A personal quest to save Star Ocean, and maybe the JRPG genre

"Once you finish, it stays with you, in your memory -- it becomes a part of your experience. I feel that JRPGs won't change as long as that doesn't change." - Star Ocean 5 producer Shuichi Kobayashi.
"Of course there are big titles like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Kingdom Hearts -- we have those -- but I feel that all the other IPs Square Enix holds are all falling into the most casual line, like mobile games. I also feel that the Japanese market for consumer titles is getting smaller."

- Star Ocean producer Shuichi Kobayashi

The Star Ocean series is getting its first new installment in seven years. What's the big deal, you ask? That's actually kind of the point, argues Square Enix producer Shuichi Kobayashi, in a brand-new GameSpot interview. The company's global powerhouse franchises franchises are still going strong -- but what about its B-tier games? 

For Kobayashi -- who, in an unusual career step, moved over from Square Enix's marketing department to production just to spearhead Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, which releases in the West in June -- the appeal of the JRPG is apparent. He spells it out nicely: "Once you finish, it stays with you, in your memory -- it becomes a part of your experience."

The issue has been complicated by the fact that during the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 generation, Japanese developers tried desperately to make games that would appeal to Western audiences -- including the prior Star Ocean game -- but failed. Most retreated to their own domestic market.

Kobayashi, on the other hand, would prefer to try another path:

"For example, look at Dark Souls: it's a Japanese creator but it's been selling well globally. It's because they are going back to the idea that they are creating what they think is the best. For Star Ocean, I wanted to go back to those fundamentals again and create a game that I think is good."

"The JRPGs out now are grounded in Japanese culture, where you can become a protagonist of something like Japanese anime or manga, and experience being one of them in a scenario-driven game," he notes. In other words, they deliver a uniquely Japanese cultural experience.  

The whole interview is a great read if you're interested in the state of a Japanese games business in flux, as consoles recede in popularity and mobile takes over; as many developers cease trying to appeal to international audiences altogether.

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