I really do hate it when I am not able to get content out regularly. Sure, I think that taking 13 days to beat a 42 hour game is understandable for someone who goes to high school, and needs to save an hour most days to work on something else. Either way, seeing as how my Wii ended up corrupting all of my Xenoblade data, all 90 hours of it, I decided I should unwrap this title, 3.5 months after I bought it. Yeah, I’m going to be working on that. Regardless, and without paying any mention to Operation Rainfall, or the creator’s whose names people know, my review of The Last Story.
The Last Story Review
Release Date: 14/8/2012
Developer: Mistwalker and AQ Interactive
Publisher: Nintendo and XSEED
The story focuses on a band of mercenaries who are hired by the count of Lazulis island, a beacon of hope while the rest of the world is gradually dying, owing part due to an influx of bandits, and constant political disruptions. You play as one of the leaders of this group, Zael a hopeful young lad who keeps his alignments to being courageous and noble consistent throughout. Who on his way to the island through some underground passage, or at least I think that’s the case, when he discovers a secret room that houses a mysterious power long forgotten. From here, Zael and his crew of five other mercenaries must rise through the city and use this opportunity to fulfil Zeal’s dream of becoming a knight. Which is apparently unbelievably difficult, seeing as helping out in a war does basically nothing to increase his status.
It is not groundbreaking stuff, and might only sound a bit refreshing to me because I have not played a game with a plot like this for quite awhile upon reflection. Yet it does not purely wallow in that fact, if anything it goes against some things I have grown to expect, namely from MIstwalker’s previous console title, Lost Odyssey. Primarily the tone, and the notion that “We are maturely fantastical.” Or from the fact that it does the Dragon Age II thing, where you are mostly stuck on one island for the entire game. Although, the townsfolk are memorable here. Or how you are given all your party, minus one member who is on the cover, in the first few hours. Which I can’t recall being done by anything other than some of the Ultima titles, where your mates were made with your main character.
And by the end, I did warm up to all of the characters, despite shoving all of them in my face at once diminished how much I enjoyed them for the first few hours. And even the town as a character resonated with me by the end. Not only because there are regularly respawning minor upgrades hidden everywhere, but also due to a healthy amount of side quests to be done. Although, the absence of a log for them does indeed baffle me. I guess it might increase your immersion, but then why do you let us have Zael slip on apples, and get prizes for doing so? Same thing with hitting on signs, and shoving into people.
Yet, I do have a few major problems with the story the game is apparently named after. Namely how it goes completely nutters by the end when it, as my friend would say, pulls a Crystal Skull. And the structure of the game feels to be divided into freedom sections where you can explore the city, and long 5+ hour expeditions where you can not return. Which just feels kinda awkward.
So, you lose the opportunity to get a lot of the hidden side quests, even though I would assume a game that had 44 chapters to it, would allow me to go back and select them individually. Yes, you were very nice and made a New Game+, but I should not need to use all 16 of the available save slots and go back in order to get some of the best weapons in the game. Especially when I need to throw bananas in order to not die during the fight to get one of them.
And with a lot of the optional chapters, I feel like they were both either cut content that they brought back, and them desperately trying to make the game longer. Not because they are poorly made, but due to how there are only a handful of them, with some characters having them to flesh out their backstory, and others not. Instead, they just talk about it in a very easy to miss conversation you can have, which feels cheap in comparison.
It would be kinda like if in Mass Effect 2, only half your teammates had loyalty missions. The content is not bad, just very oddly structured. And it expands to the equipment, with there being at least 100 weapons for melee fighters, but only about five for mages. And armor, which is extremely customizable in terms of color and removing pieces, being limited to a few sets, with half of them being crap if you believe the auto-equiper. While three of them, two of which I had to specifically look up how to get, require you to either do three playthroughs, or play the completely empty online mode if you want them fully upgraded. While they cannot be customized in terms of color because of… reasons?
Then there are things like the final area, which is never explained, and looks to be from another title seeing as how it is very, well, cyberpunk. Where they decide to inject a good deal of humor into the title before it was done, and gets the happy-sad ending where a character dies. Oh please, you knew it would happen! But what is odd is how I think that tone would have fit this game better, seeing as how I cringed a hair when one character said something like, ”This isn’t like a fairy tale with knights and princesses. People lie, murder, cheat, and steal.” While the game then goes onto have some pompous soldiers murder women and children off screen, not really amounting to much.
While I think that was a great opening up a door to discussing how my group and I murdered about five thousand reptiles that came from… somewhere. Seriously, there are two races who are the enemy, and one has next to no reasoning! Yet, I still find the story to be presented in a fashion where everything felt fitting near the end, and all the ties were wrapped. Although a bit too conveniently, and I felt like a true hero as a pranced in my violet dragon armor that made me look like a vending machine, except with awful texturing.
However, I believe that the team tried to give the story about as much attention as they did the gameplay. I say that because while I have many issues with it, I still do enjoy it. In lieu of traditional menus of any kind, the game has gameplay that I would best describe as. “Streamlined Mass Effect 2 with a worse command system, and more shaky physics.”
