For those reading one of my Wii review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
The Wii is often mocked for its game library, yet, it actually has a solid list of exclusives that are unavailable anywehere else. Though only Nintendo games were avilable where I am from, I was always intrested on other games. Hence, I decided to play the top 50 Wii games as chose by Gamesradar in this list:
I decided to go back and play those 50 games and review them, atl least those that intrest me and those that I hae not played before. Origianlly, I post most of my stuff in a football forum "Goallegacy" which is the first online community I have ever joined. Which is the best place for a football fan (the REAL football, not handegg) to hang out in the internet.
Also, here are a number of extra rules for Destructoid:
-If you have any suggestion of a game that is not in the Gamesradar list that I should review, please suggest it.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Without further ado, here is:
27- The Last Story:
Publisher: Nintendo, Xseed.
First things first, I am changing my rating system to better rate different genres according to their own rules. It will still be from 50 quality points, but every title will start from 25 and earn/lose points according to criteria important to the titles and genres themselves.
Few games had as much controversy getting released as the Last Story. Fully localized in English for release in Europe, NoA did not see value in publishing it in North America. This was one of the three titles featured in Operation Rainfall which pressured Nintendo in releasing games in North America.
Basically, this was a JRPG game coming in a time when JRPGs severely declined in North America. A time different than the revival we see today. It was made by THE JRPG visionary, Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy), and probably was thought be Nintendo to be a failed prospect considering its European sales.
XSeed ultimately picked up Publishing duties, and it managed to become XSeed's highest selling game, selling twice as many copies in NA than in Japan.
"Balancing on the edge of a knife, that's how we lived our lives"
The Last Story, suspiciously similarly named to the Final Fantasy series, is similarly placed in trying to convey a unique story in familiar JRPG setting. Here is where we find the game's strengths and weaknesses in its storytelling.
First, the story suffers greatly from the weakness of their central characters. Zael is your typical JRPG hero, and is in the same vain as those other blonde Final fantasy protagonists you feel you have seen a hundred times. Calista might as well be Yuna or whatshername in FF8. So getting into the game, expect to dislike the leads, but don't expect that they will destroy the game's story.
That's mainly due to a good supporting cast, that despite conforming to some popular tropes, still manage to be charming. Anyone of them would have been a better Main Character than bloody Zael.
I actually like this band of misfits, even if there was still a room for more development
In summary, the story follows Zael and a band of mercenaries run by the charismatic Dagran as they attempt to get ahead in life. The world is in constant turmoil, with the dying land causing several factions to fight against each other for resources. They go to Lazulis Island, where it somewhat escaped the scourge of the land. In the background, there is an ancient war with a different species, the Gurak.
It's not a unique story, and there are many ways where it could have been better focused. There are cliched one dimensional villains, ancient mysterious powers, and a bland chosen hero. All staples in the JRPG genre. However, the sum is greater than the sum of its part.
There are elements that could have been explored better, like Dagran's social climbing, and the true nature of nobility, but it all is done in a good enough way.
Good Story Despite the cliches: +3
Good Characters: +3
Poor Main Characters: -3
"If I get killed cos' I'm too hungry and weak to fight, then don't blame me"
Initially, the battle gameplay in The Last Story doesn't seem to have much actual player interaction. You can simply walk around as Zael auto-attacks, and your party decimates the enemy. Occasionally, you can go into 3rd-person view, and shoot some arrows like in a very limited shooter.
You will mostly get this impression if you make the mistake of playing in "Normal" mode. Immediately when you start the game, switch to "Manual" mode and never look back. I am not even going to consider "Normal" mode beyond these two paragraphs.
In "Manual" mode, you control Zael as you move around the battlefield in real time. You can attack enemies at will, but you have a limited combo and your attack power isn't too much, especially since enemies will guard your attacks once the first combo is over. This means that if you go head on and try to bash an enemy to death, it will be a long time until they actually die.
Especially if you go against one of the game's lethal looking bosses
The battle system actually demands more attention from the player. Zael must take cover, try and switch between enemies, chain attacks with his teammates, take advantage of items and magical circles on the ground, and occasionally uses his arrows to shoot down enemy snipers and mages.
However, you are not responsible only for dishing out damage yourself. While the friendly AI is pretty good at dishing out some damage, they require your help to be most effective. For instance, the health of each character is divided into 5 health bars, and once one is depleted a "life" is out. Only you can revive them quickly enough, or else they take a while (once all their lives are out they cannot be revived).
