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Review: The Last Story for Nintendo Wii

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The Last StoryTitle: The Last Story
Price: $49.99
System(s): Nintendo Wii
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Xseed (Mistwalker)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence
Pros: Great use of character and story, innovative and engaging battle system, solid graphics, fantastic music, proper use of sidequests, manages to avoid some annoying JRPG tropes.
Cons: Camera placement can interfere with battle, auto-attack can’t tell when you’re retreating, no sidequest journal.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 96/100, A, ****1/2 out of 5

The Last Story loves its battle system. The story opens with a fight, after all; you and a few members of your band of mercenaries battling Reptids in a cave system worthy of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, your first boss battle ends quite similar to a familiar battle in Fellowship of the Ring.

I’m drawing the comparison for a reason. Many reviewers are content to compare/contrast The Last Story with another Wii game: Xenoblade Chronicles. I don’t want to do that, because The Last Story looks well beyond the JRPG audience. It doesn’t center on level grinding, side quests and armor upgrades. Those elements remain, but the game’s attention is focused squarely at the story and fighting system, making The Last Story appealing to anyone who enjoys fantasy and combat.

The Last Story

The story focuses around Zael, a young (but not the usual JRPG young) mercenary who dreams of becoming knight so he can get some respect for basically doing the same thing he does as a mercenary. Orphaned after the destruction of his village, he’s pretty much raised by his mercenary partner, Zael. Some nice elements of their relationship center around reminiscing on how long they’ve been at this, and how many friends they’ve lost along the way. You quickly grow to like these two, and that brief snippet of dialogue makes you fear for the safety of their current group, all of whom have their own reasons for joining the band and who share unique relationships with the other characters.

Syrenne, for example, is the foul-mouthed partier with an odd affinity for bathing with other women, but it’s she who best understands Zael’s complicated relationship with Lady Calista. Mirania seems the most distant, but she often knows what Zael is feeling before he does. Yurick seems angry and aloof until we learn his backstory and he finally warms up to the others.

I point all of this out because these people are very important to each other and to the game. More so than any JRPG I’ve played, I really got that sense that they know each other—that they fought together and drank together before this particular story in which we’re now engaged. And that made the combat segments much more fun.

The Last Story

It’s also important that The Last Story forgoes the usual JRPG tropes. First, there are no annoying talking animals or stupid creatures there specifically for comic effect (i.e., to annoy the player). Although the characters are young, they’re not 12, and are therefore believable when fighting orcs with giant spiked hammers. And finally, they’re not trying to save the universe by defeating their gods. The plot is centered around two warring races, and although it does have some preposterous elements that I won’t spoil here, it remains firmly centered around its protagonists and what they (think they) want out of life. When the game kicks into the third act we’re left wondering who the enemy really is, as usual. Well, more accurately, we’re left wondering wondering when the characters will figure it out, as the game is a bit too obvious with its reveals, but it still works because of the level at which we’re able to identify with these people.

But okay, enough with the touch-feely crap, right? How about the fighting? It’s handled in real time, with some reconnaissance in certain instances to help you plan. Most battles give you an overview of what you’re fighting and provide hints on how best to handle the situation. Zael has the ability to target not just the enemy, but also his surroundings in some cases. He can tell others to take out walls or bridges, for example, to crush his opponents. He can draw enemy attention to himself to allow others time to cast their spells. He can tell Mirania, for example, to cast a healing circle, then use his own special capabilities to diffuse its effects to his entire party.

The Last Story

The combat system gets more complex as the game progresses, and it’s easy to forget some of the more basic features (guarding and blocking, for example) when you’re concentrating on running up walls to deliver attacks from above. But the game forces you to use all capabilities throughout, based on the enemy you’re fighting, so talents are never completely lost.

Thankfully, the weapon/equipment modifications aren’t as complicated. Equipment provides only basic upgrades, and there are few styles with which to concern yourself. You get more upgrade opportunities on weapons, and will want to level up quite a few to keep handy for specific opponents (the game is good about telling you which weapons are good for fighting spiders, orcs, Reptids, etc.).

The developers thought enough of this combat system to give it its own multiplayer component: deathmatch and boss battle co-op with up to five other players. It’s fine, but you won’t want the game specifically for that. Best to occupy yourself with the side quests, which include everything from basic fetch quests to entire chapters that provide additional background on the characters. They’re never cumbersome and they never center around rare item drops that take forever to obtain, allowing you to complete them without killing the flow of the story.

