The Last Story
: Mistwalker, AQ Interactive
: Xseed Games
Action Role-Playing, Tactical Role-Playing, Stealth
August 14th, 2012
The Last Story is the second title to be brought to the US as a result of “Operation Rainfall” which has brought us “Xenoblade” and possibly “Pandora’s Tower” in the future. The Last Story is the next RPG by Mistwalker who are famous for their work on “Blue Dragon” and “Lost Odyssey,” not to mention it has Hironobu Sakaguchi as director, who is known as the legendary director and creator of the “Final Fantasy” series. This new JRPG has a lot of talent behind it, and is sure to be enjoyed by RPG fans.
In terms of Story and Presentation, The Last Story never really takes off into something truly innovating and amazing, instead it sticks to the clichés and the old fashioned story telling, although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We start off the game in a cave where a group of mercenaries are attacking a pack of Reptile like monsters named “Reptid.” After a quick battle that explains the basics we are introduced to our band of mercenaries and the main character Zael. The design almost immediately shows the “Final Fantasy” inspirations the game has, spiky hair and over the top armor is a dead give away that the game is heavily influenced by the legendary RPG series. The player is then introduced to a very important concept in the game, “The Power of The Outsider,” which of course is given to our main character in order to protect his friends from danger, after the scenes the rest of the main cast is introduced and the introduction finally ends. The main problem that the story has, is the fact that everything feels very rushed, things that should be told slowly and over the course of the game are seen incredibly fast. There are sections in which a certain character will do something that appears to be very meaningful to the story, such as attacking one of the heroes or accusing them of something, but because of the pacing, said event will be resolved very quickly and will almost seem unimportant after it is dealt with. This happens more often than not in the game, before you know it you’ll be reaching the end of the game and you won’t remember half of the events because of how fast they happened.
The story in and of itself is not bad, although its not necessarily new. Everything makes sense and it’s pretty straightforward, the characters are all really well done and because well written dialogue, it truly feels as if these mercenaries have been working together for some time now, there’s a real feel of team work amongst the protagonists. The villains are different story, there’s no interesting story here, other than your cliché “Power Hungry” Evil King and spoiled brats.
There are a few moments in which the game will tell you what happened instead of actually showing it. This happens through the use of narration which is a way of making the game seem more "book" like, a nameless narrator will explain what is happening in the story or what happened, and while this does set a mood and it makes it feel like an actual storybook, it still feels as if some of the things that are told trough this technique would of been better off shown in a cutscene or something similar.
The main story does a pretty good job of explaining everything to the player; by the end of the adventure you will know why everything happened and how everything happened, as rushed as it may feel. The use of plot twists and good dialogue actually make the main story quite interesting, although it could have benefited if it was longer and slower. On average 20 hours would be more than enough to complete a few side quests and finish the game with fully upgraded equipment, not the typical length of an JRPG. Some of the key moments in the story are just blood pumping and incredibly fun, some story driven battles will actually suck you in and you will feel as if you truly have to win the battle for the sake of Lazuli’s Island.
The game will take you to some beautiful locations raging from underground ruins to beautiful castles, all of which look very well designed and lively. All in all, the story and plot of the last story isn’t ambitious so you won’t find a masterpiece here, but you will find a basic, cliché story that manages to entertain and functions perfectly, which is to say that its not confusing and convoluted, a nice amount of side quests and in game texts aid by adding more facts to the story by telling you the secrets and lore of Lazulis Island, a colorful cast of characters and good dialogue more than make up for the faults the game has in this department, particularly its unoriginality and its short and fast story.
The Wii isn’t a powerhouse, so clever developers go around this by using different styles in the art of the game that can look much better than any photo realistic game out there. Although the last story does suffer from bad textures and some bad facial animations, it still manages to have some impressive locations such as Lazuli’s Castle and the Town, which is populated by multiple NPCs making it seem very lively. A very serious problem is that whenever multiple characters, enemies, or objects are moving on screen, the game will suffer from a very bad slowdown that is quite annoying, specially since most battles will have more than 5 or 6 characters fighting at the same time which will bring about said slow down. This isn’t game breaking, but it is quite annoying.
The character models look pretty good, a fair amount of detail and a design reminiscent of Final Fantasy characters make for a pretty good looking cast. The animations for the party members look very smooth in their movement, watching the characters do acrobatic moves around the battlefield and jumping over each other make the battles look stylish and really make the player forget about the facial animations which sometimes get to a really weird level. Characters like Asthar and Lowell have some strange thing going on, whenever you are talking to them and a close up of their face is shown they rarely change expression. Regardless of the topic the characters will remain smiling and it ends up looking very weird and just plain out creepy. Hearing a character talk about the possible war and its casualties is very uncanny. The game has some beautiful locations, great looking characters and it takes advantage of what the Wii can do, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking.
The voice acting in the game is quite good for RPG standards. The cast has a specific personality assigned to them and it is shown even more with the great voice acting. There is no over the top yelling and the fact that almost everything in the game is voice acted is quite incredible. Legendary “Final Fantasy” composer Nobuo Uematsu composes the score that adorns the amazing moments in the story giving gems that will be remembered for quite some time.
