The world of The Last Story is a place of magic, monsters, friendship and betrayal, and it unfortunately played out as derivative and full of clichés as that sounds.
The game revolves around a ragtag group of mercenaries with hearts of gold who aspire (under the leadership of play-it-cool Dagran) to be knights. But in typical JRPG fashion, you play as Zael: the unconfident sword-wielding type who has things to learn and room to grow and is never feigning his innocence.
The gist of the plot is that Zael and his mercenary comrades pass through some ruins and a legendary entity bestows upon Zael a powerful, oft sought-after magic. We see in a few cutscenes what it can do, but in battle it’s only moderately useful. The ability can be switched on to draw the attention of enemies while Zael’s party members do damage unhindered. And later on, he can use the ability to absorb some damage while defending, and then blast that stored up energy back at his foes. But that’s really it. Any other showing off of his powers happens outside of the player’s control. Enter “Lisa,” a runaway bride who too quickly falls for Zael, despite her upcoming arranged marriage to a right arse. She is quickly revealed to be Lady Calista of the noble Arganan bloodline, and is betrothed to the count’s son: an unbearable nobleman named Jirall. She must eventually return to the castle and appear by Jirall’s side for the sake of peace between nations. But, though she decides to suck it up for the greater good, she is soon kidnapped by Zangurak, the Gurak king who greatly resembles’s Gannondorf from The Legend of Zelda’s Wind Waker. He happens to be after this power, and Zael happens to stand in his way.
And The Last Story seems to borrow from a handful of works. There are several Final Fantasy-inspired subplots woven in, characters that, in the back of your head, will remind you of Square Enix characters, and some very interesting ideas that never quite reach greatness. There’s a sort of Final Fantasy VII-esque planet energy, for example. And at one point, Zael and his band of murderous do-gooders are thrown into a prison cell. During this section of the game my memory flashed back to the prison break portion of Final Fantasy VIII, which I’ve always fondly remembered as intriguing, challenging, and a great plot point. However, Zael & co.’s time in prison never reached even shades of that FFVIII scenario. They are thrown into a cell with an archaeologist who gets them access to an underground passage in hopes they can all escape. The passage is full of monsters, and Zael’s party fends them off—their weapons were never taken away from them. And after completing that part they end up back in the cell. The whole thing was just filler while your party is negotiated for off-screen. Even more frustrating: As Zael is led out of the cell and to the court to be tried, he passes a level of cells full of monsters. Instead of taking this opportunity to explore the origin of these monsters or any portion of their existence as both creatures and a core component of the game, or to find deeper moral ambiguity within the kingdom, you simply get a passing comment.
Battles are fun, at least—that is, until you stop learning new moves and each battle becomes similar to the last. Each fight is predetermined, as in there are no random encounters. However, after clearing certain areas a rune circle will appear where Zael can summon new monsters to fight for XP. It’s a cruel idea, summoning something just to end its life, but it does give the player a way to level up outside of the main story (though it’s usually not necessary to do so).
The player controls Zael in nearly all battles. He can indefinitely aggro the enemies and can use a tactics menu that lets him tell the other party members to use certain special moves. But throughout the game you will only have 2-4 special moves to choose from per player (they cannot be changed later on), and once you get your strategy down you will end up using the same tactics over and over again. Later on, some plot-based scenarios require you to control another party member, which tends to feel alien after controlling one character for most of the game, and does not give you much time to get used to controlling that character. Thankfully, these portions are brief.
I went into The Last Story expecting something similar to the well-written emotional journey of Lost Odyssey—also by Mistwalker Studios. But while The Last Story appeared to aspire to greatness, it falls short, never quite reaching the heights of a truly great RPG.
Currently gaming: God of War 3, Final Fantasy 3 (DS remake), Dissidia: Final Fantasy, LittleBigPlanet, The Conduit, Wario Land: Shake It!, and thinking of exploring more in Fallout 3. Think I’m overdoing it? I really wanna leave work and play.