Mostly, you play the general and the decoy. By attracting enemies towards you, you can free your mages to use their magic and take the pressure from your bruisers. Also, you can specify orders and generally choose what your allies do (in a limited fashion).
It can be overwhelming, but the game does an excellent job at introducing new mechanics with short tutorials and a constant pace. Well into the half-point, the game introduces something to shake things up.
Boss battles shake things up considerably; rarely are they straightforward affairs. Mostly, each boss have a specific weakness that must be triggered. This requires more direction from Zael, and usually a smart utilization of your powers.
In the largest fights, you can check out the enemy's position and strength
Its a unique battle-system that always keeps the player engaged. In may ways, I feel it could be expanded upon and improved, but I like it a lot as it is. Yet, I feel the game's battles never give it its due. There are few enemy types, and rarely is the game challenging enough to warrant a full investigation of how you can best use the system.
Great Gameplay: +5
Sometimes too Confusing: -1
Does not Reach its Full Potential: -2
"Well, well. The human from the castle, blessed with bravery, guts, and stupidity"
I don't think its hyperbole to call Lazulis Island one of the best designed cities in RPG history. Its vibrant streets, busy townsfolk, bustling energy, and all those tight organic hallways, all combine to make a very believable city.
Here is, finally, a place where I can believe a hundred thousand people can live. Sure, I only see place for about a thousand or so, but I can also see houses in the background, and what I see here favors the illusion of a bigger city.
Walking around the city is going to be a huge deal in the game. The game doesn't have many side-quests (they are actually never tracked), but you will need to walk the streets of Lazulis Island and interact with its citizens to find what few there are.
You can also go to market and play as a merchant, or just simply walk around looking for random trinkets. The game rewards you simply for walking around, as you see limitless items that help upgrade your gear.
Walking around the city is just cool, Lazulis is just organically built
Unfortunately, the same level of care has not been carried over in designing the rest of the game's areas. I am not talking about the lack of other cities, which might be a problem for a few, but about the limited dungeons.
In fact, one dungeon repeats itself in a different fashion nearly three times. Sure, they look organic enough, but they are nearly all straight hallways and battle rooms.
One exception is in a very cool side-mission set in a haunted mansion. Like other parts of the game, this side-quest could have been much better, but it still showcased a different dungeon design than what we see most of the game.
Great City: +5
Limited Dungeons: -2
"For the brighter the light, the greater the shadow it casts"
It's obvious that the game tried to tax the Wii to its limits. The Lazulis city-space itself caused some noticeable frame-drops, not to mention in battles where too many things happen at once. I won't give credit for that technical achievement, but I will give credit for that technical achievement actually producing something of note.
Graphically, the game's art design is very fantasy focused, but it also showcases the same over-design mentality that plagues Square-Enix. Whatever the hell Dagran looks like, I won't understand. This over-design actually leads to some memorable enemy shapes, as well as some good outfits and motif. In this game, I wasn't overly turned off by it.
Characters look good, like an early PS3 game, but with derpier faces (if you allow me to use that word). In fact, they all look good with the exception of Zael (you can tell I don't like the guy).
CHECK OUT HIS FACE, CHECK IT OUT
From far away, everything looks great, with the distance filter covering up for all the graphical flaws. Its only when you get close that the muddy graphics start showing the lack of texture detail.
As for the game's audio, I cannot complain about the Voice Acting. Since this was first localized in Europe, the English VAs used an all UK cast, and it fits really well with the game's setting. Dagran, Yurick, Syrenne, and Lowell perform admirably. Their jokes don't fall flat, and their banter and dialogue is believable. Mirania's VA doesn't hit those highs.
As for the two Main Characters, I cannot blame the VAs as much as I blame the script. I simply think all the awkwardness in their delivery is related to the inherent awkwardness of poorly written cliched dialogue.
The soundtrack is another one of those good, if not great, Nobuo Uematsu soundtracks. Aside from the very good main theme, and a couple of great tunes, the game's soundtrack is simply good. It doesn't reach the heights set by Uematsu himself, but it rarely falters either.
In many ways, its like the game itself.
Good Enemy Design: +2
Good Soundtrack: +3
Good VA: +3
Good Central Graphics: +3
Muddy Background Details: -2
Frame-Rate Issues: -2
The Last Story might not be the best JRPG of last generation, ore even the Wii. It might not even be in the conversation of being among the best. Yet, looking at it from afar, you can see that it did have all the elements needed to be among the best, but the final product is a bit lacking.
