Review: The Last Story
By Jeffrey Demelo on September 6th, 2012 (7 comments)
If this really is The Last Story for Sakaguchi he departed on good-terms with me. Mistwalker's latest JRPG is a departure from their earlier works -- Lost Odyssey, most notably -- and stands as a "step in the right direction" for eastern developed role-playing titles. Sadly, Nintendo's console doesn't seem to have the power to keep it from falling victim to technical issues, hurting the experience in the long run.
Title: The Last Story
Developer: Mistwalker / AQ Interactive
Publisher: Xseed (North America)
Release Date: August 14, 2012 (North America)
Following a band of mercenaries on their quest for a paying job, The Last Story inter-weaves the emotions, and relationships, of its characters and does so effectively, while never letting memorable events feel like a distant past. Zael & friends stumble upon some fairly standard-fare fantasy tropes, all the while remaining the most interesting part themselves. This isn't as much a game about epic battles or confusing Japanese naming-conventions -- although the game is guilty of having them -- but rather about comradery and how one effects the lives of another. The narrative moves along nicely, never dragging the player along needlessly. It's story arcs memorable and helpful toward developing the characters within.
Visually, The Last Story is a beautiful game. So much in fact, it brings the Wii hardware to its knees when trying to push those beautiful polygons -- I will get to that soon enough. I know that doesn't say much these days, being a Wii title and all, but I felt it should be noted. More importantly, the soundtrack is wonderfully melodic, memorable, and everything we've come to expect from Nobuo Uematsu -- the fabled Final Fantasy composer. A majority of the voice acting is great, charmingly English -- or is that British?? -- and is a saving grace from the typical "squeaky" voices we hear often in JRPGs.
The Last Story's combat is mainly real-time action, leaving the player hack & slashing with a single character while issuing orders to the remainder of the party through a paused strategy menu. Strangely enough, theres a cover system that encourages the use of a slash attack inflicting bonus damage to enemies. This same cover system also benefits the use of crossbows, which thankfully never tips the gameplay into shooter territory. Elemental-weakness strategies are not as involving as I'd hoped, but the attack chain-bonus -- a mechanic where chaining attacks from party member to party member incrementally raises attack damage -- makes up for the lack of "spice" in combat.
Sadly, The Last Story falls victim to horrifying frame-rate issues which cast a dark shadow over much of this experience. As the frame-rate began its decent into frustrating depths I was left fumbling with controls at slide-show speeds. As if the end game boss battles are not hard enough; add in single-digit frame-rate numbers and they become damn-near unbeatable.
Indeed, there is a multiplayer component allowing PvP and/or co-op "horde-grinding", yet I was not lucky enough to find any connections after 20 minutes of attempts. I wouldn't expect to be putting The Last Story's online components to good-use very often.
Issues aside, I liked much of what The Last Story has going for it. Its lack of quest menus and arrows, while frustrating at first, really drove exploration and interaction when comfort set in. This combat system is fun enough to drive treading through New game+ territory, if that's your thing too. It's a JRPG that never really felt like one at all, breaking the mold of expectations in the genre in small yet effective ways.
The Last Story is technically a mess, yet I enjoyed a majority of the 25+ hours I spent playing. The combat was engaging and helped bridge the gap between plot-points I found myself emotionally invested in. I wouldn't recommend every long-time Sakaguchi fan to take a hit on The Last Story, unfortunately. While I had fun with it, I was patient and determined; somewhat of a requirement to look passed the frustration caused by these frame-rate issues .
(60-69%: Good – You’ll find some serious or distracting issues.)
Jeff is the raspy-voiced, Boston-accented staff member that loves everything Japan. Since 1989, video games have been a prominent passtime for this lovable guy…and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. When he's not playing games, he's writing, questioning his favorite games of all-time, or producing & composing music at various studios on the east-coast.
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