"I didn't feel like I was playing a gacha game, as this mobile title does a great job maintaining a fine balance of single and event-driven campaigns..."
Square Enix, a company known for its deep catalog of RPGs, is no stranger to busting out mobile games in recent years; if anything, they are banking off of these titles between their major console publications. To celebrate Star Ocean's 20th anniversary, and possibly to divert further attention from a certain game
, Square Enix and tri-Ace have released Star Ocean: Anamnesis. I was given a chance to not only run the game as a beta tester, but also play the final version pre-release.
I've been a fan of the Star Ocean series since The Second Story on PS1 and have closely followed it ever since. I am, however, not a huge fan of "gacha"-style games, as they can be notoriously seen as a pay-to-win model; however, there is something about Star Ocean: Anamnesis that doesn't seem to fit that type of thinking, to a degree.
The game starts off with you in command of a ship that is being chased by unknown enemy. Soon after, you crash-land on an unknown planet, but the game doesn't waste any time and quickly drags you into a fight. Once the battle is over, you are introduced to your ship's AI, an unintentionally creepy but charming robot butler bear called Coro, as well as a mysterious maiden known as Evelysse (or Eve) who suffers from amnesia. Star Ocean: Anamnesis cutscenes play out pretty much like a visual novel, familiarizing you with the story and even providing lore for your surroundings (which soon include other planets).
Battles, on the other hand, are are beautifully rendered in full 3D, with surprisingly smooth and quick animations for a mobile game. I was even surprised by the background locations, as they too seem to have received a lot of care and don't suffer from repetitiveness. Thanks to the amazing work of returning Star Ocean composer Motoi Sakuraba, players can listen to some of their favorite combat themes as they take in each battle's splendor.
The only other way I can explain the battles is by comparing them to previous titles in the series. The developers took the camera system from The Last Hope and combined it with the playstyle of Integrity and Faithlessness. You can freely control a character by using your phone's touchscreen like an analog stick, moving towards or away from an enemy, or you can make swipes to evasively dash around. You can also employ a tactic of running away while hoping your healer (if you have one) takes care of maintaining HP.
As for attacks and skills, you tap the screen to perform basic combos, and you are given quick skills that you can perform as long as you have AP. Battling offers further mechanics, such as cancel boosts, charged skills, and rush actions (your ultimate attacks) to do as much damage as possible. You have the ability to switch between targets and your allies, although anyone you are not controlling will take part as they see fit. You also have the option to throw the battle into Manual or Auto mode; the latter implies that your selected character will do actions on their own, but you can still move, dash, and perform skills at any time while in this mode.
The rest of the game feels like other typical gacha games: you can enhance and level up your weapons and characters; you can use gems to draw potentially rare characters and weapons; and you can go on to customize your party however you like. There are different modes you can switch back and forth from, assuming that you've completed enough of the single-player campaign, which will take up most of your time and attention. I assume that more modes will be added with different events and quests in the future.
Some of the best parts of the game are the character biographies and multiplayer mode. Any character you draw has their own stats, moves, class, and lore. Some people may focus on obtaining their favorite character or just creating an A-list team to their liking. The game also gives you access to each character's portrait and 3D model, which is a nice added bonus compared to other games in the genre.
As for the multiplayer, you can tell that this will be the game's bread and butter. Even though the beta and pre-release period didn't have a slew of people to pick from, the experience with those I did team up with was well worth it. Once you get to a certain point in the main story, you can group up with other people in real time to assist and complete missions, including some of the harder ones that require patience and skill.
My impressions of Star Ocean: Anamnesis at the moment are genuinely positive. I didn't feel like I was playing a gacha game, as this mobile title does a great job maintaining a fine balance of single and event-driven campaigns without seemingly pushing you to buy more of this or that. Now that the game has been released, I expect more to come out for it as time moves on. Star Ocean: Anamnesis may just be what we need until a new console title gets released, and it may help some fans slightly lower their pitchforks for the time being.