Tales of Arise has received a mixed reception from fans since its reveal. The aesthetic is akin to Scarlet Nexus and Code Vein, opting for a more refined, mature style that takes advantage of modern hardware as opposed to the softer anime visuals from previous entries. Combat has also been changed, now emphasizing the combination of skill and dodge alongside the artes we all know so well. The narrative is darker and more introspective, and it all comes together to create a game that seems aware of its need to evolve or risk being left behind. In a genre as steeped in tradition as JRPGs, it’s a valuable perspective – we’ve seen so many big names fade into obscurity as they so greedily cling to the past, oblivious to the need to move on. something else with an audience that has overtaken them. .
Star Ocean is a perfect example of this, a series that started its life on the Super Famicom with its latest entry making its way to current platforms. Sadly, it has remained in a state of mediocrity since the days of the PS3 and Xbox 360. At the time of its creation, Star Ocean was insanely new. It took the time-tested fantasy of classic JRPGs and threw it into space, resulting in a fascinating mix of genres that allowed developer Tri-Ace to play with characters, locations, and concepts that weren’t everything. simply not possible before. It was a breath of fresh air back then, launched just a year before Final Fantasy 7 emerged on Western shores and forever changed the JRPG landscape.
The series changed with it, bursting onto the PS2 with Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time and showing that real-time combat and alien storytelling was far from foreign to the genre. It hasn’t aged well at all, with a recent re-release on PS4 serving to showcase its wide-eyed animated character models and a cliché-soaked narrative. Context is all about, however, and on a console absolutely ripe for role-playing games, this is the one that has managed to stand out and establish a lasting legacy. Sadly, this also marked the point when the series would fail to recognize shifting tides, with the following two entries rarely evolving beyond the plan that Till The End Of Time helped establish in 2003.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope was fun in places, but has become something of a meme thanks to a protagonist whose name is literally “Edge Maverick”. He was a boring, overly serious cute boy that everyone in the game seemed to love despite being a huge wanker. The rest of the cast didn’t fare much better, turning out to be mostly forgettable amid a plot far too obsessed with absurd space politics than anything about the actual characters. The fight was great, but everything else has aged like milk under the scorching sun. Graphically, he was aiming for realistic anime visuals at a time when photorealism was still in its infancy in the medium, and so many characters outside of the main cast just look creepy, bizarre, or ridiculously out of place.
Integrity and Infidelity was even worse, a terribly archaic JRPG that repeated all of the mistakes of its predecessors while throwing a few more glitches in the fire for good measure. It’s just not a good game, showcasing all of the genre’s worst issues without improving anything over the decades-old formula. The environments were bland, the dialogue couldn’t be ignored, the characters were boring, and the overall plot was awash in jaded tropes. The game felt obsolete from its launch and therefore received a harsh critical and commercial reception. It fell victim to its own ignorance to change, and as a result, the series has been silent on consoles ever since, with the exception of a faithful remaster of First Departure. I really want to love Star Ocean, but right now it’s impossible.
The crash and burn of Star Ocean relieved me that Tales of Arise doesn’t repeat the same mistakes. He didn’t need a change as much, but Bandai Namco acknowledged that the more recent entries hadn’t hit as hard as expected, so he took things back on the drawing board and decided to rethink Tales Of to a whole new generation. From what I’ve played – check out the full preview at the link – it learns all the right lessons with more responsive combat, a bigger world, and a visual identity that maintains its anime roots while researching something. something akin to fantastic realism. The story and the characters are a bit dry, but it’s far too early to draw any concrete conclusions.
JRPGs that recognize their roots and respect lore will always be important, but evolution should be an integral part of that identity – otherwise, Tales Of, Final Fantasy, Persona and so many others risk meeting the same fate as Star Ocean. I love these games and want them to improve as I get older so that I can continue to enjoy them for years to come.
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