Review - The Last Story
The most coveted of Operation Rainfall, The Last Story for the Wii bears some of the most endeared names in RPG history. Directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi with music by Nobuo Uematsu, everything about The Last Story is fit to please RPG gamers on the Wii, only to end up with a monumental disappointment.
The Last Story is an action-RPG set in a fantasy world of two kingdoms under war. You play as Zael, a young mercenary who dreams of becoming a knight alongside his five companions. Battles are real-time with parties up to six, though you only control the main character. And with such large parties, nearly every battle quickly becomes a dull, unfocused mess.
The beginning of each fight starts with an overhead view showing the enemy team, types, and placement. It's meant to give you an idea of strategy, but any iota of tactics you employ quickly become meaningless. It all ends up being the same: kill the healers first, then win. Your party members often do what they want, which usually entails quickly dying. You have very limited control over each one; a command can only be ordered when a skill meter reaches max, and somewhat devastating attacks can only be activated when another meter for each party member reaches full. Battles quickly become babysitting, keeping your allies revived and dispelling enemy magic circles.
Fighting isn't that fun, either. You use the control stick to run at an enemy, and then the game auto-attacks as long as you "push" into him. This can be changed to a button press (which I found to be my preference) to swing faster, but at the penalty of reduced attack damage. Zael can also press his back to a wall for cover, allowing him to pop out and fire a practically useless crossbow or use a special attack or two. This mechanic alone is easily exploited. Zael can also activate a special power that draws on the ire of every enemy, making him the sole target of all attacks. If Zael goes into cover, enemies "lose" him, and begin standing around wondering where he went. This happens even when inches away from an enemy, allowing you to go into cover and use the powerful slash attack over and over again while they stand there looking helpless. On top of this, priorities can get mixed up, as trying to roll away from danger can press you against a wall into the crux of it.
There are a few moments where you can instruct magic users to blast parts of the environment to cause rocks to fall on enemies, or to take out platforms holding up a few archers. These are more sparse than you would expect, as its one of the few things keeping combat interesting. You can find "bomb" items on the ground to toss, but they're so cumbersome to use and so ineffective, it's questioned as to why they're even included.
The camera barely keeps up with everything that's going on, especially when surrounded. In fact, there are times when the camera refuses to cooperate. It feels like you're telling to turn one way, and it's actively wrestling with you to prevent it, causing extreme frustration at critical times, such as a lengthy, multi-stage boss fight. This also happens when using the first person view to aim the crossbow or find weakpoints. Rather than point you in the direction of the camera, it points you to where Zael is facing. It can easily get you completely turned around, and since he cannot look up or down, you then slowly move your gaze to where it was, all the while monsters are beating upon you and your useless friends. The first person view is also used intermittently throughout the story and cutscenes. The game has you looking for a certain star in the sky, or finding a certain person the crowd, etc. These sections do absolutely nothing to further the story or make the player feel more involved. It's intrusive, it interrupts the flow, and is utterly pointless.
And sadly, the story does nothing to redeem itself. Every character, save for a few, can be described with a single characteristic. They're all shallow, but if they had a little work, they could have been deep, and possibly fascinating characters. The plot itself is filled with tropes, and the plot twists can be seen coming very early on. There are times when the screen goes black and a narrator exposes what is happening, which feels like a lazy shortcut, too often removing scenes that feel like they could have been entertaining or even vital. It is very well presented, using good camera angles and beautiful models, but nothing keeps you invested.
The Last Story is one of the prettier games on the Wii, although some limitations are obvious. Character models look absolutely great. They are heavily stylized and represent their concept art well, and being able to customize party members with armor and color dyes makes them look how you want to. However, they are practically incapable of showing any facial expression, and their attempts to do so end up looking downright creepy. The environments are expansive and look good from a distance, but getting close up reveals extremely muddy textures in the surprisingly small amount of locales to travel to.
The voice acting retains the British release's voice actors, possibly for the better. None of the voice actors sound familiar, which makes them feel more unique. Some characters are decidedly better than the others, which ends up being problematic when the main characters are among the weakest. The music compliments every scene, as expected from Nobuo Uematsu. Unlike his previous work, the music won't really get stuck in your head and become memorable, but that isn't to say there aren't some good pieces.
It'll take around 20 hours or so to complete the campaign. A multiplayer mode is included, for deathmatch or co-op against bosses. From what I've played of both, they're hardly substantial enough to even bother mentioning, a mere afterthought. You won't miss anything by ignoring the online.
It's not that The Last Story has good ideas that aren't done well, it's that The Last Story doesn't have any good ideas. It attempts to sling a veil of strategic combat on top of a button-mashy mess with little depth. New abilities are gained few and far between and do nothing to keep you engaged in the constant fighting. The story is drab, the characters, while beautiful, are cardboard cutouts of characters we've all seen before. Could have it been something more? Possibly, if given more time or maybe a stronger system. But what is here isn't very good, it isn't very fun, and it isn't worth creating an online campaign to bring stateside.
And thus, this is how the Wii ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
(3s are problematic. Any potential it did have is lost from poor execution or design. Any entertainment found within is sporadic.)
|Jared Knabenbauer is the ScrewAttack.com Reviews Editor, Hard News host, and a host of our weekly video podcast, "SideScrollers". He has also produced several notable ScrewAttack shows, including Newsroom, Nametags and Control Issues. He specializes in RPGs, and has a great fondness for Dungeons & Dragons. A comedian at heart, he is one serious gamer.|