The Last Story
Developer: Mistwalker/AQ Interactive
Publisher: Nintendo/Xseed Games
Price: $87.22 – Available Here
It’s difficult to not compare The Last Story to Final Fantasy. The premise is rather similar, and why wouldn’t it be. It’s a JPRG that has been produced and directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, who previously held the title of executive producer for the Final Fantasy series. However, is it just to compare the two? Is The Last Story the Final Fantasy for Wii owners? Or does it have something unique to offer a group of gamers who have suffered a recent drought in quality titles?
The Last Story is ironically a story videogame players will have heard and will continue to hear for some time. The tale follows a group of mercenaries who make their way through a battle until reaching the city of Lazulis. Basing themselves in a tavern in the middle of the city, their occupation merely frames the larger story of good verses evil and true love. While Lazulis City may seem peaceful on the outside, it is soon attacked and it is up to the team of mercenaries to defend it. In the process, Zael (who is essentially the protagonist) falls in love. The rest of the story is played out in a marvelously cinematic fashion – full of cut scenes and extensive dialogue. The basic arc of the story may not be the most original ever, any fan of RPG’s can tell you that. Despite this, the story is absolutely engaging and the further in to The Last Story you delve, the more captivated you will become.
Taking control of a group of mercenaries is no easy task! Luckily, The Last Story doesn’t throw you in the deep end. In fact, it forces you to wade through the shallowest of shallow ends before setting out on the main quest. Tutorial walkthroughs can become slightly taxing, but provide a safe ground for new comers, given that the Wii has very few lengthy JRPG’s, it’s nice to see the developers thinking about the market they are developing for. For those just learning the ropes, there is also the option for auto-attacking. However, I couldn’t help but feel like this dramatically dumbed down the game until it became nearly patronising to play it. The option to use the Wii Controller my also appeal to different types of Wii gamers, but based on personal preference I preferred the Wiimote and Nunchuck combo.
The Last Story isn’t all hacking and slashing. There is a subtle strategy that comes through the game play. At times, breaks from gameplay will occur for you to plan attacks. This can become slightly bothersome and disrupts flow momentarily – but in the long run does have benefits. As time progresses you’ll be given the chance to learn new special attacks, such as Zael’s ability called ‘gathering’. This draws enemies towards your playing character (Zael) and allows for other members of the party to utilise magic or similar assaults. It also has the handy side effect of healing near-by allies who have been defeated. Like any RPG there is also a leveling up system, which also includes the ability to customize weapons and equipment such as armour. New items of each type can be bought and upgraded at certain points, or even found after defeating enemies, and then shared between your ever-growing party. Not all members will always be present, so selecting the correct items for the current members in your playing party is vital.
If the story doesn’t sound like your thing, then perhaps testing your skills in the stripped down, gameplay-centered multiplayer modes will be more up your alley. Featuring a versus based deathmatch or co-operative boss battles, multiplayer allows you to use any characters from your save file in strategic online battles. Deathmatch allows you to play as previously non-playing characters including villains, giving you an extra perspective on the game that you wont find in single player. There is also the option to play in teams or in a free for all mode. Co-op puts you, and up to five others, against a boss that you will encounter in the game. This time it’s possible to select from a member of your in-game mercenary party to play as, giving you a bit more range then Zael. Just like in deathmatch mode, the characters will all come equipped with weapons and armour that you have given them in the game. Multiplayer may become a bit tiresome for those seeking a strong structure and story, but for those just wanting to test (or show off) their battle skills, be sure to take a look at multiplayer.
From first seeing the cover in an electronics store a few weeks ago, I was sure that The Last Story would be visually stunning. Opening the game case, thumbing through the manual, my expectations grew. Even the opening screen of the game – presenting the games logo with a roar of music – had me eager to start the game and be marveled by the sheer beauty that is The Last Story. Yet, I found myself underwhelmed by the in-game graphics. That being said, the graphics during the cut scenes are nearly as spectacular as I hoped. The colour pallets of grey used through out the game are fantastic and really set a bleak tone – which I think fits the games story well. The character design is fantastic, with everyone looking like they have stepped out of an anime, and the costumes are all well designed – especially considering the high levels of customisation for clothing options. As well as picking different styles of armour it is possible to edit the colour scheme of all the characters in the mercenary party. It doesn’t really impact the game, but is nice to have that little extra bit of control. Graphical quality aside, the detail given to creating such a vast and elaborate world is nothing short of admirable.
Accompanying the home screen is an amazing musical score. While the visual quality may have diminished throughout the game – the music does not. In fact, the soundtrack was released as a three-disc collection on the composers and producer’s, Nobuo Uematsu, record label. The music will keep you captivated from start to finish. The only downside would be the voice acting. Characters are all played with Scottish accents, which, I can understand given the middle-earth type island the game takes place on. It is just that, having the characters designed in an ‘anime’ style doesn’t suit the voice acting so much.
If you only own a Wii The Last Story will be a valuable game to add to your collection alongside Zelda and Xenoblade Chronicles. It may not be absolutely perfect – the gameplay can be a little clunky and the graphics can, at times, be less then spectacular. However, in terms of direction and cinematic aesthetic it is a fantastic game. For Wii owners, The Last Story may be their last chance to play a quality game before the consoles life cycle expires.