The Last Story was one of the last games released for the Wii, which now collects dust alongside copies of Wii Sports and Wii Fit in many homes. I however, having not had time or money to buy and play new console games, am still working my way through a backlog of old games. The Last Story, though, is likely to be the last game I play for the Wii, and I think it’s a perfect send-off for it.
The Last Story is a 3rd-person, action-JRPG directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, famed creator of the Final Fantasy series, which I am ashamed to admit I have never played. (I know I know, but I was too young for the old games on SNES and missed out on the newer games because they were never for Nintendo consoles [I don’t think?], which up till high school were the only consoles I owned. Plus JRPGs never really appealed to me back then. But I swear I’ll get on it!) So the pedigree behind this title is quite impressive, to say the least.
This game actually was never even supposed to make it to North America, but thanks to the efforts of Operation Rainfall, it and other niche JRPGs including Xenoblade Chronicles ended up arriving on our shores and rating quite highly. However, The Last Story and Xenoblade Chronicles are very different games–while the latter is a huge open(ish) world with 100 hours of content, The Last Story clocks in at just under 25 hours and has a more focused, character-driven story. Both takes are equally valid and can be just as enjoyable, but I personally found The Last Story to be much more enjoyable.
The game centers around Zael, a mercenary, and his group of mercenary friends, who are all simply trying to get by. Zael’s dream is to become a knight, and to that end, Dagran, the leader of the group, decides to take them all to Lazulis Island. Lazulis Island is the center of the empire, and is ruled by Count Arganan, whom Dagran has them all work for in the hopes that he will knight them and give them better lives. This is where the story begins.
I don’t know how intentional this was, but I even drew parallels to real-world phenomena. Lazulis’s military prowess and conflicts with other nations could be compared to the US and its focus on expanding its military, claiming to spread peace but in some places doing more harm than good. I wondered sometimes if this game was trying to send that message. It could also be seen as an argument against Japan rebuilding its military, seeing as it’s a game from Japan.
Zael, at first naïve and wanting more than anything to become a knight, eventually discovers that most knights are in fact dishonorable, cruel excuses for human beings who would not hesitate to stab each other in the back to get ahead. Maybe this could even be a metaphor for the reality of politicians. Or maybe it’s just the beer talking. Either way, the fact that I can make these correlations is a testament to the depth of the story.
I’m not going to say much more about the story for fear of ruining it, because it really is quite good. Yes, it features many of the same tired clichés that plague anime and other JRPGs (every single main character is an orphan, for instance) and at first glance is a very predictable plot, but towards the latter half it actually becomes quite dark and emotional at times. For a Wii game, I was pretty surprised.
I can’t talk about the story without mentioning the characters, and they are superb. Each one has a unique personality, and though some of them fall into the usual archetypes, they are all interesting and engaging. Unfortunately there is no option to hear the original Japanese voice acting, but it is fantastic voice work by some talented British actors featuring an array of interesting accents. The localization too is outstanding–I’ve often cringed when playing Japanese games that have been translated into English, but this one sounded very natural.
I have to keep the graphics quality in perspective–for the Wii, they are good. In fact I thought some environments were quite beautiful. Sometimes I thought I was playing a GameCube game, but that’s less a fault of the game and more the low graphical capabilities of the console. Though there were several times where the game would lag during a particularly action-packed fight and you could hear the console groaning along trying to catch up.
Music isn’t always something that stands out in games, but The Last Story features some truly beautiful tunes, especially the main theme. It even had me humming along at times, and that’s saying something.
Oh yes, I suppose I should talk about the gameplay. It pretty much solely consists of battling enemies, and luckily the combat system is quite good. It simplifies combat by having you auto-attack enemies who are nearby–all you have to do is move towards them. At first I was a little disappointed because I thought of this as dumbing things down, but by the end I was grateful. You can also block to reduce the damage you take from attacks, roll to dodge out of the way, and use special abilities. It’s an easy system to get into, but difficult to master.
You can also command your group to use their abilities and choose which enemies they target, which proves to be invaluable as the game progresses. This adds several layers to the combat and provides a fairly deep, strategic system.
The fights start out easy enough but get progressively harder, sometimes to the point where I would think they were unfair. Some enemies are so powerful that they can knock you out with a single blow, but I grew to appreciate this because it forced me to learn the intricacies of the combat system and allowed me to really master it.
Much of the game takes place in either of its two hub worlds, Lazulis Castle and Lazulis City. The city is a huge, sprawling place with lots of inhabitants to talk to, and I actually found it to be a little overwhelming at times. There are loads of side-quests to complete for these citizens, but there’s no UI that tells you which quests you have accepted and what you have to do to complete them. That, combined with the fact that most of these quests lacked meaningful rewards, made me lose interest in them pretty quickly. I found myself mostly going only to the places that mattered most, like the tavern where your group stays or the shops where you can buy and upgrade weapons and equipment.
Speaking of weapons and equipment, The Last Story features a somewhat basic upgrade system, in which you pay a certain amount of money, sometimes in combination with special items, to make your items more powerful. There aren’t so many stats that your head will spin, which I was grateful for. Additionally, the auto-equip function proved to be invaluable for me–it equips the most powerful weapons and armor so you don’t have to worry about looking through each of them individually and deciding what to put on whom. But you still can, if you want. Personally I never really liked that aspect of RPGs.
The environments that you adventure in are varied and interesting enough that you never get bored, but when I would get back to the hub worlds I often would have to retread the same areas to see what I needed to do next, as this wasn’t always too clear. This could get a little tedious, but never enough to make me want to put my controller down.
The Last Story may start out slow and familiar, but proves to be an unforgettable experience and a truly fitting sendoff for the Wii. If you’re still wondering if the Wii has any good games, try this one on for size. You won’t be disappointed.