With the Wii U looming ever closer, the quality Wii titles for 2012 look to be thin on the ground. Luckily for us there is a glimmer of hope in the form of Pandora’s Tower and this, The Last Story.
An Action RPG, The Last Story starts in a rather muted fashion with the introduction of the main character, Zael. Orphaned at a young age, Zael is now part of a mercenary group who travels the land taking on unsavoury jobs to make a living. We jump in during one of these jobs, which the game uses as a tutorial of sorts. Rather than a simple turned based affair, The Last Story seems to try and gel together real time battles with an RTS game.
Initially, simply walking towards an enemy will see Zael automatically perform a melee attack, although for those who don’t like the sound of it you can turn off the auto-attacks, and do it yourself. It feels a little bit underwhelming, but do persevere because this is just the tip of the iceberg.
After a short period Zael will learn the ‘Gathering’ technique, which draws the attention of every enemy in the area, allowing you to distract them whilst your party members get in sneaky attacks from behind.
Then you’ll unlock the ability to command your party. Before a battle you will be shown a top down view of the area with all enemies highlighted, along with their levels. When the battle kicks off a press of the D-pad will bring up the command menu, as long as the command meter is full, where you can choose what party member does what attack, and to who.
It’s very slick, and has added bonuses such as the magic casting time being reduced from about 20 seconds, to three seconds. Of course, if you’d rather not bother the computer will control the party members quite admirably.[drop2]If you still think this sounds a little basic, there are more little intricacies to learn, such as chaining and diffusing. For example, if one of your party casts a heal circle then anyone inside of that will have their health replenished. However, if you’re smart you can have Zael use the ‘Gale’ technique to diffuse the circle, which grants all party members a HP boost at the same time, wherever they are on the screen. In fact, diffusing magic circles has a number of advantages, so experiment!
The game also has an interesting way of dealing with death. For every battle you enter, Zael has five lives. Get knocked out and he will lay there unconscious for a brief period, before having all life restored. If this happens five times then it’s game over.
The same situation applies to party members, and if they get knocked out five times in one battle they will be out of the game until the battle is over. This might sound bad, but a good portion of the game is disappointingly easy, especially if you take on some side quests and do some level grinding.
Those expecting a free-roaming title, a la Xenoblade Chronicles, may be disappointed to find out that The Last Story is fairly linear. However, in my opinion this was the correct decision to make as it allows a far more cinematic story. This is where The Last Story shines brightest, as it presents us with a group of people who, despite being mercenaries, are genuinely likeable.
Character interaction and development are top notch, helped tremendously by some fantastic voice work. Rather than being in Japanese with subtitles, or using American voices, The Last Story uses a wide range of dialects from the United Kingdom and Ireland. In my playthrough I heard Welsh, Scottish, and Irish voices, accents from the midlands, the south of England; it’s such a rare treat!
Whilst the tale itself is one that has been told many times (boy meets girls, then saves the world) it’s hard not to get immersed when it’s told so well and you care about what happens to every member of the group.
Despite being linear, there is still plenty to keep RPG fans happy. There is an almost constant supply of loot to collect from chests or after battles. Weapons can be exchanged for newer, stronger types or simply upgraded so that they take on different abilities.
Normal upgrades will cost money, but the stronger variants will require special items that need to be sought out. The same applies for armour too. Then there’s your party to think about, as they will need to be just as strong. If that sounds like too much hard work, you can use the ‘Auto Equip’ to sort everything out.
The game’s main hub, Lazulis City, is a delight to explore. It feels like a living, breathing city, full of quirky characters. It also caters to those with a mischievous side, as you can knock over baskets of apples which will cause a massive chain reaction as everyone slips over on them, tries to get up, then slips over again. Repeat until the sight of injured passers-by gets boring.
As with all good hubs there are also all sorts of secret areas to find, containing rare items. There are a number of side quests too, as well as the opportunity to compete in a fighting arena. It’s just a shame that the game’s vision far exceeds the technical limitations of the Wii. Locations look good from a distance, but suffer from flat textures up close.[drop] It’s the slowdown that bothered me the most though, as at times the game couldn’t even run a cutscene without juddering and jerking. Then, when control of Zael returns to you, it takes a good ten seconds for the game to catch up on itself and the framerate to return to something acceptable.
Without wanting to start a flame war, I do wonder what the game would have looked like running on one of the HD consoles. The artistic design is there, but in my opinion it needed a bit more muscle to back it up. The same can’t be said for the musical score, which is absolutely beautiful. I could leave the title screen on all day just to listen to the music.
When you’re done with the main story, which should take between 20-25 hours, there are a couple of online multiplayer modes to try. As with most online Wii games, getting started requires inputting your friend’s unique code, at which point they will appear on you list. Then you’ll need Skype, so you can actually talk to them. You can team up with randoms, but I’m anti-social.
The co-op mode supports up to six players, and sees you battle some of the game’s bosses. The only problem is that they’ve been turbo-charged, dealing out more damage than in the single player game, as well as being able to soak up hits like a sponge. I played in a team of four, all working together (casting healing circles, diffusing, chaining etc) and after about 15 minutes we had only taken down a quarter of the boss’ life meter.
Then we all got killed. If you do venture in to co-op, bring a full team of six and expect to be there for quite some time.
Deathmatch does exactly what it says on the tin, allowing you to assemble a party and fight it out with other players. Bearing in mind online has never been a strong point of the Wii, it’s all managed without a hint of lag.
- Strong story, with memorable characters.
- Wonderful music.
- An interesting battle system.
- Lots to customise and tinker with.
- Online is challenging, but fun.
- Technical limitations frequently drag you out of the game world.
- A big part of the game is too easy.
- Sometimes the camera struggles to keep up with some of the larger battles.
There’s no doubt that The Last Story is a great game. It draws you into its world with an interesting story, then presents you with a cast of characters that you just can’t help but like. The battle system may divide opinions, but I think it works really well and provides a nice diversion from the normal turn-based games.
It’s just a shame that, at points, the game crawls along rather than runs. Let’s hope Mistwalker can recreate the magic of Xenoblades and The Last Story on the much more powerful Wii U.