The Last Story

Filed under Nintendo Wii
System: Wii
Developer: Mistwalker
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: JPRG
Players: 1
With the sheer amount of JRPGs recently released, I was afraid that Mistwalker’s latest creation wouldn’t offer up anything unique out of what I had played in the past few months. I was almost hesitant to begin after only just finishing Xenoblade days before, and the thought of another massive world filled with fantasy jargon and complex battle mechanics didn’t appeal to me one bit. Fortunately, after a couple of hours of dungeon crawling, monster slaying, and city exploration, my reluctancy had turned into surprise. How quickly my mindset had been swayed is a testament to how original The Last Story presents itself to be.
The game throws you right into the thick of it from the get-go. The opening sequence is set in a cave where the player is given immediate control of a young man named Zael, accompanied by a small team of mercenaries out to fulfil a contract for a little bit of money. It is here that Zael comes across a mysterious power that soon becomes the crux of all that he will get caught up in.
While there are some nods to past JRPGs including a very familiar scene near the start of that game that involves showing a mysterious girl around a marketplace, you’ll soon realise that Mistwalker made a lot of effort to set the story apart from your typical ‘save the world’ scenario. While the story is relatively linear, you’ll find yourself tugging on the collar of your shirt at some of the decisions that the game asks you to make due to the gravity of the circumstances.
The game’s story is split into chapters which usually consist of a dungeon of sorts followed by a boss battle. The main story makes up the bulk of the chapters but the optional chapters are where the game truly shines. These individual chapters hold water on their own, almost as if they were their own separate short story with the same cast. They each have their own introduction and conclusion, and after it’s all over you are thrown back into the main story as if nothing ever happened. It is a welcome deviation from the main plot as some of the best chapters can be found here.
Aside from the main set of chapters there is also a whole lot to do around the main city of Lazulis. It’s worth mentioning that this city is beautifully crafted and the architecture is stunning. It’s bustling with life and a large portion of the city’s citizens actually have something for you to do. The game actually encourages you several times during the main plot to take a walk around town for some fresh air. This gives you an opportunity to complete a few side quests, visit stores, and participate in the arena. It’s beneficial to take the time to explore the town as the items you find, purchase, or upgrade will really help in the battles to come. Once you feel that you had enough, you can always return to the main plot, usually by meeting with your team members wherever they may be at the time.
The team consists of some surprisingly likable personalities that feel genuine with the support of some quality voice work. Each member has their own reason for become a mercenary which are revealed in some optional chapters throughout the game. It’s important to note that some of these are missable on your first run through, so it’s important to talk to them during intermissions in the story. Each mission has a predetermined team set for you to take negating the problem some have with making the decision in choosing certain members of the party to aid you and leaving others behind. The team’s skills aren’t particularly diverse as you’ll usually have a tank and a healer with you at all times which in respect is ideal given the nature of battle.
Battle is exceptionally satisfying though initially too generous with the amount of lives you have. Whilst initially it felt slow and unrewarding, after a quick fiddle in the menu I switched the battle format to automatic and everything felt much more natural. You can only control the main character but you are able to command your party provided you have maxed out your ‘Tension Gauge.’ While most of the fights require little to no strategy, boss fights on the other hand will have you balancing your own attacks to earn tension and then commanding your party to effectively take them down. You’ll learn more skills as the story progresses and each one makes battle feel a bit fresher. My favourite thing about the battles would have to be where they are set. What initially seems like an unlikely environment for a battle to take place, enemies will soon flood in and you’ll have to use whatever you have available to you to take cover and attack from. Battles range from light to intense, each backed with a well composed track to set the pace of the battle.
The score in this game is rather beautiful. While the tracks don’t linger in your mind after the game is turned off, it really does achieve the goal of setting the right atmosphere. Surprisingly I found myself enjoying the sound design the most when there was no background music at all. A good example would be how the music is used around the main city in the game. There is something special about escaping the bustle of the city by ducking into a tiny back alley and having the music fade out, leaving only the ambient sounds of wind, footsteps, and the faint murmuring of a crowd in the distance. It’s a beautiful experience that adds to the overall polish of the game, however, The Last Story isn’t without its shortcomings.
While the graphics are some of the best you’ll see on the Wii, the game suffers from major slowdown in areas where there is a lot happening. It’s a shame, because it really takes away from the realism that the game strives to achieve. Another thing to note is how annoying the camera can be during battle. You’ll often find yourself facing the screen whilst attacking an enemy that you cannot see. Fortunately these are easy to forgive given how well polished the rest of the game is.
While it’ll take you about 20 hours to complete, there is still plenty to do post game, including extra chapters and a fully fleshed out online mode that has you either fighting against others around the world or teaming up with them to take on floods of enemies or bosses.
Score: 8.5/10
It’s the subtleties that make The Last Story a winner for me. Having people yell at you for bumping into them in the streets, the wonderful ambient sounds of people talking to each other in the background, having Zael slide his hand along a wall as he walks past it. It’s all of this that makes it feel like it is so much more real.
By Joshua Cortese (Mercury)