Of the two prominent Wii RPGs released this year, Xenoblade Chronicles has gotten the bulk of the attention. Whether this is due to it epic scope, its fluid yet strategic battle system or simple because it came out first, I don’t know. What I do know, now that I’ve played both equally and beaten The Last Story, is that The Last Story deserves at least as much love a Xenoblade. The Last Story is a classic JRPG filtered through an action game and the result is amazing despite its flaws.
While the action RPG is in no way new, The Last Story is different than the usual in that hybrid genre. It doesn’t just give the player direct control of the fighting, it is paced and structured like an action game. While there is plenty of very RPG-like gadding about town, the mission play out like action game levels. Players are pulled from fight to fight, set piece to set piece at a breathless pace. There is excitement and immediacy that games like the more meandering Secret of Mana or the Kingdom Hearts series can’t match. It is actually more like something from God of War. The game is helped by solid, though not perfect, fighting mechanics. Waling away at opponents is a valid strategy, but the game rewards attacking at a measured pace, alternating attacks with allies to get damage bonuses from chains. Magic attacks leave elemental circles that the player can dispel for status effects. The balance of keeping beneficial elements and hitting status effects give some nice strategy to fights that can break down into chaos. Aside from just firing their one element of magic about even if the enemies are resistant to it, the AI controlled allies work just fine. It is a frenetic, chaotic battle system with just enough strategy to keep being interesting.
The RPG parts are good as well. The Last Story takes cues from numerous classic RPGs and rolls them into a not wholly unoriginal adventure. Its penchant for limiting party members for different tactical challenges is right out of FFIV. I don’t mean to spoil the surprisingly good story, but the plot takes plenty of elements from numerous FFs and Chrono Trigger. There are also some spots that are very reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda. It plays like a greatest hits of all your favorite RPGs
Fortunately, there is more to it than that. In sharp contrast to the expansive, epic scope of Xenoblade, The Last Story is a rather intimate game. There aren’t that many characters and the majority of the story takes place in one city. Though it can’t seem to help itself from escalating events to world shattering proportions, the story is primarily of one man’s attempts to better himself and the world. It all works together very well, especially since Lazulis City has enough personality to remain interesting for as whole game.
There are some flaws, like some overly fiddly battles, especially with a limited party, and an upgrade system that can’t be fully utilized without multiple playthroughs, but none of the flaws significantly diminish what is an excellent game. With the Last Story and Xenoblade, the Wii has received a terrific one-two punch of RPGs. One is perfect for quick play sessions and quick run throughs, the other will keep anyone busy for as long as they want. I wouldn’t say one approach is better than the other, but it is nice to have games that fit both. The Last Story is a perfect send off for the Wii.