Still, it doesn't go all south, as the game manages to be particularly good in most of its length, and even amazing at times.
It is this flirting with greatness that attracted people to fight for it in Operation Rainfall. It was its failure to reach its promise that alienated some of those that fought for it; an anti-hype reaction of you will. Which is a shame, because the end product is still worth the time, and even worth the effort it took to bring it West.
"Looking Back at Destructoid's Review:"
In Destructoid, the review for The Last Story was one of Jim Sterling's most conterversail reviews, who gave the game a 4, summing it up: "Am I glad The Last Story finally made its way to North America? Yes. I am glad the closure is there, and I am glad for those who actually manage to enjoy this. I am not glad, however, that my experience was tainted by one of the most poorly implemented, unkempt combat systems to ever darken an RPG, and that Mistwalker couldn't even deliver the otherwise solid story without letting unwarranted "features" get in the way. I am not glad that The Last Story is, ultimately, a sub-standard experience from a studio that is capable of so much better than this.
If The Last Story is the Wii's swan song, it is a miserable dirge, full of regret and remorse."
As with many of the comments on this review, I think Jim is full of shit here. The guy didn't even try to change the combat to manual (which I reccomend you immedietly do), and he only added that part after being called out in the comments, and his whining about is 1 minute tutorials borders on pathetic. I understand not liking the game's combat system, but I don't understand the lack of effort from Jim's part to improve his own experience by basic exploration of the game's options.
Comments were generally negative towards the review:
urmum101 clearly didn't like the review, and he had a similar point to mine:
"You're an idiot. You can change the controls in the menu...to manual combat. With as much attention you paid to the rest of the "flaws" in the game...I would have thought that would be the first thing you change. No, instead you complain about it like a baby. Any competent gamer would be fine with this system, as the rest of the reviews on metacritic show. Seems like you just had your expectations set a little too high buddy."
A more polite disagreeing comment comes from Oeste:
"I respect the writing in this review, but I have to disagree. As a fan of more western action RPGs, I thought the action in this game was fantastic, especially when set to manual attacking. Several other action games re-use buttons in different contexts, like Gears of War and Fable. This does the same as those. If you set the combat to manual, and think of this as an action game first, and a RPG second, I think you'll like the result."
Then there are those who just really nejoyed the game and didn't care about Jim's review, like Bob Martens here:
"I'm just playing through this game and so far it has met-and-exceeded all of my expectations. Combat has been fun and more nuanced than I expected and the storyline is exactly what I want from an RPG (over-the-top and sappy).
Can't put it down but for sleep, work, and family obligations."
I think this was one of the reviews the Dtoid community at large disagreed with Jim in.
I am generally not intrested in the sales of the games I like, and I don't measure my penis size through the sucess of games I like. However, sales data is intresting in studying market trends, people's general intrest, marketing strategy, genre effect, and other factors. Which is why I am going to check the sales data of every modern game I review (Gen 4 and beyond).
Here is a game that Nintendo didn't want to bring to North America out of commercial fears. With operation Rainfall, Nintend did cave in and publish Xenoblade chronicles, buy The Last Story was picked up by Xseed, the well known Japanese games publisher. The game ended up selling around 680K Units globally, with 320K Units being sold in North America. That is twice the number of copies sold in Japan, and it dwarfs the European sales (where the ame was already localized).
By any metric, The Last Story is a sales success. It was ported to North America, selling more than it did in both Europe and Japan, and becoming Xseed's highest selling game. Very good for a game that was supposedly going to be a commercial failure.
1- Change Battle command to Manual.
2- Seriously follow tip 1.
3- Look around the city for items and stuff.
4- Don't forget to upgrade your equipment.
5- Listen closely while walking around, it might give you hints about some side-quests.
6- Try and get a hang of the Trade Market, its the best source of income.
7- Don't rush into battle, your primary job is to manage your team.
I really liked The Last Story despite its flaws. It managed to grab my attention even after all the cringing the beginning hours had me in. I even began to like the cast (except Zael). Its too bad it didn't turn out greater than it was, but it was still good.
Next game in the list at #25 is the Wii release of one of the best Rail Shooters around, House of the Dead: Overkill. This won't be be the last Rail Shooter in this list, you can count on that.
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