|The Last Story|
|Genre||Gears of Fantasy|
|MtAMinutes to Action||1|
|Keep Playing?||I guess so|
|Buy from Amazon|
Operation Rainfall strikes again.
The fan campaign that convinced Nintendo of America to actually publish a hardcore Wii game this year can now celebrate its second victory. Another high profile Wii game found its way to the USA last month, though leery NOA decided to pass the risk of publishing to Xseed Games this time around.
The Last Story is the latest game from director Hironobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu, the duo that made Final Fantasy an institution (and vice versa). It’s hard to believe a publisher would refuse to localize a game with those two names attached, but Nintendo’s no stranger to unbelievable decisions.
I'd been waiting for this game to hit the USA for over two years. Then I had to wait even longer when my copy was put on backorder for a month after it finally launched. Here’s hoping it was worthwhile.
I hear tell The Last Story is a JRPG that avoids most JRPG tropes. For this edition of our "Minutes of Note," I’ll contrast the JRPG stereotypes and the things I've never seen in a JRPG before. Let's see just how fresh this game really is.
00 - British accents! That’s not only unexpected in JRPGs, it’s surprising in any genre. It's quite fresh.
01 - Cover-based, real-time, semi-automated combat? That’s all kinds of western. Fresh!
10 - A save point. Gah, what an awful JRPG trope.
13 - Stealth, in a JRPG? Certified fresh.
20 - Near-death experience triggers traumatizing flashback to a dying mother? Seems like a trope to me.
21 - Traumatizing flashback to a dying mother triggers special magic powers? Trope combo!
22 - Disembodied voice that grants special magic powers: “If you wish to protect those who are precious to you, then pray for it with all your heart and soul.” Trope-streak!
25 - Falling flower petals. Trope-tacular!
26 - Some (scripted) environmental destruction. That’s fresh, I suppose.
35 - Fighting a white tiger with some kind of blue aura. I honestly don't think I've ever fought a white tiger before. Fresh again.
36 - Apparently I have to lure the spirit-tiger away from some kids in the battle arena. Fresh city!
45 - Looks like some kind of magic cannon. JRPGs love magic cannons. Trope.
46 - Syrenne, the brash female of our group, sure does love her booze. Can't recall a JRPG character like that. Fresh.
48 - Apparently I can change the colour of my clothes with dyes. That’s a level of character customization you don’t see much in JRPG. Pretty fresh.
52 - Oh boy, a flashback where the weak, vulnerable main character gets adopted by a capable and optimistic friend. Looks like a trope to me.
60 - I was holding off on this, but...that hair, man. Everybody's got impossible, spiky tendrils of hair. Trope 'dos everywhere.
Minutes to Action: 1
For all the good press on The Last Story's, um...story, it's still deeply rooted in well-trod Japanese ground thus far. The main character, Zael, is like a Greatest Hits of JRPG hero stereotypes. His mother was tragically killed in front of him. He gains a mysterious power because his heart is "filled with loneliness and sorrow." He desires to become a strong knight so he can protect his friends. The silver-maned prettyboy isn't exactly breaking new ground when it comes to spiky headed protagonists.
Thankfully, the rest of his mercenary band fills out nicely with flirts, drunks, and wallflowers, each with just enough dialog to show that Zael's entourage is well-rounded and interesting, even if Zael himself is anything but. And the plot's constant forward momentum in the first hour is welcome, with Zael and Company marching through the lizardmen's cave and then back to the tavern, never stopping to explain the surely banal workings behind Yurick's elemental magic or Zael's super amazing ability to distract monsters while his pals hit them with swords.
That "Gathering" spell is the only real tactic in an otherwise effortless battle system thus far. Zael attacks automatically, has essentially no control over his allies, and his only manual attack seems to be his crossbow, a weak sidearm that can only be aimed (with clumsy analog stick control instead of the Wii remote's infrared pointer) while stationary. The first hour does plant some interesting seeds: cover-based defense and stealth, setpiece-style environmental destruction, and manual guarding and dodging. But there's been no preview of where the battle system is going to find its strategic depth later on.
At least Nobuo Uematsu's musical score has immediate impact. The sad violins on the title screen make way for heroic horns in the menu, and the in-battle music adds drama without drowning character chatter. Visually, we've got yet another title that Looks Good For A Wii Game™. Muted earth tones and liberal use of bloom lighting recall Team ICO's PlayStation 2 titles; unfortunately, so does the sub-HD resolution. But hey, as one of the Wii's very last gasps of life, The Last Story might just be the last native 480p game we ever see on consoles. It is truly the end of an era.
Bias: Like I said, I've been waiting for this game to hit the west for years. JRPGs aren't my favorite genre, but maybe that's why The Last Story's unorthodox style appealed to me.
Would I Keep Playing? I guess so. I don't know where The Last Story is going with its plot or battle system yet, but there's enough fresh ideas being planted that I'm interested in where the next few hours take me.