Buckle in, we're about to warp past common sense and into the realm of abject stupidity.
Except he isn't. I submit to you, the crew member Bawles. Bawles is a crew member on the Calnus, and he escapes the crash uninjured. More to the point, he specifically mentions that he is Edge's superior within the first half hour of the game. When you speak to him on the bridge of the Calnus, he serves as a tutorial of sorts, further explaining some of the finer points of the battle system, and casually drops the fact that he outranks you. Edge is basically an ensign. He punches in the course that the commander tells him to. Edge is a red shirt is what I'm getting at here.
Did I mention that Bawles is black? He is, by my count the only black character in the game. He is Edge's superior, is uninjured, and is black. So why wasn't he given command? That's a damn good question. It's a question that I can't answer, but it pisses me off.
In order to try to justify the traditional lack of black characters in most JRPG's, old school gamers will point to the cultural idea that darker skin is viewed negatively within Japanese society. That's not exactly a surprise, all things considered, but one would think that within a global society, game developers would try to include more representatives of each race on the globe. Considering that the entire developed planet is your target demographic, why not?
This is, unfortunately, a symptom in a larger disease, and going into it would detract from the larger focus of this article, which is the lack of representation in a game set within the milieu of a unified global society that ventures into space to find a new home for humanity after the Earth was ravaged by nuclear war. Somehow, someway, there is one, one black person in this entire game. Every one else is white. Every single character. All of them. Except for the aliens. Nah, just kidding, the aliens are white too.
An entire fucking planet of lizards who can evolve at will into dragons and who somehow managed to mechanize an entire planet while violently conquering undeveloped worlds is more believable than black people in space.
Do you get why I'm pissed off? This is like Star Trek with no black people, not even the ones depicted as a brutal war like race that are universally despised and are physically ugly to look at. That's a whole new level of whitewashing.
This game came out in 2009, firmly in the 21st century, and somehow having a single black person in the game is okay. In fact, it was so okay, that it flew over the heads of most people simply because it was the standard. Let's be clear here, western RPG's had been allowing character customization since the turn of the century, if not before, with titles like Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur's Gate (to an extent at least) and Morrowind, Oblivion, and even the lamented Divinity. All of those games allowed the player the freedom to play as an avatar that at least somewhat looked like them. Sports games have seemingly always been a bastion of inclusion, allowing all races (but not so much the genders, which is a whole different pile of assholes) and the amazing character creation options in the Saints Row series are noteworthy for almost having too much freedom.
So, why in the world do JRPG's stubbornly refuse to allow this? Why do they cater specifically to Japanese markets first in a global economy? Why do these developers artificially limit the demographic of their games? These are all major questions that need answers. Before we can do that though, we need to figure out why black people aren't allowed in space.
Just to cap it off, about halfway through the game Bawles, the lone black character in the game, is killed off along with all the other original crew members except for Edge and his girlfriend. Take that, diversity.
See you next time, just don't expect me to be in charge of any ships in the Star Ocean universe.