Wii Love RPGs
Why is it that we’re only getting quality epic RPGs for the Wii now, in the twilight years of its lifetime? Nintendo of Japan has admitted a miscalculation in abandoning the core gaming market with the Wii, yet convincing Nintendo of America to bring over games like Xenoblade Chronices and The Last Story has been like pulling teeth. Wii-owning RPG fans can thank XSEED Games for The Last Story, as the small localization studio has stepped in to publish the game in cooperation with Nintendo.
The Last Story sports a development staff of JRPG royalty, most notably director Sakaguchi and composer Uematsu. Sakaguchi has been a major designer on a raft of beloved classics such as much of the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, and Lost Odyssey. Uematsu is one of the most well-respective video game composers in Japan, and his soundtrack for The Last Story is said to be up to form. The game’s excellent pedigree ensures that it will pay homage to many JRPG traditions, but Sakaguchi reportedly desired to give his all while designing the game, respecting tradition but adding modern touches to the adventure.
That adventure introduces us to a small band of mercenaries who have come to Lazulis Island, the last bastion of magic in a dying world. Lazulis is a land ripe for adventure, featuring political intrigue and the ever-present threat of war from the aggressive Gurak people. Despite the epic setup, the game’s real focus is on its characters, their personal struggles in the face of humanity’s possible extinction, and their relationships with each other. The story will largely be confined to Lazulis Island, so players can get to know the island and its inhabitants quite well. It’s split into forty short chapters that can be completed in twenty to forty hours, depending on how many side activities the player engages in.
The player generally controls Zael, an ambitious young orphan who longs to become a knight. Soon after arriving on Lazulis with his colorful band of fellow mercenaries, Zael gets in over his head in politics when he romances Calista, the heir to the throne who is already engaged to a young noble. He also seems to be developing a strange magical power, setting himself up for a classic JRPG plotline. Fortunately, Zael’s mercenary buddies like his best pal Dragan and the profane, drunken female swashbuckler Syrenne are around to add personality and humor to the proceedings.
Combat in The Last Story is real-time, but the system introduces more strategic elements than are usually found in action RPG combat systems. The player is able to fight traditional toe-to-toe battles, but can also do things such as sniping enemies from a distance or sneaking up on them. Zael has an ability called “Gather” that draws the attention of his opponents to him, allowing him to protect weaker team members or allow them to execute various attacks. Partway through the game, he’ll also gain the ability to occasionally freeze time and issue commands to his squad members, which is particularly useful for controlling mages.
Being on the Wii, The Last Story’s visuals can’t help their sub-HD nature. Still, they look fairly attractive in the screenshots and videos we’ve seen, with obvious love poured into the character designs. The main city on Lazulis Island is said to be particularly impressive, with smaller locales ranging from beautiful to lackluster. Along with Uematsu’s soundtrack, the English language version of The Last Story boasts a collection of British voice actors who work very well with the game’s Victorian-style setting.
European gamers have already had the chance to play The Last Story, which came out on that continent in February. Judging from various European reviews, The Last Story is a fun, breezy experience with great characters and strong voice acting. The combat system has been generally well-received, but a number of reviewers wished for more challenge in the game. There’s the usual wishing that The Last Story could have come out on an HD console, but it doesn’t look bad for a Wii title. Although it’s not as epic in scope as Xenoblade Chronicles (in fact, its shorter length might be a plus for some), The Last Story sounds like a treat for role-playing gamers, who can look for it to come out this summer.