Review: The Last Story (Wii)
Title: The Last Story
Platform: Nintendo Wii
TL;DR: An excellent addition to the Wii family.
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There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the West’s dwindling interest in JRPGs and for a time it didn’t look like The Last Story would see a release outside of Japan despite highly favourable reviews and director Sakaguchi and composer Uematsu, true masters of their craft, being on-board. Thankfully for the West the game has finally hit our shores and does not disappoint – however, if you want to get the most out of The Last Story it’s important that you go in with no expectations and resist the urge to compare it with the Final Fantasy series.
Set in a dying land amongst a complacent and naive people, the story follows a ragtag group of mercenaries who dream of living a better life and earning the respect of their peers. When a half forgotten enemy strikes their home island and the world itself continues to abandon its people its up to this motley crew to turn the tide and lead their countrymen to victory. In a nutshell, your typical RPG.
The main character, Zael, may come across as somewhat limp at first but quickly grows on you – as does his slightly odd face shape. He has a heart of gold and wears the mantle of hero well. The rest of the team come in the usual JRPG flavours: Mr Capable Dependable Leader, Miss Valiant Princess (desperate to see life outside of the castle, of course), Ms Feisty Quick Witt, Master Introverted Mage and Mr Laid Back Comic Relief. Their make-up may be predictable but this doesn’t diminish the genuine sense of comradeship which exists between them and the fact without exception they are all very likeable.
The game world, although not as vast or open as other recent RPG titles, is a treat to explore. Get too close to a group of gossipy aristocrats in the castle and you can listen in on their conversation, move away and their voices will slowly fade out. Take a closer look – literally – around your environment with the seek function and possibly pick up some nice hidden loot. Ships rock in a lifelike way and birds chirp just within hearing in forests. Your surroundings have a vaguely eighteenth century European style with predictable anime style nods in the form of gravity defying hair and outlandish costumes.
“I believe that the design of The Last Story sometimes carried its own independent beauty. Please pause for a moment while playing the game to observe the detail of the castles, the people walking by and the clouds drifting overhead,” says Sakaguchi.
As recently explored in a fabulous article over at Pioneer Project, hearing video game characters using your own accent and colloquialisms is not something we’re used to here in Britain. The Last Story uses genuine, British regional accents such as Scottish, Lancastrian and Cornish, not the usual heavy handed cockney accent which seems to prevail within the industry. The voice acting itself is mostly very good, if you can ignore the sloppy lip syncing, and is a good match for each character. I expect this choice will be a hit-or-miss aspect of the game – but one which British fans will mostly approve of.
The combat system, which you are very gently eased into feature by feature, may come as a surprise to some – there is no melee button, instead you move to an enemy and Zael will attack automatically without any further input needed. But there’s still plenty to do: are your mages protected? What are you enemies weak points? Is it a good time to issue some commands? Have you checked for hidden snipers, bombs, mages or other dangers?
In addition Zael has the ability to ‘diffuse’ magic circles set up by mages which have a variety of effects ranging from lowering the defense of your enemies to healing your party. Zael can also use a summon feature which will speed up magic casting, be used to revive fallen allies and restore a little HP whenever you successfully attach an enemy but it comes at a cost – enemy attention is now fixed on him. You can also use this ability if you wish to replay certain battles to gain more experience points, loot or money – just watch out as occasionally a much stronger enemy will be spawned. In this way although there’s no need to grind in The Last Story, you can do so if you wish. Perhaps the best testament to the battle system is that there’s an online mode – a co-op and a versus mode, with rare items to win which you can carry over to your main game.
There are mini games and quests along the way to satisfy those after a more ample adventure, however The Last Story is much shorter than most JRPGs. You can soar through the game in 20-25 hours should you desire and not feel short changed on story. The plot is so adequately absorbing that you may well find yourself doing so.
The musical score is surprisingly understated but blends with story and game play perfectly. It sets scenes seamlessly and is at its very best when haunting or uplifting. The game’s graphics can appear slightly dated at first, especially the main menu screen, but this isn’t a major issue.
A lot of labour and love has evidently gone into The Last Story and this really shines in the the little details. Following on the coat-tails of Xenoblade it serves as a potent reminder that JRPGs can still cast their magic over Western audiences and are here to stay, at least for the moment. Prepare to be immersed and take it on its own merits and there is a lot of enjoyment to be had from this game.
- Detailed and interesting world
- Solid voice acting featuring British regional accents
- Engaging, fast moving plot
- Gently eases you into the combat system
- Relatively short length of main plot
The Last Story is rated PEGI 16 and features moderate fantasy-type violence and some mild language. Older children and above should have no problems in terms of difficulty and following the story.