The whole package comes together, then, in what I consider to be not only one of the best JRPGs I’ve ever played, but one of the best Wii games. The innovative combat and the fresh look at traditional JPRG storytelling combine for a game that feels unique while remaining firmly rooted in its genre. It doesn’t hurt that the graphics are great (once you get used to the wash of browns, grays, and blues) and that the soundtrack is worthy of standing on its own (pre-orders and early purchases come with a bonus audio disc, as well as an art book).

The Last Story

In my interview with lead designer Takuya Matsumoto at E3 2012, I asked if when he saw the Wii U announcement if he considered moving the project to that system. The conversation went like this:

Matsumoto: Out of my imagination and from my own personal opinion, just the visual aspect of what The Last Story has and the game’s strategic aspect, it could’ve done really well with the Wii U. There’s a screen and there’s a game pad in your hand, so there’s a lot of strategic movement you could’ve done. There’s a possibility we could’ve stopped and started for the Wii U.

Gamertell: Maybe a sequel, then.

Matsumoto: That sounds great.

Indeed it does.

Site [The Last Story]

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35 Comments

  1. you can tell how bad a writer is when they go jrpg jrpg jrpg

    the guy didnt play the game, doesnt know jrpgs, which if they did, this is very similar to alot of them

    tanto
  2. Bad writer? Harsh.

    The Last Story is similar to other JRP…oh, sorry. I’m not supposed to use that term. The Last Story is similar to other games with role playing elements and Asian sensibilities because those elements are what define the genre. They HAVE to be there. But the developers avoided some of the tropes, as I mentioned, and were quite innovative with others.

    I’m not sure I understand your criticism. Did you like the game, not like it, or just not like my review?

    Kirk Hiner
    • Its similar to other action rpgs. Thats it. jrpg isnt a genre. You say they “Avoided troupes” and then dont back it up, basically signifying its a null statement

      The term, jrpg, is reserved for a location identifier of where it was developed

      In terms of the game, its just one of hundreds of good japanese rpgs

      tanto
  3. It’s pretty much accepted that JRPG is a term applied to a sub-genre of RPG that have eastern themes and sensibilities, not just to the geographic location of the developer anymore. Location’s important, obviously, because of the cultural influences, but an American or European company could very easily develop an RPG that would be classified as JRPG based on its use of characters and story.

    And although I haven’t played “hundreds of good japanese rpgs,” there are certain elements of the dozens I have played that appear with frequency. I didn’t list these tropes because our readers have a decent knowledge of game genres, and listing what they can infer themselves would just weigh down the review.

    Kirk Hiner
    • No its not pretty much accepted which is why devs say not only do the terms mean nothing, if you go on the wiki, journalists also say the terms mean nothing, you might want to try being one

      Jrpg isnt a genre. Thats plain as day.

      The genre of this game is action rpg, but its also a jrpg because of where it was developed.

      tanto
  4. I’ll point to Kotaku for my frame of reference:

    http://kotaku.com/5921080/why-do-people-care-about-jrpgs

    See the section titled “Then what makes a JRPG a JRPG?” I take it you disagree with that?

    Kirk Hiner
  5. Some journalists and video game designers have questioned this cultural classification, arguing that the differences between Eastern and Western games have been exaggerated. In an interview held at the American Electronic Entertainment Expo, Japanese video game developer Tetsuya Nomura (who worked on Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts) emphasized that role-playing games should not be classified by country-of-origin, but rather described simply for what they are: RPGs.[69] Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy and The Last Story, noted that, while “users like to categorise” Japanese RPGs as “turn-based, traditional styles” and Western RPGs as “born from first-person shooters,” there “are titles that don’t fit the category,” pointing to Chrono Trigger (which he also worked on) and the Mana games. He further noted that there have been “other games similar to the style of Chrono Trigger,” but that “it’s probably because the games weren’t localised and didn’t reach the Western audience.”[70] Xeno series director Tetsuya Takahashi, in reference to Xenoblade Chronicles, stated that “I don’t know when exactly people started using the term ‘JRPG,’ but if this game makes people rethink the meaning of this term, I’ll be satisfied.” The writer Jeremy Parish of 1UP.com states that “Xenoblade throws into high relief the sheer artificiality of the gaming community’s obsession over the differences between” Western and Japanese RPGs, pointing out that it “does things that don’t really fit into either genre. Gamers do love their boundaries and barriers and neat little rules, I know, but just because you cram something into a little box doesn’t mean it belongs there.”[71] Nick Doerr of Joystiq criticizes the claim that Japanese RPGs are “too linear,” pointing out that non-linear Japanese RPGs are not uncommon.[72] Likewise, Rowan Kaiser of Joystiq points out that linear Western RPGs were common in the 1990s, and argues that many of the often mentioned differences between Eastern and Western games are stereotypes that are generally “not true” and “never was,” pointing to classic examples from both genres.

