Japan gets a lot of games that the rest of the gaming world does not. Honestly, it's just not fair, but as gamers we have grown used to the fact that Japan is our spoiled brother that gets all the good stuff. Imagine our surprise, however, when a game has been fully translated and voiced in the English tongue, and is then released in PAL territories but not in the US. That's just cold. That's like having three kids, giving 2 of those kids a bar of chocolate and then sending the third to his room. This is what happened with The Last Story, as well as two other games - Xenoblade Chronicles and Pandora's Tower. So, what is going to happen to that third kid in our previous scenario? He's pissed. IT makes no sense. He is going to whine, and cry, and hate you until you drive back to the store, and get him his chocolate bar - and that's exactly what American gamers did in a sense. These three Wii exclusives spawned "Operation Rainfall" - a petition to get all of these games released in America. Lo and behold, our temper tantrum was mostly a success (2 of 3 were released), and here I am reviewing a game I thought I'd never get to play.
The Last Story is the most recent game from Mistwalker Studios, which was created by famed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu sakaguchi. He claimed to have gone into this project with the same mindset as when he created the original Final Fantasy, and it certainly shows. even the logo and name are very close to Final Fantasy! To top it off, the games music was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who also composed the music of Final Fantasy. In short, the art style, music, and story will all remind you quite directly of Final Fantasy - but it has more than enough strength to stand on its own.
The Last Story just kind of throws you right into the action when you start - you fight your first battle within the first 5 minutes. Throughout this segment, the characters are having flashbacks and bantering about things and just confusing you in general. It wasn't until about an hour in that I finally understood everything that went on in those first few moments. The gameplay, however, was too engrossing for me to care.
the battle system in The Last Story takes place in real time, and there are no "battle screens", just a seamless environment. You control the main character, Zael, most of the time and the rest of your party is autonomous. Eventually, you can give them orders. The game is best played with a classic controller of some type, but I will get to that later - for now, I am going to use a classic controller to explain the controls. The R button guards. Likewise, if you are holding R and run toward an obstacle (or an ally), you will jump, or propel yourself over it. The L button activates an ability you get early on called "Gathering" which draws all enemy attention to Zael .this allows your spell casters you charge without being interrupted by enemies, or can also just take the heat off of your allies if they're taking a beating. If while moving the Y or a button is pressed, Zael will somersault in that direction. You may have gathered by now that, though an RPG, this game is full of action. In order to attack, you simply run to and enemy, and press the control stick in their direction - much like how Link jumps in a Zelda game if you run towards and edge. You can also adjust the controls via the options menu if you would rather press b to attack. Using this method will allow for a couple of minor advantages, but since your attacks are slowed down a small bit as well, and will also do a little less damage, I found it best to just stick to the "automatic" method.
You should not assume that because you have attacking set to automatic that the game is uninvolved. You must still guard properly, examine enemy strategies and issue commands accordingly by pressing up on the directional pad. Later in the game, Zael get an ability called "Perfect Guard". If you tap guard at just the right moment, you will not only parry your enemies strike, but deliver a brutal counter attack. zael also has an ability known as "Gale". Whenever a mage in your party casts a spell, it creates a magic circle on the ground. By holding b, you initiate Gale, which allows you to diffuse these circles for effects such as silence, armor break, and health distribution depending on the spell. Likewise, you can diffuse enemy spell circles to get rid of them. Furthermore, walking through spell circles adds that spell's attributes to your weapon for a limited time. There are also moments where you will have to strategically use your crossbow.
Your crossbow is used by holding the ZL button. You can cycle through various arrows suited to different enemy types with the directional pad. Using the crossbow, you can find environmental weaknesses, such as broken rocks, or enemies on far off platforms and then choose to either use your crossbow to solve the problem, or order a magic caster to deal with it. Beyond this, if enemies haven't notice you are there, you can press against cover wit the a button. From here, you can use your crossbow to grab an enemies attention and lure them in for a stealth kill. The crossbow is the reason I recommend playing with a Classic Controller Pro. On a regular Classic Controller, the ZL and ZR buttons are located beside the L and R buttons, as opposed to the Classic Controller Pro which has a more tradition Playstation styled setup that makes using the crossbow a little easier. That is not to say the game cannot be played comfortably with the Classic controller - I, in fact, played the majority of this game with the Classic Controller due to not owning a Pro until the later chapters. The Wiimore and Nunchuk controls look comfortable and easy enough to use if yiu have to, but I'd have to recommend a classic controller of some kind. As for gameplay issues, they mostly come from your partner's lack of intelligence. Your allies will often get themselves killed doing something silly.
Considering the limitations of the Wii's hardware, this game looks amazing. There are a few blurry textures here and there, but overall the game just looks great. Characters are well animated, and environments are relatively believable. Another parallel to the Final Fantasy games of old are the cutscenes. Cutscenes in The Last Story are pre-rendered, much like those in Final Fantasy 7, 8 and 9. They of course, looks far better than those cutscenes, and have voice acting as well. It is strange to see this in a modern RPG, but it is not a problem at all. Even when the game is not pre-rendered there is a lot of attention to detail. every piece of equipment or weapon you put on a character changes their appearance. If you decide you don't like the color of their equipment, you can change the color scheme in the menu.
The characters are all colorful and interesting, and each of them has their own little quirks. the cast babbles near constantly, and their banter is pretty comical from time to time, especially when Syrenne and Lowell get into it. I'd love to delve into the characters and how their stories intertwine, but to do so would ruin the whole game - I can't even explain very much of the beginnings without spoiling something. all I can reveal is that Zael is unhappy with his life as a mercenary, and wishes to become a knight. That may sound simple, and shallow, but there are a lot of things I'm not telling you here, and there is plenty of drama involved. At times the story is predictable, but not to the point that it is uninteresting.
If you live in America, and you are thinking of purchasing this game, do so as soon as you possibly can because we only got a single shipment of the product. On the bright side, the packaging goes well beyond what most games offer for $50, giving you a book-like enclosure as well as a 44 page art booklet. Unfortunately, the sound track was only available for pre-order copies. The Last Story is an interesting, outstanding, beautiful, and above all else, fun addition to your Wii library. I can only think of so many bad things to say about this game, and those few things pale greatly in comparison to all the praise I didn't even give it in this review.