The battle mechanics in The Last Story aren’t quite deep or complex, but this fact is overshadowed by the many unique ways of approaching a fight and the multiple interesting special abilities that are available to the player which keep gameplay fresh, all of these make the game quite interesting and very original.
As stated, there’s multiple ways to approach a battle. First and foremost you can attack your enemies head on, using swords, magic and special character specific abilities, like “The Outsider’s power.” Most characters have a total of two spells and an ultimate attack called a “Spirit attack” which range from a massive amount of damage from a single, cinematic attack, or a spell that heals or Protects the party.
Everyone except the main player character remains largely the same, just with different attributes like Fire, Ice, Healing and Protection. For Zael, the character the player controls the most, you get several special abilities that aid your companion’s attack, for example there is the “Gale” attack which essentially spreads a different effect depending on what spell was cast last, for example, if a healing spell was cast and its “Magic Circle” is still visible on the battlefield, the player can use Gale and go into the magic circle, which will then heal everyone in the party, all the spells have a special ability that can be accessed by using Gale.
The Outsider’s ability is were the gameplay gets even more unique. Zael has been granted a secret ability that allows him to do multiple things, it allows you to use “The Gathering” which essentially draws the attention of all enemies to Zael allowing the Magic casters to cast a spell, a brawler to go and heal themselves and so on. This ability also allows Zael to heal himself with every successful strike to the enemy while the ability is activated and if enough damage is taken, a burst attack will be available which does some decent damage.
The second approach is the stealthy one, Zael is equipped with a crossbow which can be used for long range attacks, this allows you to draw enemies close without alerting the horde, and taking them out one by one. The crossbow also allows you to scout the battlefield and watch for any field advantages you can use, such as taking out towers where enemy Magicians or Snipers are or any strategic points you can use to your advantage. The game also has a quick option that allows you to give your party members simple orders regarding what spell/ability they should do and on what enemy, and although it sounds simple, you will be using it more often than not. The third option is to get online and call a group of buddies so that you can Co-op and take on some baddies, an option seldom found on Console RPGs.
Aside from fighting Reptids and Skeletons, our mercenaries are also found harvesting Pumpkins and looking for items to increase the power of their current equipment. There are multiple things to do around town, the side quests are a shining point of the game, you’ll be traveling to Haunted Mansions with Immortal Vampires, shooting “Charm Arrows” at ladies, and even finding kidnapped children. All of the side quests are fully voice acted and add to the overall experience of the game by adding a variety of quests that allows the player to take a break from the action. The customization isn’t all that deep however, all items can be upgraded for added defense and damage, some need specific items to be upgraded, the bigger the upgrade, the more difficult and expensive it gets, nothing new here. The great thing about this, however, is that almost all pieces of weapons and equipment change the appearance of the character, not to mention that once its fully upgraded it changes once more. The addition of “Color Dyes” just adds more to the level of customization, if you want a specific character to have a specific color scheme then you are allowed to do whatever crazy combinations you can think of, after all, who doesn’t want a mercenary in pink?
A unique battle system makes up for the small amount of techniques and spells the game has, and the fact that battles seem almost scripted, you will find enemies in specific spots rather than roaming around the dungeon or in random encounters, single handedly do away with the tediousness of grinding, and the addition of summon circles that allow you to battle as many times as you want helps with leveling up fast and easy so that you never feel under leveled for a boss, although this shouldn’t be a problem since the game is fairly easy. The boss battles are truly incredible, you definitely won’t find yourself beating away at the boss in a mindless manner. Most bosses need to be defeated by using specific strategies that will force you to use at least one or two of the abilities including Gale, the Crossbow, the Magic Circles or the Gathering, making it so that none of these abilities are forgotten and it makes each boss battle unique. The Last Story definitely offers a complete package in the gameplay department; it will not disappoint anyone who is looking for a fun, non-frustrating, grinding free experience with multiple meaningful sidequests.
The game offers multiple sidequests and special rare items that will make an avid player want to come back for an extra run in order to get the 100% rating game completion. Since the game is fairly short, a second run won’t be out of the question specially when you want to see everything the game has to offer. The online features are a sure way of getting the attention of the players that want to experience more intense battles with a Deathmatch mode and Co-Op modes. The game is fairly linear so there’s not a lot of exploration to be done, but a few extra chapters that can be missed offer more incentive to come back and play the game again.
The Last Story is definitely a worthy game, and aside from a few minor details, there’s nothing really game breaking and there are more good things than bad things. The simple battle system and easy difficulty might turn away some more hardcore RPG fans, but fans of Sakaguchi and Mistwalker will want to give this one a chance, or anyone that wants to experience a new JRPG. It’s a game that could have been much more, but ends up not taking any risks and playing it safe which allows it to be a satisfying experience, with a great cast of characters, an interesting storyline and an incredible music score. It is definitely a reason to dust off the old Wii, for one Last Story.