    tanto
  6. Okay, but what you copied and pasted above (from Wikipedia?) even starts with “Some journalists and video game designers…” (accent on “some”) so there are conflicting opinions on the matter.

    I think a bigger conversation to be had is why the concern over it? In my case (and the case of many RPG fans with whom I’ve discussed the matter), the sub-genre isn’t about battle systems or linearity, but about the over-arching stories, and themes and the way characters are portrayed. The battle system is irrelevant. So, do developers feel that if their game is categorized as a JRPG that certain gamers will turn away? That it’ll be predictable? That it’ll draw unfair comparisons? If so, isn’t that what any developer faces when pinpointing a specific genre? In his quote above, Jeremy Parish is guilty of the same action he’s attacking when he classifies gamers as people who “… love their boundaries and barriers and neat little rules …” No, we’re just defining styles to help us find the games we like, and no one is saying the games can’t break out of those styles. Indeed, may do, and that’s often celebrated. Ultimately, adding the J to RPG isn’t a boundary or barrier, I would argue, any more than is adding survival to horror or NCAA to football.

    Kirk Hiner
    • so you wont listen to reason huh?

      JRPG IS NOT A GENRE

      even devs say it

      stories and themes are you ****ing kidding me?

      no wonder you write for this nothing site

      tanto
  7. I was hoping we could have a good conversation about this, but I can see you’re not interested in that. It’s a good idea for an article, though, so I’ll contact the developers and publishers we’ve worked with to get their take on it. When the article’s live, I’ll post a link here so you’re notified and can see how everyone weighs in.

    Kirk Hiner
  8. you arent listening to reason so why should I continue? I own over 1000 rpgs physically, have been a pure rpg gamer for 20 years talk to the rpg manufacturers, there pr representatives, so what do I know?

    No game site ever uses those terms as genres when categorizing games

    tanto
  9. What is “football?” There’s a reason they call it “American football” (or “American rules football”) in other countries. Every hear of J-Pop? Yeah, that’s Japanese pop music with a “J.” And that is most certainly a music genre.

    Japanese role-playing games are more often than not uniquely Japanese and many, many media, gamers and game developers refer to them as JRPGs (or J-RPGs). Your inability to recognize that may indicate that you are in denial of some sort. Of what, I’m not certain.

    PJ Hruschak
    • Yeah because you didnt just make a stupid apples and oranges comparision. Oh wait you did.

      American football is called that because they stole the name from soccer. It has nothing to do with anything else.

      j pop, actually does simply refer to region

      bravo, dumb in stereo

      tanto
  10. Apparently there’s also Canadian football, rugby league football and a dozen other variations. They are all technically “football” but each has its own ball, rules, subtleties and fans.

    Likewise, there are rules, mechanics, subtleties and fans that are unique to non-Japanese RPGs versus Japanese style RPGs (aka JRPGs).

    Other countries have teams that play – wait for it – American rules football. So where it is played does not matter. JRPGs do not need to be made in Japan and not all RPGs made in Japan are JRPGs.

    So the comparison in light of this conversation, whether or not you accept it, is quite valid.

    The fact that you know what the writer meant by the term “JRPG” shows that it has meaning (and meaning to you).

    I’m sure if you laid out your 1000+ RPGs and decided to put them into categories, you’d have a lovely stack of JRPGs, even if you refused to call them JRPGs.

    Do you have a suggested replacement?

    And if you think you can write better articles, send your resume. We’re always looking add writers to our staff.

    PJ Hruschak
    • Its quite clear you dont know what game genres are.

      I would never write for this second rate operation.

      I have friends at rpgfan and rpgamer laughing at you

      tanto
      • Yep, no idea.

        Hmm, maybe we’ll start a JRPG section on the site?

