The Last Story

Last Verse, Same As The First

The Last Story is a reasonably entertaining fight through a predictable story.

By Samantha Nelson • August 29, 2012

The mercenary band at the heart of The Last Story really wants to be like the protagonists of Firefly. They’re both a group of mostly good-hearted outcastes, taking dangerous jobs to keep them in food and booze and existing somewhere on the fringes of acceptability. But while there are more hours of The Last Story than Joss Whedon’s sci-fi show, the game’s characters never develop anything close to the depth Serenity’s crew showed in the TV series’ pilot alone.

The game focuses on Zael, an orphan who dreams of earning respectability as a knight but has been working for years as a mercenary, which seems to involve as much brooding as killing. He’s accompanied by caricatures like a constantly drunk rogue, an aloof mage, and an incredibly naïve runaway who he quickly falls for, of course. The voice acting is all quite good. It’s just a shame the performers didn’t have a better script to work with. The seemingly nicest mercenaries in the world are accosted by villains who are evil to the point of being cartoonish, making them seem just silly rather than menacing.

The Last Story

Fortunately, The Last Story compensates for its weak writing with strong game design. Exploration and combat are both engrossing without being overly complex. Zael can vault over barriers, duck behind walls to hide, and then jump out to make a devastating attack on an unsuspecting enemy. You can take advantage of the environment by searching for things your mages can blow out of the sky to crush enemies. The search function is a neat tool for exploration and in combat, but the game is a little too fond of it for its own good, pausing cutscenes to have you search for, say, the source of a noise that an ally is pointing out. It’s a particularly annoying interruption to the flow of the game when you can’t immediately figure out what it wants you to look at.

Zael, predictably, has a very important magical power he doesn’t understand. It’s called “gathering,” and it allows him to draw the attention of enemies. He’ll do this a lot to stop his computer-controlled party members from being interrupted as they cast spells with a long warm-up time. The kiting, dodging, and occasional getting slammed in the face is well worth it, since the magic is so powerful, both capable of blasting opponents and creating environmental effects that allow you to heal up. Gathering also allows you to revive fallen allies by standing next to them, with each of your characters having five lives. It’s refreshing to be free of the clutter that healing and resurrection items can cause, though it does make the game quite easy.

The Last Story

The other major strength of The Last Story is its visuals. The game constantly pits you against bizarre and outlandish looking bosses that are occasionally distractingly cool looking. The cutscenes are also lovely, offering some particularly nice touches like a flashback in the rain, which is animated to give the appearance that raindrops are spattering across the camera lens. Unfortunately, these are sometimes sluggish to load. Often I would keep wandering around a bit, thinking I could move on with things, only to get pulled in to a scripted scene. These glitches would be minor if the scenes had more to say, but the predictable plot and flat characters make The Last Story a game where it’s fun to fight but hard to care about what you’re fighting for.

The Last Story
Developer: Mistwalker
Publisher: XSEED Games
Platforms: Wii
Price: $49.99
Rating: T

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612 Responses to “Last Verse, Same As The First”

  1. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Yet another game that sounds like fun that I won’t have time to play in the near future.  It’s too bad the story isn’t more original…this seems like a really common problem lately.  “Great graphics, innovative gameplay ideas, but cardboard cutout stereotypical story and characters.”

    As much as I’m liking Guild Wars so far, naturally the humans’ starting area is farmland being invaded by bandits and various monsters.  (Worms and boars digging up crops?  Uh oh, let me go back to Stormwind to get a group together…oh wait.)

    Also, sorry for mentioning GW2 so much this week.  I’d probably do it less if they opened their own bloody forums already!

    Though I’m assuming “outcastes” in the second sentence is a typo, it is kind of amusing to think of it being coined to refer specifically to someone rejected by a caste system.

  2. Swadian Knight says:

    This game’s certainly the most fun I’ve had with a JRPG in a while, and that probably has a lot to do with two of its best features: one, holding A during cutscenes works as a fast-forward function rather than just skipping it entirely, which lets you keep track of the story’s basics without being overwhelmed by its excesses and clichés; and two, you can customize the appearance of your characters’ armor to a certain extent, making them look less ludicrous, which is an absolute necessity in a game where pretty much everyone starts off wearing waist capes.

    In all seriousness, however, the gameplay is really quite enjoyable. The combat is fast-paced and surprisingly deep, and involves a cover system that actually manages to make the game more dynamic rather than slow it down. I just wish the game allowed more control of your party, since your options are really limited in that aspect.

    It’s just a pity that the story is of such poor quality – I counted about 15 minutes of game time before the main character first started screaming about how he doesn’t want to be alone anymore, and pretty much every twist and setpiece so far has been done to death in a myriad of JRPGs.

