A week ago, I finally got my hands on The Last Story. For those who don’t know, The Last Story was one of the games that was made out to be a Japan exclusive, but a couple weeks ago it was released to the states, much to the happiness of many a gamer. But does The Last Story live up to the hype it had before it was released to the US? I think so. Let’s jump in!
The plot is your standard JRPG. I’m not going to go too in-depth, but to nutshell it, you’re Zael, a mercenary who finds a mysterious power and uses it to accomplish missions and strive to fulfill Zael’s dream of becoming a knight. Along the way, Zael encounters typical themes like corruption, power, following your heart, being the ‘chosen one’, worldwide disaster, etc… And while it may be typical story fare, it’s pulled off well. There are a few twists (although can be seen if you’re looking for them), but the plot paces itself nicely and it’s always interesting. The best part is the plot is almost entirely character-driven, with very few plot-driven elements. I found myself really enjoying it. The only part that was iffy is the somewhat rushed romance between Zael and Calista. There was so much potential for it.
The characters are all great. They all have personality and definitely clash with each other because of it, and that’s great, because the dialogue is fantastic between the characters. And, they all grow by the end of the game and go through complete arcs, which is (sadly) pretty rare these days. The NPC characters in the hub world also have some personality, which is pretty surprising, but they’re all very cookie cutter in the way they act. Still, it’s better than them being ridiculously bland and being the same over and over.
The Last Story is your typical atmosphere for a JRPG. A little bit of a steampunk, a lot of medieval, and plenty of ancient technology and magic. Still, like the other elements of The Last Story, these are represented really well. Lazulis City (the hub for the game) is awesome, and it really feels like a city. Stuff is always happening, and the entire city moves with the plot, so you’ll always see people talking about something different. The caves, Lazulis Castle, and the many other levels all are nicely detailed. I never once found myself bored with how the game looked.
The music is great. I have a thing for violins, so hearing the violin in the title screen music was already awesome, but the music in-game is also great, and it always feels like it’s supporting the mood rather than being completely intrusive. I got the soundtrack for preordering the game, and already have most of it on my iPod.
The gameplay is interesting and incredible at the same time. It’s interesting because combat is, literally, running up to an opponent and attacking. You don’t press a button to attack. Now, I find that weird, and I still find it weird, but thankfully the designers thought, “Hey, most people use the A button!” and they give you the option to attack with the A button. That’s the only bad part about combat. Otherwise, combat is fantastic.
While some encounters are random and you fight, most of them are a sort of preview where you get to see the formations of enemies and you see the characters discussing a strategy. Sometimes they’ll tell Zael to decide what to do, but other times they give out orders and if you don’t follow them, the AI do get obliterated because they’re expecting you to do what they told Zael to do. And to lead into AI – they’re smart. They’re the best AI I’ve ever played with. They heal if they’re low on health, they take cover during stealth missions, and they try to cover you when you’re being attacked. Of course, you can command your allies if you want them to do a specific spell or unleash a special movie, but it’s really awesome to have competent AI that you don’t need to babysit. Even the enemies are smart; they take out mages first every time, and to combat this, you have a special power that makes every single enemy focus on you exclusively. However, having every single enemy focus you means that you die faster and it can be overwhelming, so you can’t just rush in every time with it, making it an interesting balance between using and not using the power you have. It’s a very tactical game for a real-time RPG, and pulling off tactics that you’re ordered to do and see it work perfectly is awesome!
Non-combat wise, the side quests and missions are actually pretty good, even though some of them are pretty lame (one of them is literally buying ingredients from a market), but a lot of them are awesome and are actually mini dungeons, which is really cool and helps you to prepare for the later levels. You can also revisit dungeons to get bonus stuff and face much harder enemies.
The actual flow of the game is nice. I never once had to legitimately grind in order to proceed. Tactics win the day over that, and that’s really nice. There are a few places where you can grind, but the focus is on progressing the story, so those are very few and far between.
Overall, The Last Story delivers, and I’m very happy it came to the states. If you enjoy JRPGs (or real-time RPGs), get this game. It’s worth every single penny!
Final Score: 9/10