Then it was released in the EU and Australia, so I was able to play it. I was willing to give the game a second chance because I assumed my Japanese was imperfect enough that I missed the appeal of the game in my first play through.
But no, it’s just not a good game.
From start to finish, this feels like Hironobu Sakaguchi’s attempt to stick it to his former employer and make a game that is a Final Fantasy game in all but name. Even its own name is a “homage” to the Final Fantasy game.
The problem is the game was clearly made with a fraction of the budget of a real Final Fantasy game, the console of choice for the game is all wrong, and there’s just not that much genuine development talent in Mistwalker for this kind of thing.
I can’t help but compare to another Operation Rainfall campaign – Xenoblade Chronicles. That was a game that worked hard to be glorious by playing to what the Wii can do well. The Last Story tries to be glorious despite the Wii’s capabilities, and that approach falls flat.
The other technical element, the music and sound, is even worse in the translated game than the original. The English accents feel awkward, and you’re not talking about the top flight English actors here, either. It doesn’t help that they voice actors don’t have much to work with, but it's worth noting the Japanese soundtrack and voices are at least somewhat better. It would have been better to go with a subtitled story by default.
The reason the game is over so quickly is in part due to its penchant for big set pieces, rather than traditional encounter structures. Typically, dungeons are broken down into a few brief fights, and then a big set piece, where you’re typically outnumbered and outgunned. The game wants to be strategic. Before each set piece, the game pauses to give you a top down overview of what you’re facing. Then after you’ve planned your moves, the combat kicks off. As a rule of thumb what you want to be doing is taking out the magic users first, protecting your magic users, and then using attrition to wear down the rest of the fighters.
Strewn around the combat arenas are places to hide (you can sneak attack for massive damage), and other terrain to ultilise to create bottlenecks and the like. Melee combat is automatic, you just need to position your hero in the right space and he’ll wail away at the enemy. You hero also has a crossbow that can be used for sniping, or identifying structural weaknesses and the like to hit with magic to create some amusing effects. That’s aimed manually. Unfortunately the aiming controls are also clunky.
These set pieces yield a lot of experience points, and levelling happens quite rapidly in this game. It’s just as well, because there are no random encounters. The game is extremely easy at the best of times, but if you do find yourself in a spot of bother, then you can use the summoning circles to create a few monsters to knock out; a contrived system that would be incredibly dull if it was ever needed.
There’s also next to no real customisation involved in the game. Characters gain skills when they hit certain levels, and while it’s possible to buy new weapons and upgrade existing ones, there’s not that much in terms of statistic boosts and the occasional ability upgrade that those weapons bring to the table.
Throw in the fact that the weapons and equipment changes don’t show up on the avatars, and The Last Story ends up with a decidedly old school approach to loot and levelling. One that doesn’t mesh well with the fairly advanced ideas behind the actual combat.
It’s the little oversights, coupled with the overambitious technical elements for a Wii game, and combat that never quite manages to gel that makes The Last Story anything but a game worth getting worked up over. There’s a few good ideas in there, but the greater portion of the game is either generic or faulty, and to be blunt, even if you don’t have a PS3 with the mass of quality JRPGs available on it, even the Wii has produced much finer examples of the genre. If The Last Story is your last Wii adventure, then be prepared for the console to go out with a whimper.
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