Release Date: 08/14/2012
Available Exclusively On
You’re a mercenary who wants to become a knight in a far-off land with two races at war with each other. On top of that, you accidentally fall in love with the princess and end up in a political war and the savior of the world. Sounds like a typical JRPG doesn’t it? Well it kind of is, but the story is incredibly engaging and I can’t give more away without spoiling it. It takes a little while to pick up, but there were some unexpected plot twists and turns in the story that had me blow through this game in 3 days. That’s how engaging this game is. I wanted to play more and keep going further because I cared about the characters and what they were going to do next.
The Last Story plays a lot different than any other JRPG out there, so much so, I have yet to play one that is like it. The combat system is both real-time and pauses based with deeper strategies slowly unlocking as you progress through the game. What’s great is the game starts off super easy and simple, and I honestly didn’t really get a game over until two-thirds through the game, but then it got really tough and challenging, but just enough to make me think a little and really decide my next decision rather than hacking away blindly. The main mechanic around all of the combat is Zael’s Gathering ability which makes all enemies go towards him. This is needed for strategic reasons as you have magic party members that cast spells on a timer. If they get hit that timer resets, so you need to have all the enemies come towards you and your other melee fighters. This seems like instant death, but their movement slows down and the magic fighters’ cast speed increases double so there are benefits to this. You can also use your gathering as a burst weapon if you get hit enough times.
You can also snap to walls and take cover as well as peak out and hit enemies with your crossbow. This also lets you see enemies’ weaknesses which are mandatory later on when trying to figure out how to kill enemies. Sadly, this isn’t as smooth as it sounds. The controls are really sticky so if you don’t face the wall exactly head-on you won’t get the prompt, and this includes using the wall-run move which is hindered by the camera that is uncontrollable. I also had issues when attacking an enemy by just pressing forward on the C-stick I couldn’t quickly back out or dodge. I would snap the stick back and I would still be attacking and this was usually the main reason why I would die. Speaking of dying, you get 5 lives, and then it’s game over. This sounds like it’s easy, but it works well with this combat system and there were plenty of times I ran out of all 5 lives pretty quickly. You can get more lives during combat with a Revive skill or an item.
Outside of whacking enemies, you can pause the battle by pressing up on the D-pad and choose your main skill, regular skill, retreat to a healing circle, or guard. Your main skill requires a meter to fill up before using it, and to command your party members your command bar must have all bars filled so you can’t abuse it. You can also use these bar segments to use your Gale move which lets you dash around the battlefield knocking enemies over. It’s a very interesting and intricate combat system that you end up mastering by the end of the game or you won’t pass the tough bosses in the last few chapters. They require all of your knowledge of the combat system and learning each party member’s moves and all their strengths.
Every so often the game does change things up by throwing an enemy at you that can only be killed on dry land and heals in water, there are throwables scattered sometimes, and destructible environments to make killing groups a little easier. Once a battle is over you level up and can collect items. These items randomize as you approach them with a slot machine-style spin and range from weapons, armor, and crafting items.
Weapons and armor work a little differently here as you won’t really buy weapons after the first 10 chapters and instead just upgrade the weapons you pick up, and the same goes for armor. I always found a more powerful weapon from a boss or tough enemy and never had issues with that. Thankfully there’s an auto-equip feature, which I love in JRPGs, and does a good job making sure everyone gets what makes them the strongest. I never really had to manually equip anything.
Outside of combat there are some optional chapters you can complete, but honestly, they’re a complete waste of time as the items you get aren’t much better than what you will get during the story and there are no extra plot paths or anything like that. It’s literally just to level up a little bit, but even ground isn’t needed in this game as you level up so quickly during the story. Most of the story is progressed by entering rooms, talking to people, or leaving and coming back to the main castle, most NPCs give you clues as to where to go so that was never a huge problem. There really isn’t much to explore here as many areas repeat a few times and the castle area is rather small equaling to the size of a market center in most games. I wish I could have traveled around more, but the story explains why you don’t really go anywhere and it makes sense.
Let’s talk about the production values a bit. The game looks fantastic for a Wii game with lots of detail, good lighting effects, and huge vistas, but it comes at a huge price. The game slows down to single-digit frames constantly whenever the camera pans out too far or you get a vista shot. Even during combat when there are a lot of effects on screen the game crawls and makes things frustrating as the controls don’t respond during these times. There’s tons of horrible aliasing and the textures are muddy because Mistwalker tried pushing the system way too far. It still looks great but also looks bad because you can see the Wii struggle so hard just to render a single face on the screen and it looks like a GameCube game at best. The voice acting is actually pretty decent for a localized JRPG and like I said earlier, the story is just amazing and memorable.
Overall, The Last Story is a must-play for any Wii owner. It strays far enough away from JRPG tropes to be unique and has enough action gameplay to keep people from getting bored. The lack of grinding needed, engaging story, great characters, and interesting combat is enough to get you through the 20-25 hour story. You do have to forgive the visuals and some minor control issues.