Here's a little background for you: The Last Story was never supposed to hit the shores of America. It was yet another game that Nintendo of America would screw us out of in their long line of games that they shun. Luckily for us, there was a group of people who wouldn't stand for it anymore. Enter Operation Rainfall - a project dedicated to getting three specific titles localized in America, those being Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story and Pandora's Tower. Nintendo bucked up and published Xenoblade, but The Last Story wasn't so lucky. Thank the heavens that XSEED stepped in and published this game because it's a good one. Now we're just waiting on Pandora's Tower, but hopefully we'll be able to experience that one another day... For now, I get to review The Last Story, a game from the great minds at Mistwalker.
The Last Story is a game revolving around a lovable band of mercenaries and their woes living life the way they do. The hardships they face are great and the scorn they receive just for being lowly mercenaries is even worse. Our main character, Zael, and his best friend Dagran just want to become knights and live a life of honor and luxury. The story can grow tired and gets a little cliché at times, but it never slows down enough to get outright bored with it. The story keeps steady and has proper pacing so the player likely won't get exhausted with it. There were several times I just completely lost track of time and found myself several hours further than I had initially expected to be.
The character interactions between the members of your band of soldiers truly are the highlight of this game. Dare I say it, said interactions alone justify the purchase of this game. The interactions between the playable party members and NPCs really are the driver of The Last Story. Each character brings life and vibrancy in their own way to your screen. Yes, characters do fall into the typical JRPG tropes you'd expect, but they tend to break those tendencies in so many other ways and do so quite often. You find yourself growing attached to the characters from how they treat each other and how they grow together. The solid voice acting does wonders for this as you hear your party's joy, rage, witty banter and utter sorrow as events unfold around you. I have never once loved every party member in a game. There is always at least one jerk-off I would love to see get savagely mauled by an alligator. This is just the main cast. The supporting characters are just as strong in their dialogue and motivations. This world of political intrigue and brutal violence is brought to life through one of the strongest set of characters in a game I have ever played.
The gameplay is a really interesting aspect in The Last Story. It takes the traditional JRPG combat system down a nontraditional road. You'll be controlling your characters in a real-time setting with some heavy focus on overall party tactics and a few moments of stealth. I'll flat out get one thing out of the way - the stealth in this game truly is pitiful and sometimes laughable. It's either outright ineffective or oddly effective. One of two things happens during stealth - either everyone in your immediate area is alerted to your presence when you step out of cover for more than two seconds or nobody will notice you so long as you are in cover. Even if you're DIRECTLY IN THEIR LINE OF SIGHT.
Moving on. You only have control of one character at any given time, but it is your job to manage the rest of your group through Command Mode. When you skill bar is full, you simply hit up on the d-pad and you order who you want to use whatever ability is required at the time. It doesn't sound like much, but command mode really sways battles in your direction and is very much needed to make your life easier at times.
Your entire journey takes place on a set of islands. There is no overworld map, per se. However, you have a large city to traverse with life in abundance. There's constantly something to be done as you're running around and fights to be found. This is where we run into my first real issue I have with The Last Story though. Quests aren't really quests in this game. They're more or less errands that you run into and complete as you go. The problem is that the game does not keep track of them or who gave them to you. There is no section in the menu where you can see what tasks you're still working on or who you're supposed to return to so you can finish them. There were more than a few times I would start up the game after playing the previous day only to say to myself, "Well, what in the world was I doing again...? Who was I supposed to go talk to?"
It was frustrating, but never too much of an issue since it was easy and enjoyable for me to roam the city finding items and listening to NPCs. I'd eventually bump into whoever I needed to, but the players who don't want to spend all their time exploring have the potential to be shafted when it comes to the side tasks.
Now, if any of you have read my previous reviews [or even remember them], you'll likely know that the soundtrack in a game is huge for me. I feel it sets the tone and helps you experience what the characters are going through. Famed ex-Final Fantasy Composer Nobuo Uematsu lends his touch and musical genius to The Last Story, which is always something to make me happy. Don't be fooled though, the soundtrack isn't just a clone from Final Fantasy in any way - it is unique to this game, but it still has Uematsu's signature touch. It's recognizable and memorable [I have the main menu music in my head at this very moment] without being a huge focus of the game. I enjoyed each track I heard and am looking forward to New Game+ just to hear it all over again.
I was surprised to find a multiplayer component in the game. It's not something I typically see in a JRPG. I waited until I was near the end of the game to hop in and try things out for myself, hoping dearly that it would give the game some replayability. So far, I'm not disappointed. We have two options: Deathmatch and Co-op. You can pit yourself against other players in a free-for-all or team battle using various characters and NPCs from the story. Or you could join a co-op game using characters from the main party and take on several different bosses. Both modes are a lot of fun and offer content unlockable only in the multiplayer mode, but it's never equipment that is vital to your survival. The fun part is that whatever you have equipped on your characters in the story will be equipped online. The downsides? Lack of variety. Co-op can get stale quickly due to so few bosses to fight - bosses who get much, much easier as you learn their patterns. A good wave-based co-op mode would be very welcome. Or at least some more bosses. There seems to be some missed potential in the multiplayer, but there are still good times to be had so long as you can find a group of people you enjoy playing with.
The Last Story is a remarkably strong game with even stronger characters. The voice acting, music, interesting gameplay and fairly decent story all pull things together well enough to ignore the few complaints I have. The Last Story provides Wii owners a final hurrah in the end of the Wii's lifespan. Hopefully we'll get Pandora's Tower as well, but if we don't, going out on this game wouldn't be a bad way to end things.
---Tyrannikos ~ Contributor