I’ve seemed to hit a dead end with Dead Island after about 15 hours, namely due to frequent lag spikes and audio clipping while in the Moresby zone. I really enjoyed bashing zombies, crafting weapons and exploring the resort section of Banoi, but upon reaching the city of Moresby, the lag became so unbearable, even while flying solo, that I couldn’t go 10 minutes without dying. I was having so much fun in the opening hours of the game that I even went ahead and picked up a used copy of Riptide, but for now I’m going to put Dead Island on hold and focus on something I’ve been putting off for almost a year – Mistwalker’s The Last Story for the Wii.
Ever since I played Chrono Trigger back on the SNES, I’ve been addicted to the RPG genre. Growing up, the name Squaresoft was legendary among RPG fans, as was the Final Fantasy series it became famous for. Final Fantasy IV and VI both displayed how an amazing story and likeable characters can go a long way, especially in an age where graphics weren’t the top priority. Final Fantasy VII was the first RPG to go mainstream and draw some much deserved attention to the genre, also showcasing a more cinematic effect with FMV cutscenes that were mindblowing at the time.
The popularity of the JRPG hit its prime in the late 90’s and on in to the 2000’s, but as of late it’s become quite stale. With Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi leaving Square in 2004, he went on to form Mistwalker Corporation which released Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon; two fantastic turn-based RPGs for the Xbox 360. More recently, however, Sakaguchi and co released The Last Story as an exclusive for Nintendo’s Wii in 2011. Diehard fans begged for an international release and European gamers were treated with a translated version in February of 2012, leaving North American fans baffled as Nintendo confirmed they had no intention to bring The Last Story stateside. Thanks to Operation Rainfall–a fan-based movement to localize three RPGs in North America (Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story & Pandora’s Tower)–and the success of Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story was finally released in North America on August 14, 2012, six months later.
The most important part of an RPG is generally the storyline. If I’m going to devote some major free time, I need a story that captures my attention and intrigues me enough to where I actually want to know the outcome–not tap my foot waiting for everything to move along. I’ve always been curious as to why there are these end of the world storylines where the NPCs don’t seem to understand the urgency of what is at stake here. A gigantic 30-armed space monster wants to destroy our world, but you won’t help me unless I go out and slay 20 crabs to prove my worth? Really?
The Last Story wastes no time throwing you in to the action, slowly feeding you tutorials and abilities as a decent enough pace where you never really feel overwhelmed. Once you grasp the Gears of War-style cover system, using your crossbow to target weak spots and learn how to guard and evade properly, a new mechanic is introduced to Zael–the main protagonist–that allows him to draw aggro on all of the monsters to buy time for his rag-tag band of mercs-for-hire to cast spells or target weak spots. Knowing when to take cover, ‘seek‘ with your crossbow to determine an enemies weakness or order Yurick, your mage, to blow up bridges or spires is key to success, but so is keeping the enemies off of your party members. I’m really enjoying the combat system, but strongly advise going in to the options menu and changing the combat settings to “manual”.
As fast as The Last Story breaks you in to the combat mechanics it introduces you to Zael and friends; mercs for hire who are as much a structured team as they are a group of friends. Every member of your band has their strong points and their personalities will clash as they drink at the bar, flirt with each other or keep secrets. I love how Mistwalker made everyone seem unique and important. I actually look forward to going in to battle with these people instead of having someone there as a filler spot or a body to sponge attacks as a meat shield.
The graphics are about as good as you can expect from the Wii’s standard definition capabilities, but not quite as vibrant as Xenoblade Chronicles or Pandora’s Tower. The character models, faces and voices are all done quite well, but their armor can look a bit flat while in motion. So far there is a nice variety in enemy units and boss fights are providing a nice challenge as I get used to both the combat system and the Classic Controller Pro. Nobuo Uematsu has perfected the art of creating some of the most amazing music found in video games and The Last Story is no different. The instant that intro theme hits or the battle music drums in, you know it’s Uematsu at the helm.
On presentation alone, I can’t help but make comparisons to the classic Final Fantasy titles. Look at the names Final Fantasy and The Last Story, for instance. It’s odd that an action based RPG has the most in common with the classic Final Fantasy titles that Sakaguchi became known for, over his earlier two turn-based efforts in Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon. With the current state of mediocrity coming from the Final Fantasy franchise, this blast from the past is most welcome and hyping me up for Pandora’s Tower afterwards.
Preemptive Strike is a column written as a “first impression”, rather than waiting until I’m finished with a game before discussing it. I don’t feel that Preemptive Strike is an early review, but more so a matter of discussion and opinion to something I’ve just started. If you have any experience with the game listed, feel free to leave your opinion in the comments – that’s what it’s there for!