The Last Story Wii Review – A Good Old-Fashioned Fantasy JRPG
Release Date: February 24, 2012
ESRB: PEGI – 16
Hironobu Sakaguchi and Nobuo Uematsu. The names bring about memories of Final Fantasy and countless other Square classics. It should come as no surprise that they combined with the rest of Mistwalker and AQ Interactive to make yet another Japanese role-playing game classic to pad their already stellar resumes. The Wii is proving to be an RPG workhorse in its final year thanks to games like The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles (keeping our fingers crossed for Pandora’s Tower.) The Last Story is a fantastically paced story featuring a wonderful cast of characters that complement each other within the decidedly traditional trappings of a JRPG. With but a few minor flaws, The Last Story stands tall alongside Xenoblade Chronicles and even manages to set itself apart with concepts like its online multiplayer.
Let’s get the most obvious topic out of the way first. Wii games are painfully lacking HD graphics. This is no secret. It is a tough pill to swallow for gamers used to high resolution 3D graphics, but there is some solace in the fact that The Last Story looks great for a 3D game, despite the Wii’s hardware limitations. The art and character design is very reminiscent of Vagrant Story. Zael and his band of mercenary buddies look pretty good and they animate fluidly. This is important when taking the gameplay into account. Their graphics actually change when equipped with various armor and weapons which is a nice touch.
I really appreciated the traditional medieval imagery used in the environments. Maybe it’s just me, but I think I’ve become jaded with the sci-fi hook that many JRPGs use now. I like castles and dungeons in my fantasy tales. The Last Story has no shortage of those as most of the game takes place indoors, by design. Somehow, Mistwalker managed to avoid making the world too claustrophobic, even though the story is mostly confined to indoors. The cutscenes are graphically remarkable by Wii standard, but very good when judged by higher standards. Mistwalker clearly squeezed every ounce of graphic juice they could out of this game and they should be commended for going the extra mile by including RGB support for a better looking experience, provided you have an RGB cable and a RGB capable display.
This game may not look as sharp as a PS3 or Xbox 360 game, but what lacks for in dazzling, high resolution beauty, it makes up for with spectacular story, character development, and charm. Yes, charm. New rule. I want my JRPGs to have quaint, charming European (British, Irish, etc.) accents. To be fair, it isn’t just the accents. It’s the personalities lent by these voice actors that make characters like Zael, Calista, Syrenne, and Count Arganan, among others, likeable or despicable. How much you feel for a character, good or bad, is the true test to how good of a character they are. The Last Story’s characters pass that test with flying colors.
This last story isn’t the first nor the last of its kind. This is classic JRPG fare: mercenaries want to become knights, a boy (Zael) falls in love with a noble girl (Calista) betrothed to a sniveling child of a nobleman (Jirall). The noble girl also has an uncle (Count Arganan) who rules their island with designs on much more than improving his station in life by continuing an age old war against the Guraks, a humanoid race inhabiting another island. By stroke of luck, the boy (Zael) stumbles upon a power given to him by a mysterious force (The Outsider).
In the hands of Mistwalker, you have a surprisingly satisfying story that is comfortable with exactly what it is. It is paced so perfectly that it never left me wondering how close I was to completing it. I simply was able to sit back and enjoy the ride, even if that rides ends too soon. I complained in my review that Final Fantasy XIII-2 was too short. To my surprise, The Last Story’s campaign clocks in at roughly about the same length of time, 20 to 25 hours. That’s still brief for what many of us have grown accustomed to for a JRPG, but I’ve come to appreciate lately that what works for one game doesn’t necessarily work for another. This last story pushes along at near perfect pacing and is enjoyable through and through. That speaks to the level of craftsmanship in The Last Story. It could have been longer, but at what cost? Sacrificing anything in this game for a bloated, grinding experience is not worth it, plain and simple. Besides, that is what new game plus playthroughs are for, and what Mistwalker intended in development. This is just a good old-fashioned fantasy tale with a beautiful ending, no cliffhangers.
I would be doing Nobuo Uematsu a grave injustice if I were not to mention his amazing composition for The Last Story. Uematsu is still cranking out some of the best fantasy music on the planet. That is why a three disc original soundtrack was released in Japan. Take a moment and listen to the theme song, seriously, I’ll wait.
Since the CPU controls the party, combat can be rather simplistic. I’ll admit, I’m such a traditionalist, I actually prefer to command all of my party members. Ensuring that you are in Outsider mode at all times and calling upon spells and skills as needed makes for fairly easy battles. The only challenges I experienced were with boss battles and that’s mostly about finding the correct strategy for defeating them. Once you know it, they’re somewhat of a breeze, unless you are underleveled. Should that be the case, you can backtrack to an area where you can summon enemies for some experience grinding. It won’t take long to catch up to the point where you need to be.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if an RPG had online multiplayer co-op or deathmatch? The Last Story has that answer for you. I’m thoroughly surprised that this game performs as well as it does online, especially considering this review is based upon the European release. Co-op mode is strictly a boss rush mode. I know, somewhat disappointing. It would be fantastic playing through the campaign with other gamers, but it is still a nice distraction and it features characters based on where you are in the game. You can earn items to actually take back with you into your campaign, so there is incentive to play and win.
Deathmatch is a blast. Imagine if Square included an online version of Dissidia in a Final Fantasy game. Up to six players can join a lobby and you fight for points in an arena. There are a slew of selectable characters available to you, also based on where you are in the game. You can team up and gang up on someone else or just go free-for-all. Items are strewn about each arena that provides magical effects, healing, or even various kinds of ammo for your crossbow. Score kills and earn points. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins and everyone receives items based on how well they perform. These items can be taken back into your campaign. It’s all so brilliant honestly. Square, take note.
The Last Story compliments Xenoblade Chronicles’ epic grandeur with a masterfully paced story featuring brilliant voice acting and a beautiful soundtrack. Though its visuals don’t stand toe to toe with the PS3 or Xbox 360, it definitely isn’t a slouch and it maximizes the Wii’s 3D potential as best as possible. Ultimately, it’s the gameplay and story that sets it apart from the pack. The cherry on top are the multiplayer modes. There is nothing like fighting in deathmatch arenas online on a system that quite frankly, I wasn’t even sure could handle it well at all.
It is hard to say how much of an affect Operation Rainfall had on Nintendo of America’s decision to bring Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story to the US. Thankfully, they have made some people aware of two of the best JRPGs on the Wii (and maybe all-time) and NOA has answered the call for localization. I cannot encourage you enough to support both of these games. It will show Nintendo and other publishers that there is still a market for quality JRPGs.
+ Innovative gameplay in a traditional fantasy JRPG
+ Online multiplayer
+ Stellar Nobuo Uematsu soundtrack
+ Likeable characters and their accents making for a good old-fashioned fantasy story
- Low resolution graphics
- Some JRPG fans might take issue with the length
4.5 out of 5 stars
Editors note – Our review is based on a legitimate European release of the game. We do not condone piracy and ask that you support the hard work of those involved creating these games by purchasing them.