SO5 was quickly dismissed as a mediocre game and a disappointment compared to past entries, but I couldn't disagree more and firmly believe that this game is long overdue for a re-evaluation. This game captures everything that makes the series special even within its smaller scope and budget and is absolutely worthy of standing with the rest of the series as one of its strongest entries. Combat is an absolute delight, the story offers relevant themes and tells its tale in a way that's unprecedented for the genre, it features some of the best characters in the series, and it offers all of the tinkering and depth that I associate with the series. If you come to the genre only wanting best in class visuals, lengthy cutscenes, or turn based combat, this game isn't going to do it for you, but for those who want to see what JRPGs can do when forced to innovate within extremely high stakes and with limited resources, SO5 is perhaps one of the most impressive cases of "greater than the sum of its parts" that I can think of.
Star Ocean: Blue Sphere
Blue Sphere is a bumpy experience at times and will test your patience through gigantic, complex dungeons and battles of wildly varying difficulty, but it is absolutely worth sticking with. Even if the story doesn’t offer a ton to chew on, it gives a perfectly valid excuse to jump into another adventure with the SO2 cast while also offering some PAs to give you a bit of a glimpse into what these characters have been up to in the two years since their original journey. It’s a true passion project through and through, and irrefutable passion is something that I believe makes tri-Ace really stand out. No matter what you may think of their games, no matter how unbalanced or weird they might seem, there’s no denying that their games are truly singular experiences. I’ve always had a strong appreciation for their craft, and Blue Sphere was a wonder to explore while also being a prime example of their strengths and weaknesses.