The Last Story
By Michael A Cunningham
When The Last Story was first revealed, I was very excited. After all, it was a new RPG from Hironobu Sakaguchi (the father of Final Fantasy) that also featured music from Nobuo Uematsu. I wanted more from this pair who had made my childhood such a joy and after Lost Odyssey, I knew they still had the magic. When Mistwalker's The Last Story came out in Japan, I was hearing positive impressions from importers, but still no word on a North American release. Finally, Nintendo of Europe revealed an English version was coming to PAL regions in February 2012. It wasn't until later that year that XSEED Games picked up the publishing slack from Nintendo and released the game in the US.
Shortly before the game launched in North America, RPGamer took a trip to Los Angeles for a Run to the Sun gaming tour where I was able to finally get my hands on The Last Story. I came away from my brief play session very excited. The combat seemed very dynamic and offered a very original take on party-based battles, so I was thrilled to be able to play the full game when I got home. During my demo with the game, I sampled pieces from the first few hours, and as you might have read in my impression, it was fantastic. The Last Story started with some of the most engaging combat I'd seen in an RPG in quite some time, but the deeper I got into the game the more I saw the flaws.
What at first seemed like a dynamic system gradually got messier as time went on. Combat started off with encounters that felt unique and had me planning out strategies on how best to position my team to use the environment to gain an upper hand. That started going out the window as the game progressed in favor of swarms of foes and labored one-on-one battles. The creative elements that had me planning out each encounter soon became a repeated slog where planning didn't matter as much. Party member control felt haphazard at best and working around the magic aura circles proved to be tedious when in a long, drawn out battle. Battle just weren't fun, and I never felt like I was truly in control of my party. All of this slowly killed the enthusiasm I had for The Last Story.
This was far from the first game that lost its luster over time, but the biggest disappointment was that everything else about the game other than combat was so appealing. I loved the characters and thought each of them had well-defined personalities. The cast was diverse and each character felt like he had some depth to them. The story was a tad cliché, and lacked the impact of Mistwalker's Lost Odyssey, but it was interesting enough to keep me curious as to what came next. Having five party members in combat was also fantastic, as I love having lots of characters to mess around with. And I can't talk about The Last Story without praising the music. It's just a shame that all of these good aspects of the game didn't jive with the direction the battle system took. With some tweaks and adjustment, a sequel could easily improve on the issues I had, but as is I wish I could have loved you, The Last Story, but it just wasn't meant to be.
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