Square Enix has had a massive year so far, releasing original titles, remakes, and new additions to classic franchises. One of the publisher's recent releases includes a return to the Star Ocean series, the first one to hit the West in quite some time. Action RPG fans will find what they're looking for here, but even the most devoted series followers will discover something new with Star Ocean: The Divine Force.
To learn more about this latest entry in the Star Ocean mythos, Shacknews spoke with Scenario Writer Satoshi Wagahara, Director Kentaro Arakawa, Producer Shingo Mukaitouge, and Illustrator/Designer Akiman via email. Answering collectively as the Star Ocean development team, the team discusses the progression of the series, some of the new mechanics, character designs, and more.
Shacknews: It's been six years since we've had a new story in the main Star Ocean series and it feels like gaming has changed a lot in that time. We've even seen other Square Enix franchises push the boundaries of RPGs forward. In what ways does The Divine Force welcome a new generation of players?
Star Ocean Development Team: In Japan it actually hasn’t been six years, but we were running a title called Star Ocean: Anamnesis until a year ago which was received favorably. There, the fact that we were able to approach not only fans of the series, but younger demographics in their 20s as new users, as well as having the action heavy battle system be well-received, influenced planning for this title.
We believe that the speedy, three-dimensional action battles and field exploration systems employed to allow a new generation of users exposed to today’s action-packed games to enjoy the style of a story driven RPG will be well received.
Shacknews: How are you feeling about where the Star Ocean franchise is right now in comparison to other RPGs? Is there still something here that makes The Divine Force distinctly Star Ocean?
Star Ocean Development Team: As some time has passed since the previous title in terms of a globally released numbered title, it’s not clear how many fans of the series are awaiting the game. However, Star Ocean is created as a standalone title, so the door is always open for interested newcomers.
For this title, we’ve developed the title under the slogan of creating a completely new Star Ocean with a system that has never been seen before in the series. The satisfying action battles have been a selling point for the series, but we believe this title surpasses that. We hope you will feel that this is, in fact, an evolved Star Ocean.
Shacknews: DUMA appears to be the biggest addition to The Divine Force. What can you tell me about the conception of DUMA and what does it add to the Star Ocean formula?
Star Ocean Development Team: DUMA is one of the more important concepts of this title and is key to the story progression. The addition of aerial access for DUMA action also brings about new ways to explore the field, battle speed, a sense of exhilaration and new strategies that have not been seen in past titles.
Shacknews: What can you tell me about the characters of The Divine Force and what do you feel will make them memorable additions to this series?
Star Ocean Development Team: We believe the elements that make characters memorable are their design, characterizations within the storylines, positions, and roles in battle.
Shacknews: One core component of Star Ocean games has nearly always been unique events and relationship development with party members. Do these return in The Divine Force? Are they changed in any way?
Star Ocean Development Team: Are you referring to private actions, which are character-specific events? These exist, of course. Private Actions affect the character’s emotional states, which in turn changes the character events that occur, as well as the epilogue for each character after the game ends. (This does not change the main scenario.)
In addition, there are two main characters in the game, and the story progresses from each of their perspectives. On top of that, some of the characters who join the party are also different.
Shacknews: Originally character designs for Star Ocean were meant to have action-figure-like qualities to them. Is that same concept still intact today or have you taken new approaches to character design?
Star Ocean Development Team: The goal was not to create an action figure, but rather a CG animation-like figure. This was done in consideration of the game’s setting and their compatibility with the background graphics. We believe the recent trend in JRPGs is to use anime style graphics, but for this title we were aiming for a different kind of expression. However, we are not necessarily fixated on this, and will continue to consider what the best expression is for Star Ocean.
As for character design, we asked Akiman-san to design the characters for this title as well. In the previous title, all seven players battle at the same time, so asked for a design that allows for players to intuitively understand what kind of attacks the characters would make, on top of scenario-based design requests.
Shacknews: Will there be numerous multiple endings or variations in endings for The Divine Force the way that previous Star Oceans have had based on what characters you use and interact with most?
Star Ocean Development Team: The character specific epilogue after the main scenario ending changes according to the inter-character relationships from private actions and such. The different epilogues exist for each character.
Star Ocean: The Divine Force is available now on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox.