I’ve always been a sucker for science fiction, but it is very rare that it crosses paths with my favorite genre in video gaming, the JRPG. One company that has done it well to varying degrees (and depending on who you ask) is tri-Ace. Probably their most well known franchise is Star Ocean, which has spanned the generations of gamers, beginning back when JRPGs were the “in” thing.
Since then, tri-Ace has gone on to develop many different titles within the genre, including favorites like the Valkyre Profile games and gorgeous but not-so-hot titles like Infinite Undiscovery and Resonance of Fate. Overall, though, tri-Ace games really have a unique look to them, and certain things about the game’s mechanics that you can point your finger at and say, “Yep, that’s tri-Ace alright!”
Lately, the company has been in the news for their two new titles, which are in development and will be published by Konami. Beyond the Labyrinth is a mysterious Nintendo 3DS RPG releasing rather quickly in Japan and Frontier Gate is a Monster Hunter-like RPG that is bound for the outgoing PlayStation Portable. Both games look promising in their own right, but what does the future hold?
It’s interesting to see tri-Ace move more toward the portable market. Granted, that is where a lot of RPG developers are heading these days, much to the chagrin of console gamers. They have worked with portables in the past with a couple new titles based off existing franchises, as well as releasing re-makes to the first two Star Ocean games and the original Valkyrie Profile on the PSP.
While these are all well and good – and I look forward to playing their portable titles very much – the real sci-fi and tri-Ace fan in me really wants to see another Star Ocean game. The last one, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, ended up with mixed reviews across the board. The game mechanics and battle system were amazing, like it always is, but the story and especially the voice acting were very lackluster. I did enjoy the title nonetheless, although couldn’t in good conscience give it a score equal to my enjoyment of it.
A few months ago, tri-Ace released a tech demo that looked like something produced by BioWare for their Mass Effect franchise. It was very sci-fi-oriented and speculation (at least on my part) pointed me to none other than a new Star Ocean game, using that new tech, at some point in the future.
What I would like to see – at the risk of being too similar to franchises already out there – is to portray the Star Ocean future in a more gritty light, make things more visceral, more mature. The comparison I made just a moment ago to Mass Effect was no accident – I’d like to see a game with the scope and maturity of Mass Effect, wrapped in a JRPG coating with the signature tri-Ace action-battle system, the quirky characters and fantastic locations.
Star Ocean: The Last Hope gave you your own ship to traverse the galaxy with, but I’d like to be even more detailed, more customizable and feel more like your ship instead of just the ship you’re travelling from planet to planet with. I dislike relating two completely separate developers and, for all intents and purposes, genres, but there are similarities and I’d like to see JRPGs, especially of this sort, attempt to get a little more mature, not in terms of blood and gore, of course, but in terms of story and character development.
This is everything I envisioned in the short time that the tech demo lasted, and what I’d really like to see for the future of tri-Ace and, specifically, the Star Ocean franchise. Because, you know, if it’s announced that the next Star Ocean title is going to be on a handheld, I might have to knock some heads together.
One last thing to mention is, just last week they launched a teaser site with Real Style for a new title that we know little about because, well, it’s only a teaser site. Real Style produces electronic books and CG sequences. I can’t see them making a big deal of this if Real Style was just doing the CG sequences for an upcoming title, so maybe it is something along the lines of a visual novel? I guess only time will tell, but in the immediate future, that is exactly why tri-Ace is in the news.
tri-Ace is one of those developers that has done a lot of things right over the years, and I feel not many people recognize that. They’ve taken some risks, as well, and not all of them have paid off. But, I do think there is plenty of room for improvement and to shake things up a bit using already established franchises. I guess all we can do is sit back and wait to see where things will go from here.