Games Tried & Borrowed
My fiance and I were at our friends’ place yesterday to watch the latest episode of Caprica (good show, by the way) and while we were there we got a glimpse of Ghostbusters running on XBOX 360 and Scribblenaughts for the DS.
I’ve been curious about Ghostbusters for a while now but never got around to playing it what with new games coming out multiple times a month and older games being lent to me often. The part I played in the original demo was the library level, which I found dark, clunky and a bit annoying. Our friend showed us the Times Square Stay Puft Marshmallow fight, which I have to say looked like much more fun. He played on Professional and was lassoing ghost fools all over the street, toasting marshmallow demons and cracking possessed gargoyle statues with witty Ghostbuster banter in between (“Are you kidding me? A haunted laundromat? Come on!”).
It looked awesome and I’m excited again to give it a try at some point. This version is of course vastly different from the cartoony Wii/DS/PSP counterparts, so I can only really speak on the 360/PS3 game (though I can see how the Wii pointer would be very fun).
Scribblenaughts did not go over quite as well, though it entertained us plenty. We were all trying it for the first time and upon trying it I can see why critics took such a disliking to it. Though it boasts about having a large vocabulary of physical objects you can write into existence in order to help you collect Starites (essentially sparkly stars), the interaction with these objects are largely nonsensical or don’t work at all. For example, one level had the main character, a boy named Maxwell, approach a lumberjack. The game tells you “Help him do his job.” There’s you, a lumberjack, and a tree. The logical way to win would be to create an axe or chainsaw and cut down the tree. That works fine. But if you’re going for creativity there are other ways to do it. For the record, setting the tree on fire helps no one. Blowing it up with a bomb pisses off the lumberjack and kills Maxwell. All logical. However, if you get into a bulldozer there is no way to interact with the tree to push it down. My fiance tried this, and, frustrated, decided to summon lightning. Unfortunately you can only create physical objects that can be touched and held and can exist on their own, so it did not recognize “lightning” and asked if she meant “lemming.” Blown away by the absurdity of being able to call forth a lemming (because in what case could a lemming ever be helpful in accomplishing a task?) she chose it, and as it appeared on top of her useless bulldozer she decided to grab it and try to throw it at the lumberjack. This didn’t work. The lemming would not be thrown. You can, however, “interact” with objects, and in this case it meant tickling and chasing the lemming - a disturbing image. In the end she created a chainsaw, which the lumberjack promptly snatched and cut down the tree with. The greedy bastard.
On other levels I opted to use a laser gun wherever possible, i.e. to shoot bees or flies. Note: Typing “laser cat” creates a regular black cat for some reason. Wings, jetpacks, and helicopters work well. And it turns out firemen aren’t smart enough to climb a ladder to save a cat from a roof. You have to climb the ladder yourself and pick the cat up while the fireman you summoned stands there like an overpaid asshole. Not like real firemen whatsoever. There was a garbage fire across the street from my apartment a few weeks ago and the firemen put that out less than five minutes after I’d made the call. Scribblenaughts is insulting to the intelligence of real people. Though you’ll have quite a laugh over the nonsensicalness of it all.
Lastly, I’ve been playing God of War II, part of the God of War Collection (PS3) I’d borrowed from a friend. It’s a great game, but often shows its PS2 roots in movements, and environmental interactions. I also can’t figure out why deadly gears are in ancient Greece, but I suppose those are required prerequisites for any action/adventure game that involves jumping, exploring and beating up people simply because they’re there and they’re angry. Most recently I’ve climbed Atlas after tearing the wings off of Icarus’ back. All very epic. I’m probably 2/3 done with the game - I’m at the Palace of the Fates - but I may take a break to play the newly delivered No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, where nonsensicalness makes perfects sense within context. That’s the kind of sense I like.
Netflix Coming to Wii this Spring
Netflix’s streaming content will finally make its way to the Wii this spring, utilizing a disc-based system like the PS3’s version. Though the Wii cannot output HD content, this is a great step in pushing more internet content, TV shows and movies onto the Wii - a system without the capability to play even DVDs.
Preorder your Wii Netflix disc now.