European fans have already been enjoying the upcoming Wii-exclusive Japanese RPG, The Last Story, and this summer North American players will too. It’s the product of famed Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and his studio Mistwalker, also known for creating Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon on Xbox 360. Combine it with the musical works of Nobuo Uematsu, another infamous Final Fantasy contributor, and you no doubt have a mixture for storytelling success.
Just as you would imagine, the story is dark and fantastic with beautifully rendered visuals to match. You take on the role of Zael, an orphaned mercenary, living in the last island untouched by war, who dreams of becoming a knight. Through his adventures, he discovers his own power and naturally, the trouble and tribulation that follows.
The game’s interface is rich, with the gritty influence of war and age in everything from the environment to Kimihiko Fujisaka’s character designs, the same artist who worked on the Drakenguard series. Unlike what you’d expect from such a pretty game however, the style breaks the boundaries of the usual detached feeling you get from RPGs and instead invites you into an interactive world where you can physically engage by sneaking behind walls, breaking bridges, collapsing pillars, and casting magic on your surroundings.
My first impression of the title visually reminded me a lot of Resonance of Fate, tri-Ace’s modern grunge RPG. And after examining the battle system, I‘d say it’s a fair comparison. Except that The Last Story ditches the complications in trying to incorporate a real-time battle system that relies on limitations, which frustrated me in Resonance of Fate. Rather, the real-time battle system adopted in The Last Story is intuitive and interactive, and more than simply relying on an attack to follow through. The player has to make tactical decisions, as the lay of the land can impact the battle just as much as the placement of the enemies.
Whether you’re ducking, dodging, or rolling, the battle’s action sequences are also much smoother – when the characters move around and interact, they seem conscious of one another. You will be able to command secondary characters in real-time as well, which aids in making the sensation of battle seamless. Far from a typical hack-and-slash action RPG, the player is challenged to overcome numerous obstacles that make a successful battle.
Since it’s hard to have a real idea of how the game plays, I fear that it might be overlooked by better known titles in the sea of RPGs coming into the market. Fans might take a look at the visuals and the creators and expect a Final Fantasy knock-off (or more so, the title), but I urge all I can to say that it’s much more than that. For me, The Last Story offers an attractive fantasy universe that is unique and reflective of its own creation rather than relying on assumed archetypes. Though some are not fans of it, I’m also happy to hear that the voice cast in the North American release is the same as the European one. From what I’ve seen so far they’ve done a wonderful job fleshing out the characters, which everyone knows can be a challenge, especially for imported games.
I’d fully recommend picking it up when it launches later this summer, but there is more incentive than just my recommendation. XSEED Games has recently announced a special bonus item for fans who pick up the title at launch. The game will come with a 44-page softcover art book, wrapped securely in a special packaging. With all the great titles coming out this summer, I think I’ll need to find time to dust off my Wii – just for this one.
If you missed the E3 trailer and screenshots, see them here.