The Last Story
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Game Reviewed: The Last Story
ESRB Rating: T
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It’s no secret among gaming communities that the Wii has largely abandoned the core gaming audience. The fun mini-game collections and simple sports titles are enjoyable to the huge audience the Wii managed to rope in from outside the established gaming community, but the console’s game library is severely lacking in games with the depth and complexity to satisfy those who make gaming their major hobby. So when three high-profile RPGs (of which The Last Story is one) were announced for the Wii, hardcore gamers rejoiced. When Nintendo announced they had no intention of bringing said games to the United States (despite already localizing it in English for a European release), said fans were highly disappointed. This led to Operation Rainfall, and attempt to communicate to Nintendo just how much their audience wanted these games and that they would be willing to pay for them. The Last Story is the second of those games to be brought stateside.
Developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series), The Last Story is an RPG that attempts to blend real-time tactics with turn-based core mechanics. The game is played from a third-person perspective. The player controls a character with a variety of weapon-based combat abilities and magic abilities. Zael, the character the player controls most of the time, has an ability called “Gathering” that lures all enemies on the battlefield into attacking him; this ability is used by the player to control the battlefield and allow the computer-controlled characters to effectively combat the enemies. The player can explore the city in which the game takes place, taking on various missions and unlocking a lot of items, weapons, and armor sets with which they can customize their characters.
The story is one of Zael, a young man in a group of mercenaries. He and his best friend, Dagran, started the band of scoundrels in hopes of one day becoming knights, true protectors of the land. As the story opens, Zael is mysteriously granted a strange power: the power of the outsider. With it, he can drive all enemies in combat to attack him, drawing fire away from his friends. But this power is capable of so much more than its simple uses on the battlefield, and when Zael meets a mysterious and beautiful young woman, he and his friends are all brought into a conflict of epic scale.
So… pretty standard stuff, really. But while many Japanese RPGs hold these clichés, many of them manage to rise above them. So then, does The Last Story manage this? And regardless, is this a game you want your children playing?
What Parents Need to Know
The gameplay is centered around combat, though a surprising amount of the game does not involve it. Much of the time, the player wanders around the city, taking on small, nonviolent tasks, or going from place to place to watch the story unfold.
When combat is included, it is bloodless and stylized. Characters fight with melee weapons, crossbows, and various magical attacks. Enemies, players, and allies can be hit so hard they’re flung across the room, but there isn’t a drop of blood to be seen.
-The word “damn” is used on occasion
-The word “ass” and its derivatives used multiple times (usually in the British “arse”)
-The word “bastard” is used multiple times
Nothing graphic, but there is plenty of suggestive dialogue. One of the characters is a drunk, and another a womanizer; they are the source of most of the sexual dialogue. While certainly clear about its subject matter and the characters’ lifestyles, none of this dialogue gets graphic. The most overt case is a scene in which Syrenne, the drunk, explains to Zael that there’s a place that he can satisfy his manly urges, he might be nervous, but she’ll help him through his first time… the double entendres are obvious, and Zael is getting quite uncomfortable before Syrenne reveals she’s talking about fighting in the arena.
This is a fantasy game, after all, so it has its share of magic and spirituality. It is all clearly fantasy, involving a powerful being that fell from the sky and grants magical power while feeding off and damaging the land. It gets more complicated than that, but honestly the third act of the game is such a convoluted mess I couldn’t tell you exactly how.
It’s worth noting that Syrenne is a heavy drinker, a behavior for which she gets playful ridicule, but no real chastisement. This is especially notable since the mercenaries are staying in a pub for most of the game.
I expected a lot from The Last Story. Lost Odyssey, the previous game from Mistwalker, is one of my favorite games ever, and Nobou Uematsu is, in my opinion, the greatest soundtrack composer of all time. So I was extremely excited for this one.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up. The story is utterly cliché, and though the characters are interesting enough to partially make up for it, the incomprehensible mess of an ending just ends the whole thing on a sour note. It has some great moments and a few interesting ideas, not the least of which is the sheer amount of gameplay spent outside of combat, but it falls flat in the end. Even Uematsu’s score is just… underwhelming.
The gameplay is kind of awkward at first, as is to be expected from a game that tries to mix real-time tactics with turn-based core mechanics, but as the game goes on and more abilities are unlocked, it does become a truly strategic and enjoyable experience. The Gathering ability, paired with other interesting mechanics (such as the way spells cover space on the ground and can be diffused for various effects) makes it so the player is really capable of controlling the battlefield while the AI players deal a lot of the actual damage. As much as I didn’t like the battle system at the beginning, I really started enjoying it as the game went on.
In the end though, the game just felt underwhelming. The unique and detailed artistic design was the best thing about the game, though since the game doesn’t actually use any of the Wii’s motion controls, it begs the question as to why they didn’t make the game on the 360 and/or PS3 so the resolution and clarity could be improved. Still, there are certainly worse ways to spend 20-30 hours, so if you’re interested, I’d recommend at least giving it a rent. As for your children, it’s up to you. The actual content of the game isn’t too intense, but you will want your child to be mature enough that they can deal with the alcoholic and sexual references.