    • Cornell_University says:

      JRPGs finally getting onboard character customization is nice.  I’m sure a lot of thought is put into the outfits they give characters but… well… game developers aren’t usually renowned for their fashion sense.  one of my many problems with FF8 is how terribly everybody in that game is dressed (excluding Squall.  bomber jackets are always a good sartorial move).

  3. Nine times out of ten when you have to search for something your reticule will have a built-in compass pointing in you in the right direction. Which sort of defeats the point, but it does tend to keep the “Where’s Waldo?” (or I guess “Where’s Wally?” given the solid Brit VA) aspect to a minimum.

  4. Asinus says:

    Is that Aika on the side of that ship?

  5. Brainstrain says:

    Is Firefly really the best comparison here? I mean, it gets the point across, but serialized sci-fi western is a far cry from JRPG.

    I’ve been interested in this for a long time – glad to see it delivers on gameplay, at least. And I’ve discovered that I’m not quite as picky about a game’s story as I thought – Guild Wars 2 is pulpy nonsense, but it’s tremendous fun, and I’m just fine with that. So I should be able to enjoy this alright.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Yes, the concepts of the sci-fi western are too inherently out of touch with Japan to affect its entertainment in any way. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to watch Cowboy Bebop.

      • Brainstrain says:

        Glad you edited it before I replied – I’m not saying it’s an invalid comparison, though. Just a bit of a stretch. I wouldn’t have had a thing to say about it if it was between Firefly and Cowboy Bebop. Although that’s partially because I have not seen that show and have nothing to say about it.

        • I considered comparing it to Bebop instead since like the characters on the show the ones in The Last Story constantly seem to be hungry, but the bigger ensemble and general niceness of the group made me go with Firefly instead.

    • Asinus says:

      It sounds a little like Xenoblade in that respect– the fun to play part, I mean. I put Xenoblade down a while ago and just haven’t gotten back to it (I think I’m in that lul that tends to happen mid way through many RPGs I’ve played where the story and motivations become diffused and it feels like aimless wandering). However, even though the story isn’t extremely captivating for me, the gameplay is a lot of fun. The Last Story seems to have a fun setting and will definitely be on my to-check-out list. I just hope it doesn’t go OOP before i get around to it. 

  6. Cloks says:

    So Operation:Rainfall was a 2/3 success, but the reviews I’ve read make this out to be a mediocre game if you play JRPGs for the story. That’s kind of disappointing to me, but I’ve got Xenoblade on my to-buy-eventually list and I’ve only heard good things about it.

    Anybody heard much about Pandora’s Tower? It would be a shame if these games that people lobbied so hard to get outside of Japan turned out to be not that great on the overall. I guess that’s a risk you take though, and it’s nice to have these not be another Captain Rainbow type situation.

    • RidleyFGJ says:

      My understanding is that it’s not an RPG at all, but more of a God of War-clone that has a strange kind of dating sim aspect to it.

    • Swadian Knight says:

      I got to play the european version recently and I’m pleased to say it seems to be quite good. 

      It is a very strange game. The overall structure of the plot is reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus, though the tone is certainly different, and the gameplay feels like a mashup of a lot of different titles, from Castlevania to dating sims.

  7. doyourealize says:

    I was really looking forward to this game, but unfortunately this review makes it seem like the complete opposite of what I thought it would be. I haven’t really lost myself in the story of an excellent RPG in quite a while, and this seemed like it might be the one, though maybe I was deceived by the word “story” right in the goddamn title. If gameplay was a little light, I would have been fine with that.

    Besides the Mass Effect series, I can’t really think of an RPG since FFIX with a story that really had me invested in characters and fates (XII was excellent, though story was a bit of a weak point). I could be wrong about this. Maybe there’s been a slew of them I forgot about (like Dragon Quest 8. Or maybe I’m just more aware of tropes than I was before.

    I’ll probably get this eventually, but it’s not as urgent as it was before.

    • Snowdens says:

      Yeah, it is unfortunate that the story sounds lacking, I’ve been wanting to lose myself in a jrpg for quite a long time, but nothing has been up to snuff. I really have been enjoying Xenoblade Chronicles gameplay, but the story hasn’t really drawn me in.

      I was excited to hear that this game would feature Nobuo Uematsu’s music since that’s one of the components that I feel has been missing from recent FF titles. Anybody have thoughts on whether or not the music in the Last Story is as memorable as some of his other work?

  8. woca386 says:

  9. DjangoZ says:

    Just last night I was reminded…