If At First You Don’t Succeed, Press “Up” Again and Again: The Interesting Impressions of The Last Story

The Last Story, released in 2011 or 2012, depending on where you live, is a JRPG that was, arguably, the Wii’s last hurrah before we all really and truly switched to the next generation of consoles. If you think the name The Last Story sounds like a clunky translation of Final Fantasy, you’re partly correct! This JRPG was developed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the original Final Fantasy, with music by Nobou Uematsu, who among his credits is, of course, Final Fantasy.

I honestly don’t remember what drew me to The Last Story. I’m not a huge fan of JRPGs, I have two Final Fantasy games waiting for me to return to them, one of which I am most definitely not returning to ever, and… Yeah I don’t know.

When I bought my Wii, I admit it was a few years after the release date, and only because I really wanted to play The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, having not had a GameCube, and with the promise of Skyward Sword on the horizon. Of course, buying a console for just two games seemed wasteful, so I looked around for some others. I… maybe was drawn to the woman on the cover, thinking her to be the playable character? That sounds like something I would do. I became interested in Final Fantasy XIII for the same reason, so I am just a simple gamer that way, I guess.

In any case, I finally dusted it off and popped it into the Wii, after a few false starts of trying to hook it into my Hauppauge so I could take screenshots. When that failed, I did the old standby of “take pictures of the screen,” so welcome back to the late 1990s (or maybe the early 2000s).

Full disclosure, I didn’t finish the game, and it might gently be put on my DNF pile, but I made it about 10 hours in before calling it quits. So this is just an impressions post, rather than a full Interesting Case of… breakdown.

Unmarked spoilers below, so proceed at your own risk.

spoilers

What’s It All About?

The Last Story is a story of a group of lovable mercenaries with aspirations of becoming knights in the kingdom of Lazulis (or not. Some of them sort of like their merry band of mercenary life). They have lovely mercenary adventures until Zael, the man character and definitely not the person on the box, stumbled across an object that gives him magical powers. They meet a mysterious woman (I think the woman on the cover?) who turns out to be a mage, who turns out to be a princess (?) and is voiced by the same woman who voices Samantha Traynor so I’m just glad she and her voice are there. 

There’s kidnapping, court intrigue, and a healthy dose of what I consider over-the-top drama, as well as some smashing, canned one-liners that left me groaning a bit, but were well-intended, I’m sure.

Oh, and you can also choose to walk in on said princess and your female colleague while they are taking a bath together. So there’s that.

It ends well.

Oh and Ganondorf makes an appearance. He is the Big Bad of the game. We’ll talk about him later.

I was also appreciative of the game’s self-awareness.

I didn’t play to the end, but I’m assuming that Zael and the princess wind up together in some fashion, they topple the Big Bad guy, and expose the princess’s uncle (?) who is supposed to be secretly evil but I thought he had a pretty decent reason for wanting to be in charge.

As far as I can tell, everything seemed fairly standard for a JRPG storyline, at least with my limited knowledge. And that’s fine. A game doesn’t have to have a new and exciting story to be fun to play, as long as it’s, you know, fun to play.

There was also the obligatory This Guy

The Gameplay

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the game particularly fun to play. I gave it a good, hard, try, and actively wanted to like it, because I’d read some pretty glowing reviews of it, but alas and alack, I was more bored by the gameplay than anything.

The game had a very in-depth tutorial that showed how a player could activate Zael’s magical ability, control the battlefield, and perform a series of basic attacks. Unfortunately, I think I only used perhaps three of them, and only one of them consistently. If you’re wondering, the one I used consistently was the one where Zael walked up to the baddie and attacked automatically with no other input from me. The second ability was his magic ability, and the third was on the rare occasion when I needed to control the actions of another character.

It was all fun and games until suddenly we reached a boss that required some of the other moves I had learned, never need, and perforce forgotten about.

But Athena, I hear you say, You were playing the game wrong. That is hardly the game’s fault.

I have one minor disagreement about this. If a game introduces a mechanic, I do expect it to either then be used immediately following it, or to be integrated into the game. If not, I don’t think it should be implemented. Why introduce a mechanic and then not require its use until over two hours of gameplay later? Especially when walking up to a baddie and letting the character auto-attack is just as effective as the fancy mechanic, and uses fewer buttons.

I had a similar critique for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which lets the player build their character, only to surprise them by actually secretly requiring them to build their character a different way in order to progress through certain boss fights.

But I am willing to concede user error to a point.

In any case, overall I found the gameplay irritating. It was either overly simple, or when I tried to implement the move advanced moves, the controls were not very responsive and it was just less frustrating to have Zael walk up and hit the thing with his sword until it was dead.

So, one slight strike against it.

The Story

I don’t even know. I honestly don’t even know what to say about it. It had a story it wanted to tell, it wanted Zael to have a particular personality, and it pretended to give the player choices as to how to handle certain situations. The storyline itself was fairly standard fare, and the NPCs were relentlessly positive toward Zael no matter what he did, as even one of his companions noted, like we saw.

Like I mentioned, I was most excited to find out that Calista, the love interest, was voiced by Samantha Traynor, and even more excited at the prospect of her and one female companion taking a bath together and becoming an item and leaving poor, bland, hero’s hero Zael in the dust.

Yes, I’ve been playing too many BioWare games.

The language felt stilted, and the characters at times felt like they were caricatures of themselves, which I’m not even sure how that was possible but the game managed it.

The conflicts felt forced, like how Calista’s uncle(?) wanted to use Zael’s power for his own advancement. But since he was a pretty fair-minded dude, I wasn’t sure why it was a particularly bad thing if he became king or whatever he was trying to do, so that felt manufactured.

The Big Bad looked like Ganon from The Legend of Zelda, which was cool, and… he was bad because he was bad and wanted to take over the world because… I think he hated humans?

During the first orchestrated fight with Discount Ganon, I thought I was kicking his butt until a cutscene interrupted us and said that, in fact, no I was being overwhelmed and Discount Ganon was too strong for me, so while I get that from a story perspective it would have been nice to feel that as the player.

The love story between Zael and Calista… I can only hope it got better. They seemed attracted to each other because he was a boy, she was a girl, could it be any more obvious?

So, what’s the final verdict?

Final Verdict

I probably won’t be picking this up again. If I want to experience the rest of it, I’ll watch a let’s play.

Having said that, the best part of the game was that I was chatting with a friend and sending screenshots while playing, and we were having a bunch of laughs over the story and the character.

In all seriousness, if you like JRPGs this might be worth picking up. It’s nothing earth-shatteringly amazing, but is sure to entertain with familiar tropes and easy gameplay, and it’s certainly gorgeous to look at.

Have you played The Last Story? What did you think of it? As someone who doesn’t really play JRPGs, did I miss something? Let me know in the comments?

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
~Athena

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One comment

  1. A great read as always, Athena.

    That ain’t user error – that is absolutely bad design. If a game is going to implement a bunch of systems and mechanics the player should always be made to use them, as you’ve noted. This helps to reinforce the player’s understanding of said mechanics while also helping to give them purpose. If something is almost never used the question should be asked of if it needs to be there at all.

    I’m not one for JRPGs, but this sounds like it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Do you happen to know if this was one of those 3 titles that folks desperately tried to get an international release for? If so the glowing reviews might have been written by the same folks.

    Like

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