The Last Story may be the last reason to turn on your Wii.
The Last Story follows in the wake of Xenoblade Chronicles as a Japanese exclusive enjoying a belated localisation for Pal region audiences. However, it is a totally different game, and perhaps even more suited to a Western audience at times. With a limited release schedule as we approach the impending release of the Wii U, it’s games like The Last Story that keep the Wii from finally retiring.
What The Last Story Got Right
Reinventing the JRPG - JRPGs are all the rage in Pal regions following the success of Xenoblade Chronicles, but they’ve used a similar formula for decades. Mistwalker looks to shake things up with The Last Story by making it closer to something we’d expect to see in the West.
The story is designed to be finished within 20 hours, not 60, and includes fairly streamlined action. It follows Zael, a noble swordsman, and his group of mercenaries from the desolate Ruli Island, as they make their way to the lively Ruli City. However, it’s not a straight forward journey. The gang come across ancient ruins that transform Zael with “Gathering” – supernatural powers. Upon entering the city the mercenaries meet Calista, the daughter of the deceased royal family and niece of Count Arganan, the current ruler of the island. Before their relationship can blossom, the group find themselves in a relentless war with the Gurak, and it all escalates from there.
Interesting characters - The Last Story places a greater focus on action than most JRPGs, but that isn’t to the detriment of narrative. The lively characterisation is impressive, as The Last Story attempts to develop more than just the protagonist. It sets itself apart by placing a profound emphasis on evoking human emotion through action, romance, betrayal and controversy.
Simple combat system - One of the biggest turn offs for Western gamers when it comes to Japanese RPGs is overcomplicated combat mechanics. The Last Story looks to make amends with a streamlined, and if anything, too simplified system that works really well.
The Last Story employs a cover system not normally seen in RPGs, or games without guns for that matter. Elza can grab cover on walls and nearby objects and switch between them to gain a tactical advantage or improved vantage point as he fires his crossbow. Attacks play out in real time, using the control stick to select a target.
Tactics play an important role, especially in utilising the “Gathering” power to draw the attention of enemies and allow your team the space required to take them out from afar. The battlefield generally has a decent mix of frontline fighters and mages pulling the strings in the distance, so prioritising which to take out first can be the difference between success and failure.
Impressive Visuals - There is looking good for a Wii game and then there’s The Last Story. It pushes every last bit of power Nintendo’s horrendously outdated console has to give and looks commendably good. I’d be lying if I said I was amazed by them, as despite being up there with Super Mario Galaxy 2 as the best on Wii, this is 2012, and the Wii is rather obviously out of grunt. Nevertheless, if a majority of your gaming is on Nintendo’s revolutionary console, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s complemented by solid English voice acting with a number of distinct British accents.
Online Multiplayer - The six-player online will add some longevity to what is a relatively short adventure for a JRPG. You can team up and tackle the game’s many single-player bosses, or duke it out in a team deathmatch. The very thought of an online deathmatch is crazy for an RPG, but The Last Story places enough emphasis on action to make it viable.
What The Last Story Got Wrong
Never fully involved - Remember that thing about the simplistic combat system being great? Well it is, if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s like driving an automatic car. It’s great for the average person, but petrol-heads want the increased level of control that only a manual transmission can offer.
A lot of the action ends up automated, including melee attacks by default. You never feel that anything is totally under your control, which is both good and bad. Fans of a more traditional RPG may find themselves wanting more control and disappointed that everything is too streamlined.
Lack of character development - Once again, The Last Story’s simplification may scare off hardened players. There’s little to no character customisation that is handled by the player. Everything in your hands is superficial, such as the option to change a character’s style with a number of skins. That might look cool, but it has no bearing on performance.
The Final Verdict
The best thing about The Last Story is that it’s nothing like Xenoblade Chronicles. You get a totally different adventure, which was never originally intended to land in Australia that is, if anything, more tailored towards the action-focused simplified RPGs that the average Westerner seems to enjoy. The story is entertaining, and the deep characterisation will reel you in. The combat may be too simple for some, but for those who just want to play through the adventure without a steep learning curve, it’s a positive take on the JRPG genre.
By Ben Salter