The Last Story – Review
Posted May 7, 2012 by Jantrit (367)
The Wii is rapidly approaching the end of it’s life cycle and as such, with the Wii U looming over the horizon it’s been a very slow year as far as top quality games go. Enter Mistwalker studios with their latest effort, The Last Story.
Developed by Mistwalker studios, the talent behind excellent JRPG, Lost Odyssey, The Last Story might initially seem a very traditional JRPG. The tale told by the Last Story is fairly typical of JRPG’s. You star as lead protagonist Zeal along with his fellow mercenaries as they make their way to Lazilus island where the local ruler, Count Arganan, has employed their services. Suffice it to say that what starts as a simple contract to provide basic guard duty at the counts party quickly escalates into something altogether more complicated and zeal and his fellow mercenaries become embroiled in a tale of friendship, love and betrayal, of two great empires at war, ancient long forgotten magic’s and ultimately a quest to save a slowly dying world. So clearly it’s not an original story in anyway, you’ll likely have heard it all before but don’t allow this to put you off because despite this it is still a great, gripping epic in it’s own right and actually quite special. For starters the story itself keeps you invested with good story telling and a narrative that proceeds at a nice pace with plenty of twists and turns, a lot of which you’ll easily see coming a mile off, others that will genuinely catch you unawares. However fans of Mistwalkers previous effort, Lost Odyssey will know that Mistwalker clearly have a talent for crafting a great, but traditional JRPG story and finding a way to make it something special. In the Last Story it’s the cast of characters that elevate this tale to something more than just another good JRPG story.
True there’s no shortage of RPG’s which have great characters, but the cast of characters in the last story is surely among some of the most convincing and moving you’ll encounter in any game on the market right now. Each character has their own distinct personality and a clear set of ambitions that drive them. The protagonist, Zeal, for example is your traditional JRPG lead, quiet and unassuming but with an almost child like dream of becoming a knight and defending the common people. Dagran, the leader of the mercenary group, is a sort of father figure in his devotion to the group and shares Zeals ideal of becoming a knight but rather than fantasy, is driven by a much more intense ambition to elevate himself to a position of respect. Where as loyal and womanising Lowell, is laid back about life and much more interested in flirting with everything in a skirt that enters his sight than anything else. Add to this great character development throughout the story and by the end of the game you’ll feel deeply attached to the cast. You’ll laugh at things they say, feel sad when they’re upset and maybe even feel annoyed by certain quirks of their personalities. It’s a sign of true talent that Mistwalker have managed to create such a believable cast of characters that you can care so much about and that are so strong they carry and transform what would otherwise be a typical JRPG story into something special.
Just a handful of the fantastic cast
While the story doesn’t break any molds, Mistwalker appear to have gone out of their way to make the actual gameplay something very different to what you normally expect from a JRPG. For a start there’s no sprawling overworld to explore with lots of destinations to travel to in order to advance the story and initiate side quests. Instead you are given just one city which basically acts as the central hub for your adventures. Although it sounds like you’re being given less this isn’t actually the case. Although Lazilus city is the only city in the game it’s quite a big place with plenty to see and do. Aside from exploring the large cities various nooks and crannies, you can go shopping to buy new weapons and equipment, as well as upgrades for equipment, visit the arena to partake in tournaments for money and experience, as well as find loads of side quests given to you by the many people that inhabit the city, from simply finding a boys missing cat, to rescuing a kidnapped child. It’s also where you’ll initiate story missions which are divided up into chapters, in much the manner you would expect a novel to be, complete with a narrator that tells you whats going on at various points. It all makes for a streamlined experience and seems to give the adventure much more focus than you experience with the usual overworld setups of most games in the genre, helping to keep things moving along at a nice, constant pace and preventing occurrences of becoming lost and unable to progress until you find where you’re meant to be going next, as usually happens a lot in JRPG’s if you aren’t paying full attention.
However it’s the combat system which really sets the Last Story’s gameplay apart from that of the many other JRPG’s out there. There are no random encounters, nor any stage style battles which remove you from the world to fight enemies. Instead all battles take place in real time in the same environment you encounter enemies in. Once a battle is started, instead of giving you control over the entire party you take direct control of just one character, usually Zeal, while the rest of the party is automated. Controlling your character is very simple. You move around with the nunchuck analogue stick and if you wish to attack something, simply approach your chosen target and your character automatically attacks until the enemy is either defeated or you break away. At first it will strike you as extremely simple but you’ll soon find this is deceptive as strategy plays a big part in combat, particularly through the use of characters unique abilities. Central among these is Zeal’s “gather” ability. Picked up at the start of the game, when activated gather basically causes all enemies to focus their attention on Zeal, along with a few other benefits, leaving your team mates free to land blows, especially magic users who require time to cast. Magic is also handled differently to other JRP’s. Rather than casting a spell and having it just hit an enemy and do damage, any successful spell leaves a “magic circle” where it lands which grants any party member who enters it that circles particular characteristic, for example healing them or imbuing their weapons with elemental effects. Furthermore these magic circles can be “diffused”, basically blown apart with gale, another of Zeals unique abilities which unleashes a secondary effect such as silence, or weakening enemy defences in exchange for losing the circle. In addition not everything is entirely automated. Using a command system you can issue commands to your party members telling them what spells or attacks to use and choosing specific targets. It doesn’t allow finite control, to tell them to back off from a particular enemy or maintain distance for example, but is still essential because you’ll often find yourself in need of specific abilities to overcome your foes.
Ridiculously huge sword? Check
All these elements are seemingly pretty simple when taken individually but when combined in practice the end result is a combat system that is streamlined and user friendly, but at the same time requires thought and strategy as you make careful use of Zeal’s unique gather ability and the command system to exploit the specific abilities of each party member to achieve victory so the combat system is more than deep enough to keep you engrossed for the entire game. The only problem one could sight in regards to this streamlined and more user friendly experience is that it results in the game clocking in at around about 30, which is still a lot of game but fairly short by the standards of the genre.
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