean 4, when it comes to the visual aspect, it was part of Square Enix’s business strategy at that time. In those years, the company was really keen to expand their business in the west. There was a general idea that we should make sure our games had global appeal, not just Japanese appeal. That made things very complicated, really. We used outsourcing companies to establish the story, not just tri-Ace. Our mission back then was to expand the universe, rather than sticking to what we’d already created. We derailed a bit from the main plot, which was another issue we had. We learned a lesson from that experience.

With Star Ocean 5 Kobayashi wants to bring back the classic Star Ocean experience.

In Star Ocean 5, we’d like to bring back the attitude we had in the first three games. Our priority is going to be to push out a very tri-Ace creative direction. That’s our main pillar and we’ll stick with it. Story-wise and visual-wise, number five is going to have the feel of a direct sequel to Star Oceans one, two, and three. It’ll be very different from Star Ocean 4.

He explained that fans really liked the JRPG aspects of Star Ocean 3 and “we don’t want to make it halfway toward a game specifically formulated for Western fans,”  which he says “they did” for Star Ocean 4:

We wanted to give the visual element which we believed would be appealing to western gamers, and it didn’t really work for either western or Japanese fans,

It was a bit of a muddle, really. We don’t want to repeat that. We just want to establish our image and stick with it.

Talking about the game’s party members, Kobayashi confirmed that although in the trailer we see 6 characters in the party, in the full game however there will more characters:

Maybe the scene you looked at [in the new trailer] had six characters, but in actual gameplay there will be more than six,

In more traditional RPGs, as the story unfolds, you get more and more people joining the party. Sometimes, at some point, if you have more than four or six, you have to choose who to form the party with. In this game we don’t have that. We’re going to make all party members featured and physical in the field.

He wants to avoid players changing being forced to change their characters:

depending on the situation, the phase of the battle, the numbers will be different.

In some parts of the story, sometimes the party members engage in a fight together with some sort of semi-party members who will not completely join the party, but still participate in battles,

Kobayashi praised the game’s AI and called it “very complex”. He also explains that players will be able to customise it to an extent, through custom instructions maybe? Star Ocean 5 will also bring back series staples like Item Creation and Private Action Scenarios.

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Star Ocean: Integrtiy and Faithlessness will release for only the Playstation 4 in Western regions while Japan will get the game for both Playstation 3 and Playstation 4 this Winter. The game’s Western release is set for sometime in 2016.