The core of the gameplay is a cover based brawler where your main attack is used by moving the left stick at an enemy. While getting cover for mighty slash attacks that miss half the time, and aiming your crossbow to stun enemies, inflict statuses like paralysis and death, and stop mages from casting circles that make them effectively immortal while in them.
There are other abilities, like being able to eventually run up walls and do a mighty strike attack or do a weak circular attack that stuns some enemies, and has great range. But I can’t help but feel like this game is missing something when it lets me play as all but ones of the characters for a short section, and then puts me back into Zael’s shoes. I mean, I get why I can only use Zael, his power to draw enemies closer while draining their health with his attacks, and eventually pause them for a second, is kinda a center point for this game. Still, the combat can be so clustered and frantic, that I think an AI would control him about as well as I can.
Now, this game is not necessarily a cakewalk, but there are only a few parts where I actually needed to utilize a strategy beyond, “flank the mages”. Sure, the final two boss fight had me die a few times, and some optional enemies have way too much health, but the fact that every character can fall in every battle five times, makes most of the combat feel like I am cutting through tissue paper with a katana.
A lot of this is due to how every character only has four selectable actions that you are able to select. A limit break they get halfway through the game, run away from baddies, a defensive ability, and an offensive ability. And you will never use these all the time, because the AI is smart enough so you don’t need to, and you need to go through everyone’s commands before you can prevent one from using ice on enemies that absorb it.
Granted, I do like the circle based magic system, where being in a circle grants you either elemental attacks, or temporary health regeneration, All with a second ability that you are able to provoke if you use your circular stun attack on the magical circles. However, it is kept so simple, and you have so many party members, with the max being all seven, that there is often not a lot you need to do. To the point where I actually forgot you could defend, until I literally needed to use it on the second to final boss. A lot of this I could forgive, and I do because I still enjoyed myself because of how well the combat is presented. However, the control scheme is pretty abysmal to me.
Now, I think this is really what made some developers say, “screw it!” in regards to the Wii, you basically have the same button number as the N64, minus one C-Pad. And for creating a game like this, everything seems to be based on the A button, with the fact that it is used to both attack from cover and exit it, paired with how if you press it by itself, without any direction inputted, you use one of your abilities.
To it off with some very baffling segments that never come up, like climbing along walls, an unbearably slow latter climb. running away from guards one time, and only once, and just how the crossbow feels very funky when you need to press A to shoot on the classic controller. It feels like the developers wanted to do so much more with this title, but it comes off as very sloppy in the end. Not bad, mind you, but kinda incomplete.
While in terms of visuals, I can say kinda the same thing. Now, I am not a cave man, so I play my games on an HD TV, but I used component cables for my Wii up until I played this game, because I needed composite cables after playing this game for 10 hours. I think it owes a lot to how they desired to replicate a look not unlike Lost Odyssey’s, which is admirable.
Yet, the textures are muddy, there is are tons of caves and stone textures, even though the forests look pretty darn rad, and it chugs like mad whenever there are enemies and water moving with four characters. Along with some enemy designs that also remind me of Dragon Age, because I could not tell what these were in either title. Remember those two species I mentioned earlier, yeah, I can’t tell the difference between either of them in combat, or even between bandits.
Now, beyond the blurry combat, the designs are actually very nice and a blast to customize, or just make the characters naked, but during combat, I can barely appreciate that. Because even though my new cables, which people said to be good, the game still looks all sorts of murky. Which always baffles me in a lot of games, sure you are breezing past most areas, and the Hub still looks nice, probably because I spent seven hours in it,.
Still, when you are designing linear levels, why not make them colorful? Yeah, realism and whatnot, we were rated 16+ in Europe, and T in America despite all the booze talk, so we need to be grey more than we ought to. But magic should be enough reason to say, “Bollocks to ya realism! We’re gonna have lizards that vomit at you, and it’ll be in a cloud kingdom with rainbows everywhere!”
In terms of music, I could just say that Nobuo Uematsu composed this, and he is great at what he does. Yet, this is not quite as context-less as I found some of his other works to be, instead really just elevating the game to new heights, and being a very strong reason for why I like this game through some warts. He just made the world pop-out with the town and battle themes alone. But he was also helped substantially by the British voice cast, who all do a lovely job at bringing the character to life, along with having accents that I will forever admit my bias towards, because they sound so… British?
If I had to describe The Last Story in one creative phrase, it would be, “A Sloppy Masterpiece”. Yes, one may say that same about every game, but there are times when a game has a certain charm, or drive to it that makes me look back and think, “That was something special.” This is one of those games, but the story jugglin, graphical quality, and less than stellar gameplay, all dent into this game. With a normal controller and layout, HD visuals, and maybe some extra scenes and missions with some of the characters, I would have probably it listed as one of my favorite titles of the year. Yet, as it stands, It is a game on the cusp of being wonderful, that falls just a little bit short. However, I can safely say that it is one of those games that I will most likely hold in a special place within my mind for years to come.
An impressive product, but won’t always astound due to a fair number of flaws that are difficult to ignore. Still worth your cash and a few hours of your time.
Yeah, new score system for games, and it is funky for reasons I’ll explain in my “about” page. I’ll get around to it eventually, okay?