25 years after creating the epic that is the Final Fantasy series, Hironobu Sakaguchi decided to branch out a little and create a brand new game, one that is like nothing you’ve ever played before. Oh wait, no, wrong game, in reality, he sat down with his thesaurus and came up with the title The Last Story, which, as you may have guessed, is just the latest Final Fantasy game, only solely for Nintendo. You know, how it used to be in the good old days. Despite this, the game has been hyped up for months and claims to offer a different J-RPG experience, but just how different can one game be?
Being a role playing game (and one from Japan for that matter), you can expect an in-depth and highly confusing story to follow through right to the bitter end, when your disc breaks and you decide to jump onto Wikipedia because you still don’t quite understand what’s going on, years after completing it (see: Final Fantasy X). However, the difference with The Last Story is that it slowly eases you into the story and in times where it may seem confusing, certain points are subtly repeated so as to reinforce them within your mind. Unlike many others in this genre, you’ll rarely find yourself thinking “What’s going on here? Why do I need to do this?” which is a blessing in numerous ways.
If you’re a mercenary, then killing things comes as a natural part of your day to day life, meaning that the combat within this game will be scrutinised in any way possible, gamers will have their fingers crossed that a lot of thought has been put into it and everyone will hope that the Wii’s gimmicks won’t play any part in the fabulous field of fighting. It’s a bloody good job that the developers saw this coming too as there’s very little to rage about. Like every other game of this genre, you have your own special abilities in battle, the typical things such as magic and ranged fighting, but The Last Story has stepped outside of the box, away from the huddle of Could-Haves and Shouldn’t-Have-Been combat systems by thinking about what’s really important when you’re battling in a group.
A thoughtful example is the ability to draw enemies towards you so that they ignore the rest of your party, giving them more time to cast spells and get the battle over and done with. As well as this, you can lead enemies onto platforms and ledges that can then be destroyed, dropping the beast into an bottomless pit for all eternity. It allows you to put much more thought into your strategies and also gives you the power to boss your other friends around, telling them to destroy this and attack that. The end result is like a cake – it’s mainly RPG elements but with a splash of real time strategy and just a hint of unique ideas. It certainly beats the cakes you attempt to make to impress your friends.
However, the game tries to stray so far away from the norm that it decides to get rid of the attack button. By all means, be imaginative but some things are used in every single game for a reason and that’s because… well because it just is. Instead, in this game, you run towards the enemy and automatically attack them, which does make the combat flow a lot more and gets rid of the countless button bashing remarks that fans make, but it’s almost like losing an old friend – you just can’t quite bring yourself to let them go. Bearing in mind it’s a much better idea than swinging the remote around like you’re trying to swat away an annoying fly *cough* every Nintendo game ever created *cough*.
In order to create a much bigger step away from the long forgotten RPGs on your shelf, Sakaguchi has included a new lives feature. You get five lives and when you die, you immediately get back up, like a cat that supposedly been run over. Once those five lives have gone though, that’s it (unlike a cat, when you have eight more of the beauties). It’s what you can only assume is a way to get people into the game who have never played anything like it before and isn’t quite sure on what they’re doing. Rather than having a learning curve for combat, they’ve just made it extremely easy to begin with, leaving the fans familiar with the style of combat wishing they could just shoot their character in the head a few times.
What else is important when playing an RPG? Something that separates the new kids from the people shut in their basement. Of course we’re on about the equipment that you just can’t live without. But, in this game, you probably could. Right at the very start of the game, you’re told not to worry about the amount of money you have as all you really need to buy is weapons. Yep. You heard me right, the game admits to every single player that the armour and extras are completely useless and that you should ignore them. Now excuse me if I’m playing dumb but aren’t you supposed to leave that a secret rather than tricking players into believing that you half-hearted attitude was purely for their own benefit? It does try to win you back by having a high level of detail on the weapons available. Not only can you buy new ones but you can also upgrade the old, meaning that you have to spend hours making that ever important decision of whether this sword is worth the 2500G it’s priced at. Answer? Probably not.
But that’s not all that’s on offer in terms of character customisation. In order to attract both game-loving geeks and their dainty little sisters, the addition of clothing dyes has been added. There are shops dotted around the world existing purely so you can buy a new colour to use on the outfit your character is wearing. Fair enough, you may want to make your character as black as the night in order to fool everyone into thinking you’re a badass ninja, but the fact that you can get right down to the tiniest details such as the colour of your buttons is too far. Naturally, faced with this situation, your first instinct is to dress the main, very effeminate character head to toe in different shades of pink. Rather fetching don’t you think? Just us? Okay then.
So now you’re ready to face the big, wide world, but just how big can it be? Despite some very linear strings of corridors it’s fairly huge. You can spend hours walking around a town or area using your seek ability and opening dusty old treasure chests lying around. Rather than feeling tedious as well, you get a sense of joy when you come across a hidden, rare item and you know that all of your exploration has been worth it. In order to add to this enjoyment, you can easily hop over low walls and rubble with the press of a button which is a nice change from walking into it for a few minutes before finally giving up and taking the ten mile walk around the utterly useless bit of scenery.
Naturally, as you’re walking around the miles and miles of land, you’re going to come up to a cutscene. Whether it’s showing a new area or just progressing the story that bit more, it’s some of the best graphics that the Wii could ever hope for. It certainly shows the real power of the Wii, no matter how little that power may be, before we all say goodbye to it and replace it with the shiny new Nintendo console. Although outside of the cutscenes has slightly lower graphics and much more pixelation, you barely notice it as you’re probably still in awe about the amount that can actually be achieved on this small plastic block of technology. Why has everyone kept this beauty in their dark cupboards before now? It will certainly stop your taunts about how much Nintendo has failed this generation. For a while anyway…
Apart from being a Sakaguchi game on the Wii that is ‘brand new’, one thing that got fans talking was the name Nobuo Uematsu floating around. If you’re familiar with his other songs then The Last Story certainly doesn’t disappoint. If you’re not, then prepare to be blown through every single emotion by the change of just a couple of notes. Uematsu is a celebrity of sorts in the gaming world and without his help on this game; it probably wouldn’t be as highly rated as it is. The music really helps the story along, connecting the players on a much deeper level than text and adventure alone. However, the inevitable problem with using this composer is the inclusion of existing tracks. Close your eyes for a second while in battle and you’ll be fooled into thinking you’re playing Final Fantasy again as half the track is almost exactly the same. Now you can open them again. Hello?
As well as the background music, the voice acting has taken a turn away from the standard actors and now features people that sound, well, real. No longer do the voices sound perfect as though they’ve come straight from the editing suite, now they sound as if they’re a normal group of people wandering around and holding conversations with their friends. Because of this, they’re much more relatable, even if you’re not a long-time mercenary yourself. The only thing that breaks this synthetic relationship is the lip synching, or lack of such as it may be. Though this isn’t unheard of, especially with games originally recorded in Japanese, it’s definitely something that gets on the majority of people’s nerves. Besides, you’re supposed to look at people’s eyes when they’re talking to you, not their mouths. Or their boobs for that matter. That’s right, I know what you’re thinking.
The Last Story is the innovative game that the Role-Playing genre so desperately needed. Everything is thought out very well and keeps the player immersed. Fighting its way up the rating ladder, it walks away with a proud 9/10 and a special seventh generation golden star from me.
Have you played this game? Think differently? Feel free to tell us all about it in the comments.