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The Last Story review

Solid
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AT A GLANCE
  • The gorgeous, Disney-esque catchy score
  • Deceptively nuanced combat
  • Subversive story flips JRPG tropes on their head
  • Occasional slowdown when combat gets hairy
  • The inability to fuss over stats
  • How linear the game can be at times

On its surface, The Last Story deals in many of the tired-out tropes that define the JRPG genre. And that’s perhaps unsurprising, given that the man who pioneered many of those tropes, Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, led development on this Wii title. Add in the fact that Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu scored The Last Story (never mind the echoes of terminality in its title), and comparison to the Final Fantasy brand of RPG is inevitable. However, The Last Story isn’t completely constrained by its roots, and finds a way to take the genre into unexpected territories.

The Last Story is a game about a ragtag band of mercenaries who aspire to become knights. You play as Zael, a particularly enthusiastic member of this group who gains the ability to resurrect the dead. It's a lengthy, legitimately interesting story, where every pivotal character has his or her own foibles and backstories.

 

Check out this trailer for The Last Story!

It sounds weird and possibly even boring, but fighting is done simply by holding forward on the joystick and ramming into enemies. However, Zael’s newfound power greatly affects combat, as activating it makes all enemies on the battlefield swarm to attack you. So, you'll be able to protect your allies, but it comes at the expense of your own safety. For a single-player action RPG, this is a clever design choice to make the battles much, much more engaging.

An increasing amount of strategy gets infused into battle as you level up and earn more abilities, like unlocking earth-shaking stun attacks or gaining the ability to bark commands to your wingmen. Also, your allies will automatically adapt their fighting styles to how you are performing on the battlefield. If your style is aggressive, they will have your back. If you're retreating, they will take the lead. All of this happens automatically. 

Leveling up happens automatically, meaning you get no say in where each character’s skill points are distributed. It’s a deceptively simple design approach, freeing you up to battle while your squad’s skills rise of their own accord. Item management can offer a little more strategy. There’s an option to automatically equip the optimal weapons and equipment for each character, which is a godsend if you're the sort of player who'd rather keep venturing on in the story and spend less time wading in menus. It’s just an option, though, so you can futz about and try different equipment for everyone if you so wish. All this just means there is depth to be mined if you wish to seek it out.

One of the game's biggest drawbacks, though, is the lack exploration. It's a linear game, but one with a lot to do. Sometimes control is wrested away at the strangest times for a cutscene. For example, you're forced to watch when Zael dives to save an ally who almost falls overboard on an abandoned ship. Players then get control back as the pair does a walk-and-talk through the doorway afterwards. 

More awkwardness pokes through when you literally can't progress until you spot, from a first-person perspective, whatever it is your party is talking about. Sometimes it makes sense, like spotting a landmass to go ashore to on the boat you commandeer. Other times, less so, like when you're guarding a royal party and you're told, "Look who just walked in!"

Similarly, the action can stall out when there's too much going on during combat. Slowdown and frame-rate issues are never exactly welcomed, and at least once every four or five chapters, guaranteed, it'll pop up enough to throw a wrench into the flow you've worked up. What's strange is that it never seems to be a problem in the arena, where you can go to level up your party as often as you'd like. (And you should pop by often, because whenever you’re in town and feel like racking up more experience and money, it’s an easy way of amassing both.) Things can get rather out of hand there in terms of how many enemies are thrown at you, and the Wii hums along just fine. But occasionally, at the strangest times, like in a nondescript cave, you'll encounter that dreaded molasses-slow frame rate.

The Last Story is by no means a perfect game. However, the good here far outweighs the game’s shortcomings, and, unlike RPGs that are bloated with fetch quests and tiring level-grinding, everything here is absolutely in service of the game’s story. It isn't worth spoiling the story's climax and twists here, but, rest assured: The narrative has as many wrinkles as the combat. The Last Story might not be the last word on anything in the genre, but it is a memorable and special game while it lasts.

More Info

Release date: Aug 14 2012 - Wii (US)
Available Platforms: Wii
Genre: Role Playing
Published by: XSEED Games
Developed by: Mistwalker
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Language, Use of Alcohol, Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

17 comments

  • Stargazer - September 10, 2012 12:06 p.m.

    The Last Story is an amazing game. Even though the story is a little on the predictable side, it is rather well told and the characters are an extremely fun and likable bunch. What really sets The Last Story apart from the crowd, though, is its engaging and varied gameplay. I don't think I've ever had this much fun with a JRPG before. The pacing of the game is great, and you're never made to feel like you're stranded anywhere or doing the same thing for too long. The battles don't feel stale and were actually quite addicting. Each boss require that you to do things a little differently to take it down. It is very much an action JRPG with a mesh of several different elements such as a stealth/cover system, first person shooting, an ability that allows the player to act as a tank, as well as a command mode that allows you to manage the actions of your party members(reminiscent of a turn-based battle system). I was quite impressed by all the little details that were put into the game as it made the world of The Last Story feel more alive than the usual JRPG. Graphic-wise, the game is quite beautiful by Wii standards and, IMO, look more polished than most others on the same console. I'm not sure why some will compare it to Xenoblade and treat it like its Xenoblade's younger, not-as-cool brother because The Last Story is a very unique game and special in its own right. In fact, I personally found it more enjoyable than Xenoblade(which, story was nice but tedious gameplay/repetitive battles put me to sleep).
  • NKOKurumu - August 25, 2012 11:47 a.m.

