Release Date: August 14, 2012
Developer: Mistwalker, AQ Interactive
I’m going to be honest, I was not too fond of this game right off the bat because of how stereotypical and predictable it appeared to be. However, as I ventured further in the game I began to appreciate The Last Story for its narrative, characters and gameplay.
The setting of the Last Story takes place in what seems like medieval times because anything that involves castles, knights and royalty is obviously medieval. The story revolves around Zael and a group of mercenaries that have been hired to exterminate monsters for the Count. Zael uncovers the power of the Outsider during this excursion, and this opens the doors for him and his team of mercenaries. However, he soon finds out that the stakes to acquire his dream of becoming a knight are quite high, for he’ll have to decide whether to succumb to the Count’s whims or be true to himself.
The story is simple, but has a few surprises along the way. The game uses themes such as accomplishing your dream at any stake, fearing those different then you, friendship, and how love perseveres through all situations. The story seems more like a homage to Final Fantasy than a narrative of its own. The characters aren’t similar to Final Fantasy, however the roles between the main male character and female in the story are especially mirrored. These roles consist of the main character having a humble beginning and the female character being of high standing, the main antagonist not being who you think it is, and there being a heavy focus on friendship with a love story on the side.
The story may be a bit lackluster, but it’s the characters that make the game. They all have their own unique personalities and the game does well to exploit that. Granted, the personalities did seem a bit stereotypical for the physical appearance of a few characters. Still, I always craved seeing the interaction among the band of mercenaries in the game. They all had good chemistry with one another and grew stronger from their struggles along the way. This is especially true for Zael. In the beginning, he was like a clean slate: a good-hearted fellow with an innocent goal. But as he realizes the consequences entailed with making a dream into a reality, the players get to see his struggles, his breakdown, and then his rebirth.
So we’ve touched upon the story and characters, but a game wouldn’t be complete without music. And it just so happens that The Last Story’s music is composed by the great Nobuo Uematsu himself. Unfortunately, while the music wasn’t too noticeable during the first play through, a second outing does reveals its hidden beauty. The composition was fluid and always fit the scene of the story. The music also invokes a number of emotions like pity, anguish, and happiness to fit the mood. The score also helps to set the tone for the game’s frantic gameplay.
The combat system in the game is simple enough, Zael automatically attacks through the forward tilt of the Wii joystick. That sounds easy enough, but the real obstacle comes when you don’t want to fight the opponent any longer. While trying to escape, the controller will still be registered in fight mode. In order to stop attacking, you have to let the controller return to its neutral position and hope you don’t accidentally push forward again to have Zael attack. Rather than having your attentions on the battle against the boss, you’re battling your Wii controller. The battle system is different, though, and Zael has a lot of interaction with the obstacles around him. Actually utilizing these obstacles determines Zael’s attacks.
For instance, hiding behind a pillar and waiting for your enemy to draw within range activates the ‘Slash’ move. Zael can also hop over fallen objects (and teammates) that separate him form his enemies. On top of that, Zael has a special skill called Gathering state. When it’s activated, he draws all enemies in the area toward him and off his spell casting team so they don’t get hurt. This also allows him to resurrect fallen members. The game gives you a gauge which enables you to use Zael as well as command the special powers of the rest of your teammates when full. When in command mode, the player can direct Zael’s team through a few options that involves either using their powers or retreating.
But how can we venture further about the battle system when we haven’t covered weapons? The Last Story is full of them. After all, you can’t save the world without obscenely large weapons that have little resemblance to anything found in real life. You can purchase weapons (and other supplies) from a merchant, but your most powerful weapons can be found within chests scattered throughout the dungeons you’ll crawl through, and the enemies you defeat along the way. It’s not absolutely necessary to switch your current equipment for the newer and “stronger” one that’s available though. The player is able to upgrade weapons by collecting the appropriate items (which can be found in chests or by defeating enemies) and then have a merchant upgrade them.
Certain weapons are also imbedded with a particular affinity, which provide an advantage against the appropriate enemy types. If you’re a player that likes trying out new weapons and having to re-upgrade all over again because all weapons start at level one, then you’ll have a blast. But if you’re like me, a person who’s committed to a particular weapon from day one, you won’t miss anything. Zael and the gang’s different powers are more than enough to defeat an assailant that steps in your path. Armor is also given the same range of customization as weapons. Certain armor combinations reward the player with affinities that suit that particular player. Also, with each upgrade, the armor takes on the physical manifestation of your hard work piece by piece. This means at higher levels your characters are almost clad in a suit of armor, but not quite; a suit of armor isn’t fashionable.
The world of the Last Story is rippled with different environments even though you spend much of your time in Lazulis Castle. Zael and his gang travel the seas to a lush abandoned beach, venture into the corridors of the castle itself and other places I’d rather not spoil. These environments also come with a set of monsters to fit that place. The sea cave, for instance, has creatures with ice element capabilities. As such, ice attacks have little effect. The most fun you’ll probably have is in Lazulis Town. Because of its sheer size, the town has many nooks and crannies that can be explored.
Also, within the town are little side quests which can be done for light entertainment. An example of this is collecting ingredients/supplies for the villagers or scavenging for coins throughout the city. To level up, the town has an arena or the player can travel to previous dungeons to practice. While you’re in dungeons, you’re actually given opportunities to level up to your heart’s content before facing the boss at the end. This can be done by finding a room with a summon symbol and summoning the monsters repeatedly. That’s what I liked the most about leveling up.
What makes The Last Story different from other RPG’s, is its online multiplayer capabilities. Players can either do a deathmatch with friends or defeat bosses in co-op mode with up to six players. In deathmatch mode, you’re able to play as all the main characters, villains and guest characters. Your level in the single-player game holds no relevance in multiplayer. Instead you’re able to use a character’s skillset. In co-op, your level and equipment is usable. Prizes involve rare items, weapons, or armor that can be used in your main game. This wasn’t my favorite feature of the game, though. What made The Last Story fun for me was commanding a team and using tactics. The multiplayer was entertaining, but it doesn’t add anything substantial to the game.
Regardless of how I felt about the game at the beginning, I couldn’t put the controller down because I had to see where the story would take Zael next. I had to know if Zael’s love for the main female character would hold any relevance in the game. I needed to get through the story in order to delve in the battle system, and I had to find out just how one part of the story connected to the other. At around 30 hours, The Last Story is short for a JRPG. But thanks to its high replay value, you’ll be playing it for quite a while. Overall, The Last Story is an excellent game and is a welcome addition to the Wii’s library. If you like JRPG’s, then this is definitely a game worth checking out.
- Well-rounded characters
- Battle system is engrossing
- Environments are lavish and beautiful
- Armor visually changes with each upgrade
- Story mirrors Final Fantasy a little too much
- Can’t always easily disengage from battle