Review: 'Star Ocean' never achieves liftoff

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

What would you expect from a role-playing game called "Star Ocean"? Interstellar exploration? Thrilling outer space combat? Encounters with weird aliens from across the universe?

"Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness" (Square Enix, for the PlayStation 4, $59.99) has none of that. Instead, it delivers a disappointingly planet-bound experience that never quite lifts off.

The planet in this case is a little rock called Faykreed, whose three nations are locked in war. The protagonist, Fidel, is a young swordsman dedicated to protecting his hometown with the help of a childhood pal, the magic-wielding Miki. After a strange girl named Relia lands in their country, Fidel and Miki soon realize the conflict extends far beyond their little backwater.

One faction chasing Relia is the Pangalactic Federation, and if that reminds you of "Star Trek," you get the idea. "Integrity and Faithlessness" is like a "Star Trek" episode in reverse: Instead of watching Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, you're the clueless local who gets to hear their debates about whether to violate the Prime Directive.

That's not a bad idea, but Faykreed is such a drab little dump that it's dispiriting to realize you'll barely get a chance to escape. Instead, you'll find yourself dragging Fidel and Miki across the same locations over and over, killing mostly hapless monsters via an awkward battle system.

"Integrity and Faithlessness" is short for an RPG — about 20 hours — but it still seems padded. And in its refusal to adopt the genre's modern trappings, like the ability to save anywhere or teleport between locations, it's hopelessly stodgy. One-and-a-half stars out of four.


"Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE" (Nintendo, for the Wii U, $59.99) is another old-school RPG, but it's so much livelier. It's a peculiar mash-up of two classic Japanese franchises, Intelligent Systems' "Fire Emblem" and Atlus' "Shin Megami Tensei," and it should even appeal to players who have never heard of either.

The game begins in a Tokyo TV studio, where aspiring singers are lining up to audition for an "American Idol"-style program. Turns out, though, that the Simon Cowell of this operation is an otherworldly Mirage bent on mining a precious substance called Performa from the talent.

Our heroes, a boy named Itsugi and a girl named Tsubasa, get the attention of some more benevolent Mirages — legendary characters from "Fire Emblem." Together, they must venture into a different dimension, the Idolasphere, to rescue the innocents that have been possessed.

The Idolasphere scenarios are terrific, mixing cleverly designed puzzles with an energetic combat system. You control up to three Mirage Masters, taking turns wielding weapons or casting spells, and the strategy required is so unpredictable that the fights never get old.

Nimbly mixing action with a lighthearted satire of Japanese pop culture, "Mirage Sessions" is an utter delight. Three stars out of four.




Follow Lou Kesten on Twitter @lkesten.