    just ignore the fag/tehtimeissnow hes just a douchebag that needs to go back under hsi bridge and play with his ken dolls.Besides last story is a good game its 2nd as one of the best rpgs for wii along with xenoblade as number 1 for wii rpg
  • NKOKurumu - August 25, 2012 11:42 a.m.

    i love this game its epic i give this game a 9.0 at least it only has minor frame rate issues nothing more and the online play is also fun like deathmatch and coop mode were u and other fights bosses for rare weapons and items
  • joyce-smith - August 23, 2012 1:09 a.m.

    And remember: you are not alone. It happens to everyone. I admit that it saddens me when I am with younger women and I feel I am 'one of them', but also feel I am a bit excluded since I would be concidered an 'old woman'. That is when I remember that it is happening to everyone and I feel better. smile!! It helps profoundly, not only yourself but gives a boost to those you are with also......and it is FREE!!! Go to this web site and read more... // cougarkissing// -to date someone much Younger, to feel young again, and to make your life more adventurous.
  • Darkhawk - August 22, 2012 10:48 a.m.

    Well I'm happy to read there's no grinding and limited stat management. Sounds good to me!
  • into the sound - August 22, 2012 7:39 a.m.

    You can turned off the auto attack thing and Zael won't do anything unless you hit the A button. It's much more satisfying. I wish you'd talked about the combat system a little more. I think what they did there makes for a ridiculous amount of fun. Real-time combat with no random encounters in a JRPG, with a cover system? I think it's fantastic. I love hacking up some monsters and then switching to my crossbow to pin a mage just before he heals his friends, all in real-time. I love leaping over fallen rubble, or someone's back, or a monster's back (!) and continuing seamlessly into my next attack, because when it happens at just the right moment, it almost looks choreographed. As far as the item and gear management, I actually really like the fact that it's kept to a minimum, and I especially like the absence of the level grinding requirement. The customization is great too. When I saw that the custom colors I'd chosen for my party's clothes remained even during the cutscenes, I had the dumbest grin on my face. The visual feedback from changing armor and weapons - and then upgrading that armor and those weapons - adds a lot to the experience, for me at least. Seeing a little "+1" next to "Heavy Armor" isn't remotely as rewarding as seeing the light gleam off the new platemail running down my arm after leaving the shop. And little unnecessary animations like running your face into a low-hanging shop sign or accidentally bumping into people (again and again) just make me smile. I think you're totally right, the pros far outweigh the cons, but I never would've known about all those little things if I hadn't played the game myself.
  • NYCJapaneseTeacher - August 22, 2012 8:03 a.m.

    Can you start doing reviews for GamesRadar?...
  • tehtimeisnow - August 21, 2012 7:31 p.m.

    ha ah i new this game wuold suck trust me its really bad i playd it the grafics r horrable and all u do is waggel the wiimote like a baby rattle so u should just get a xobx and play real rpgs insted like falluot new las vegas or fable or gears of war
  • ObliqueZombie - August 21, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    0/10, Mr. Troll. Too much "oomph," not enough subtlety.
  • festerblatz82 - August 21, 2012 9:25 p.m.

    You would be AMAZED how many times people fall for this guy. That's why I don't fault him too much. He's WAY over the top and people still try to argue with him.
  • into the sound - August 22, 2012 7:03 a.m.

    haha, i think it's hilarious
  • profile0000 - August 21, 2012 6:19 p.m.

    "This game is some sort of final fantasy or something" When I read that, I thought it was incredibly funny that I almost did a spit-take. Great subtitle
  • Corsair89 - August 21, 2012 6:11 p.m.

    I really enjoyed what I've play of it so far. It wasn't gripped me the way Xenoblade has yet, but I still have plenty of game to go. Besides, a game half as good as Xenoblade is a fine swan song for the Wii.
  • Jonamon23 - August 21, 2012 6:10 p.m.

    I guess I will have to check this out. I wonder if it will run any better if you stick it in a Wii U...
  • shawksta - August 21, 2012 9:12 p.m.

    Of Course not, this game is built on Wii, Wii U is entirely different system that will play it the way it was on Wii and will do exactly nothing different unless they specifically made a Wii U version of this game
  • shawksta - August 21, 2012 5:45 p.m.

    Awesome, basically Xenoblade is a better game, but this game shouldn't be missed either. It's hard to tell if any game is the swan song but if anything the Wii's games this year like Rhythm Heaven, Xenoblade, Last Story, and to an extent MP9, were really great and we don't know what's next save for Kirby's Anniversary game.

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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