Developer – Mistwalker, AQ Interactive
Publisher – XSEED Games
Platform – Wii
Although not without flaws, The Last Story is a thoroughly enjoyable JRPG with a creative combat system and an engaging story. You play as Zael, a mercenary who receives a mystical power while out on a job with his friends (also mercenaries). This ability effectively grants Zael’s main wish in life, to protect the ones he loves, by allowing him to draw the enemy’s attention and revive allies in combat. After a chance encounter with a woman who ends up being more than she seems (of course), Zael is thrust into a world of political intrigue and powerful spirits.
The combat system is fairly creative. It’s real time with the option to pause and issue specific commands to each of your party members. For nearly the entirety of the game you play as Zael, meaning that you can use the gathering ability to cause enemies to focus their attacks on you. This is really useful in combat settings as it allows you to protect the mages in your party and allow them enough time to cast their spells. Furthermore, you are able to touch fallen allies to revive them; they revive on their own after a time, but if you revive them, they get a small boost to their stats. If an enemy falls unconscious, they lose a life, so to speak. Lose five in a single combat and that character is KOed for the rest of the battle; if that character is Zael that means game over.
One of my favorite aspects of the combat system was the ability to diffuse both enemy and ally magic circles to various effects. Diffuse an enemy heal circle and they’ll no longer be able to heal; diffuse your own and all of your allies will be healed and have negative status effects removed. Another aspect of the combat is the spirit ability that characters gain about halfway through the game. Each of these abilities is typically a super version of their signature attack. Mirania, the character I typically used as the healer, had an ability called “Revive,” which fully healed all characters in the party, revived unconscious ones and also restored a life to each ally. I had to use that ability every chance I got in the final boss fight.
A final aspect of the combat is a cover mechanic, whereby Zael can take cover from enemies and use his crossbow. This shifts players into a third person shooter perspective with a set of crosshairs with which to aim (don’t worry; you don’t have to move your Wiimote around to aim). You can then shoot at enemies or notice important things like bridges or enemies to do something about.
While all of these mechanics make for a fun and interesting combat system that allows for a lot of variety and creativity during gameplay, the actual controls can be a bit clunky. The game automatically defaults to a setting in which players will automatically attack enemies upon touching them. While simpler, this mechanic also made it difficult to move around the battle field because you would just start attacking any enemy that got in your way rather than running past it. I quickly turned this setting to manually attacking instead.
The game will also randomly force players into a first person mode, either to look around during a cutscene or to look for something important to interact with. I found this to be annoying, because sometimes you’re given no instruction on what to look for, and during cutscenes the frame around the screen makes it difficult to see everything.
The visuals of the game were at once really bad and really good. Generally speaking, the graphics for The Last Story are terrible. The game looks to be only a little better than The Legend of Dragoon, yet it was released in early 2011. Now, I know Wii games aren’t known for their graphics but The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess looked better than this game. However, the cutscenes aren’t as bad, and the actual artwork for the game is stunning. Some scenes are beautiful, particularly at the end, and I found myself looking around and admiring the beauty in the design for the settings around me.
The soundtrack for The Last Story is your typical fantasy RPG fare, with sweeping orchestral music to tug at your heartstrings, and dramatic, tense songs for combat scenes. For the most part, while the music didn’t detract from the gameplay experience at all, it didn’t especially stand out either. The voice acting was pretty hit or miss, though. While everyone was definitely British, and most characters exhibited some variation of an English accent, I couldn’t tell whether some characters (like Syrenne and Lowell) were some version of Scottish/Irish-English or just bad Cockney English. Furthermore, there were spots in the game where the audio for the dialogue would cut out or simply be absent. There wasn’t a consistent pattern to this, so I’m guessing it was a bug, and it bothered me.
I thought the story was excellent. The execution, not so much. Although it is your typical JRPG style storyline, the plot got especially riveting during the last 5-10 hours of the approximately 25 hour game. The characters also had great personalities and provided the right mix of characteristics to add flavor to the game. One thing that did bug me was the pseudo-choices the game offers you. I say pseudo because, despite there being two options to choose between, you can only do one thing in the end. If you choose the “incorrect” option, you’re funneled back into the “correct” one. Why offer false choices?
However, the thing that bothered me most about this game was the narrator. Every time the narrator started to speak, I wanted to reach through the screen and choke him. He rarely ever told me anything I didn’t already know (because I had just been told in the scene before) and even when he did, the writing was in such contrived, flowery language that it made me wince. Not everything is always happy-happy, Mr. Narrator. And no, I don’t need you to tell me that they moved from the location in the previous scene to the location in the next scene. I can figure that out on my own from the fact that they’re in a new location in the next scene!
All in all, The Last Story was a fun, enjoyable game, but it does have some flaws that detract from the experience. If you enjoy RPGs then I definitely recommend this game for its combat system and its story and characters. If you don’t typically enjoy RPGs, I wouldn’t expect this one to change your mind, and perhaps you’d be better off giving it a miss.