        I’m glad we could fill your day with laughter and self-righteousness.

        PJ Hruschak
  11. BTW (from your aforementioned RPGFan site):
    http://www.rpgfan.com/news/2011/1446.html
    http://www.rpgfan.com/news/2009/640.html
    http://www.rpgfan.com/boards/index.php?topic=6120.0;wap2
    …and many, many others (including a thread or two about JPRG haters. How so very interesting).

    PJ Hruschak
    • Dont be an idiot, under Genre:___________

      for the games on that site NONE say jrpg

      because it isnt a real genre

      which is why they dont use it

      way to talk out of your a**

      tanto
  12. RPGFan does not even have a “Genre” designation on the site. Funny but I typed in “JRPG” and I find this on that site: http://www.rpgfan.com/news/2012/1870.html

    I’m starting to think you may be link bating which is weird because I suspect you have been banned (or “banninated”) there as you seem to be quite loose with the vulgarities and personal insults.

    And I see none of your “friends” defending you here.

    PJ Hruschak
    • Actually they do, go into the reviews fool.

      OMG, did you even research the site?

      I dont comment on rpgfan boards, no need. Nor would any of my friends waste time on this site. I am doing it as a laugh and posting your responses back

      tanto
  13. We must be looking at different RPGFan sites b/c in the “reviews” section it is only divided by console: http://rpgfan.com/reviews.html

    You obviously need to do a lot more reading, a lot more research and discover the meaning of open mindedness.

    Here’s where you get in your last word/insult…

    PJ Hruschak
    • why must I deal with such an idiot? I go to rpgfan every single day

      And if you go into a specific review for a game, it breaks down what the genre is

      ys is the same genre as mass effect

      tanto
  14. …and here is a review on that site that refers to JRPG in the review:
    http://rpgfan.com/reviews/Atelier_Meruru_The_Apprentice_of_Arland/index.html

    Sure, it calls the game a “traditional RPG” next to “Genre” in the pullout box but, the fact remains, the actual review refers to it as a JRPG.

    PJ Hruschak
    • you idiot hes talking about it AS A REGION IDENTIFIER

      The genre is turn based/traditional RPG

      THATS THE GENRE

      tanto
  15. Ask the writer if he’d bother including the “J” region identifier if it were a platformer. Or a sports game. Or a third-person shooter. Is Super Mario Brothers a J Platformer because it was made in Japan? No, because there are no real qualifying differences between Western and Eastern platformers, or sports games, etc. But there are distinguished and recognized differences between western and eastern RPGs, hence the J. And because the differences are in style, and not related to the location of the developer, it makes no sense as a region identifier.

    Kirk Hiner
    • Ive asked that same question and they do. They do go japanese platformer, japanese fighter, ect

      Oh you poor delluded idiot. There are just a big a differences between all genres in all regions

      fire pro wrestling vs mma thq. and they are addressed as such, a japanese wrestler.

      I need to teach you both about games.

      It ONLY makes sense as a region identifier

      tanto
      • Can you do me a favor and point out some links to back this up? I’d like to see where a Japanese platformer is distinguished from a western platformer.

        Also, if JRPGs are meant to be distinguished by region of development only, why have I never heard the term GRPG for RPGs developed in Germany, or CRPGs for Canadian games. For that matter, do the Japanese use the label USRPG for games developed in the United States?

        Kirk Hiner
  16. tanto – It is clear that you misunderstand the meaning of a “genre” and are getting rather worked up about it. I suggest you relax, look up some definitions for “genre” and contemplate the idea that those games have common style, form and element(s).

    I also ask that you refrain from unnecessarily vulgar language in your future posts on this site.

    PJ Hruschak
  17. Whats clear is you both dont know what genre means

    In terms of GAME it refers to GAMEPLAY style

    tanto
  18. It seems that you need to enlighten us as to all the game genres and how we should refer to them. The “Tanto” (or whatever your name might be) Style Guide to Game Genres. Please, oh, please, provide us your official and comprehensive list of game genres. Make certain to distinguish the “gameplay” criteria for each so that the world will be able to properly categorize and reference games.

    PJ Hruschak
  19. you all do need an education

    tanto
  20. Don’t we all. Some more than others.

    PJ Hruschak
    • you guys especially about rpgs

      tanto
  21. You love to get in the last word, eh?

    PJ Hruschak
    • maybe you do?

      tanto