The key art for Star Ocean: Divine Power shows both heroes under a night sky.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

I live only 15 minutes from where I grew up. My parents moved away when I was in college, at which point every memory of my formative years was physically handed over to strangers, only to be revisited in my dreams. The few times I’ve returned to that street, memories come flooding back, but they’re a poor match for yards that now seem smaller and houses that don’t look like they’ve been freshly painted or kept up. Playing Star Ocean: Divine Power it can be similarly jarring: a monument to past comforts, occasionally pleasing but with a cracked foundation and peeling paint as a reminder that it’s no longer your home.

Once upon a time, Ocean of stars was a solid JRPG series that offered fans a meaty alternative Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. It allows players to start a business Dungeons and Dragons style campaign bigger Star Trek-inspired universe. It punches above its weight with crazy combat, deep crafting systems, and tons of side content. There were many endings and roster exchanges depending on who you were trying to recruit during your journey. Star Ocean: The Second Story The original PlayStation was good. Next game on PS2 was even better. It has since gone down. Until now.

Environments of Divine Power can be quite beautiful.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

Star Ocean: Divine Power, the sixth game in the series and the first on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, is a clear improvement over the last game. 2016 year Honesty and Dishonesty it was remarkable, incomplete, and had a third-person camera that made you I want to throw up. A low bar to be sure, however Divine Power does more than avoid the pitfalls of its predecessor. It also offers an innovative overhaul of the battle system, which is subtle yet compelling, with some of the most beautiful environments the series has ever achieved. I’m playing in graphical mode on the PS5, and while it’s nowhere near the best-looking JRPG on console, the lush fields, detailed architecture, and colorful interstellar skies added extra spark to the bare quests filled with a tiresome backtracking level.

This means Divine Power is it a good game? No. About six hours in, and so far I haven’t seen anything that would make me recommend it to anyone who isn’t among a rapidly dwindling group of mortals. Ocean of stars fans. For all the game’s improvements and modern sensibilities, it’s nowhere near as focused, polished, or refined. Xenoblade Chronicles 3even last year’s Climbing tales. For all its amazing merits, Divine Power just not in the same league.

Gif: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

The English voice acting is passable and at times engaging in its eccentricities, but mostly it just looks tame due to a script that’s trapped, for better and worse, in PS2-era JRPG crazy libs. Raymond, the captain of a merchant ship, crashes on a medieval planet and meets a princess named Laeticia, who is trying to prevent a neighboring empire from attacking her kingdom. Despite the dire threats looming in the background, much of the first game consists of meddling in mundane parochial affairs, with Raymond trying to reunite with his crewmates and saying things like, “Who the hell are the horned people on this rock?” take out their heads?’ It’s pretty boring stuff.

The screenshot shows what the menu interface of Divine Forces looks like.

Divine Force’s menu interface is particularly difficult to read.
Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

The game mostly comes alive between these fictitious story beats and painstaking quests. Conversations with NPCs are rarely interesting, but they sometimes unlock side missions that unlock special items to take advantage of the game’s crafting systems. While almost none of this is flagged, the more esoteric side of the game is there for players who want to get off the beaten path and try to figure out together what the game is trying to tell you.

Exploration and combat are enhanced by a mechanical companion called DUMA, which allows you to fly short distances or stun and stun enemies. And the number of stamina regulates how quickly and quickly you can create combos in battles. There’s also roll-dodge, where you can perfectly time an incoming attack and counter it with a powerful follow-up. While targeting can be a nightmare and it’s often impossible to know when something off-screen is going to hit you, it makes combat feel more natural and responsive than past games.

Gif: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

The transition between exploration and combat is also seamless and helps with retention Divine Power act in such a way that even if something leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it does not last long. However, the environments you explore, while sometimes expansive and beautiful to look at, are mostly empty except for a few treasure chests and breadcrumb trails that you can collect to upgrade your DUMA. Enemies always appear in the same places in the same groups, whether it’s the first time or the fifth time. Despite the short flights and gliding ability, the platforming became so vague for me that I didn’t want to reach the hard-to-reach treasure chests.

The characters of Divine Power look at the birds.

Screenshot: Tri-Ace / Square Enix / Kotaku

So why am I still playing? Divine Power? Because I am one of those fans Ocean of stars-have been packed for a long time, anxiously trying to decide which characters to recruit from the strategy guides and how not to miss them. I’m hardly the first person to say that the latest game feels like playing an HD game. Second Story and Until the End of Time. The sound effects are still the same. You eat blueberries to heal and still can’t carry more than 20 at a time. And much of the first game, at least, revolves around running errands for kings and wizards in an increasingly nonsensical series of nesting plots. It was a nice jolt down memory lane, but none as good as I remember.

The developer is Tri-Ace in a huge financial holeand fans are worried about it Divine Power the series may have its last chance to prove it still deserves to exist. Some even buy multiple copies of the game to try to keep the dream alive. But initial sales data are not reassuring. At least in Japan, the game is getting ready for release second worst in serial history. Whether it’s the game’s flaws or the inherent limitations and niche appeal of the decades-old formula, it’s hard to fault anyone, but also because there are so many other JRPGs to choose from. I was disappointed Divine Power It’s not the triumphant return fans have been begging for, but I’m not surprised. I’m just glad it’s not terrible and I’ll have to visit again before it’s all torn down.

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