The Last Story was brought to Wii by the minds behind the original Final Fantasy series. When it was released in Japan in January 2011, it immediately caused a stir among RPG players. By the end of the year it has sold around 160,000 copies in the island nation. With such a major RPG on a RPG lacking console, it is no surprise that western fans of the genre and followers of Hironobu Sakaguchi started an online petition to request Nintendo bring it over to the west. Lips were tight about a western localisation until now – the game was finally released in UK and Australia and 3 months before the US counters can lay their hands on. So how did it shape up?
Playing The Last Story reminds you about the old Final Fantasy. The localities, character design, the story telling etc are all very Final Fantasy. Throughout the whole game you can feel elements of IV, VI and VIII popping up here and there, and in a good way. The Last Story sets its stage in a dying world that is being torn apart by a war raised by a race called the Gurak. They ravaged the land looking for the power of the Outsider, which happened to be stumbled upon by our protagonist Zael. Zael is an orphan in a travelling mercenary group. Each member of the group has his or her own stories that are revealed during different events. It is a very dynamic group of people who spent most of their time drinking, picking up, and taking up jobs to finance their lifestyle. This changed, though when they got themselves caught in a Gurak attack during one of their jobs. As fate permitted, the other protagonist Calista joined the Group and set on a journey to uncover the truth of this dying world.
Although The Last Story has very strong influences from previous Final Fantasy games, there is one major aspect that distinguishes itself, or I should say completely distanced itself, from Final Fantasy – that is the gameplay. The good old turn based battle is nowhere to be found and nor does it apply the age-old button mashing action RPG formula. Sakaguchi has designed a gameplay that is completely woven into the story, so everything you do makes sense in the game world. The battle system in The Last Story is a brilliantly designed real time strategy system that requires planning and quick thinking. You control Zael in the game who possesses the Gathering power from the Outsider, which, lucky or not makes you the prime target for enemies. In order to win your battles you must distract your enemies with your Gathering power, then utilise your landscape strategically so that you can surprise you enemies through chaining attacks, allowing your mages to cast magic with minimal disruptions, or even interacting with the environment to bring advantages to the battlefield. You can take cover to confuse your enemies or you can just trigger natural disasters to let the environment take ‘care’ of them. It is a very engaging and dynamic battle system, as it does not limit what kind of tactics you employ to win the battles. Boss battles have huge varieties and they require careful tactics, and sometimes several attempts to figure out what strategies best suit your playing style. If you have difficulty with the battles, your comrades will chime in with their observations and give you hints to put you back into an advantage. However this does not make the game less challenging as it is still up to you to pull off the given advice to earn the upper hand. However, you can still totally ignore their advice and still came out victorious. This kind of flexibility in battle style is how The Last Story keeps you engaged and looking forward to the next battle.
The Last Story has done away with random battles. Battles are story driven and before each battle you can review the battlefield before jumping in. However, as in most RPGs you might want to do a bit of level grinding before the next boss. You can achieve that by using the summon circles inside dungeons or other areas to summon enemies for you to defeat. Even when you use the same summon circle, it does not guarantee that your enemies will be a piece of cake when you level up as you may sometimes summon strong enemies instead of regular ones. This kind of variety makes level grinding a bit less monotonous.
Apart from levelling up, you can also either improve your characters through buying new equipment or improve the current ones you have. Improving current equipment requires gold, of course, but also at times materials that you can attain by defeating monsters. However, if you have a piece of equipment that you really like, you may want to keep it and continue to develop it with your characters.
The Last Story is one of the most beautifully crafted games you will see on the Wii. Sakaguchi is well known for pushing hardware to its limits and he had done it again with this game. Character models are highly detailed and the environment is rich and dynamic. The game also features a beautifully written score from none other than the original Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. Every single note in the game fits into the world of The Last Story perfectly.
The Last Story is certainly one of the rare gems that any RPG player should not miss on the Wii. Xenoblade Chronicles, while great, lags behind The Last Story in both the graphic and musical departments. Furthermore, with such an innovative and engaging battle system, it is hard not to believe Sakaguchi is giving his best to this game. If you are done with the story campaign you can even jump online to play cooperatively or competitively. Hopefully this will not be ‘The Last Story’ for Mistwalker, but the beginning of another great series of RPG games from them. Wii desperately needs a good RPG to keep its fans happy and The Last Story has delivered it.