The Last Story (Wii) Review

By Adam Riley 26.02.2012

Review for The Last Story on Wii

2011 saw the release of two epic role-playing adventures, Xenoblade Chronicles from Monolith Soft, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword from Nintendo’s internal team, both of which scored top marks here at Cubed3. 2012 already promises to be yet another strong year for the genre on Wii, with the impressive-looking Pandora’s Tower set for Europe in a couple of months, along with this new release, The Last Story from AQ Interactive and Mistwalker, with a little helping hand from Nintendo as well. Has Hironobu Sakaguchi regained the same magic touch that brought Final Fantasy to life decades ago?

When Mistwalker was first founded there was a massive amount of attention poured upon the company due to Hironobu Sakaguchi’s reputation as not only being the 'Father of Final Fantasy,' but also working on plenty of other Square Ltd classics from years gone by, including Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Xenogears, Legend of Mana, and even Kingdom Hearts. In fact, his resignation as Executive Vice President of Square was so monumental that it is seen as playing a large factor in the 2003 merger with rival Enix Corporation to become Square Enix. Initially, after plenty of hype surrounding the Xbox 360 exclusives Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey, it seemed as if Nintendo fans were in for a treat when ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat was revealed for Nintendo DS. Sadly, Nintendo of America shelved plans to localise it and Nintendo of Europe did not pick up the slack after that, leaving the intriguing tactical RPG to waste away in Japan.

After that, the DS saw three great releases, the strategy RPG Blue Dragon Plus, a quirky adventure outing called AWAY: Shuffle Dungeon, and an action role-playing effort by the name of Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow. None of these achieved much success, nor were they hands-on projects for Sakaguchi-san, with Nintendo-owned Brownie Brown working with feelplus on the first game, AQ Interactive dealing with the second that also featured art from Sonic the Hedgehog co-creator Naoto Oshima, and the third being handled internally by Namco Bandai in collaboration with tri-Crescendo. It is only now, after the cancellation of the Xbox 360 concept Cry-On that Sakaguchi-san has truly delved deep into the world of development for The Last Story, with him reportedly acting as if this was his final game ever, as was the case when the first ever Final Fantasy was being made on the NES.

Cue 2012, one year after a moderately successful sales performance in Japan, and The Last Story is now upon us European Wii-owning members of the gaming community. Considering how impressive last year’s Wii line-up was, there is certainly a lot of pressure on The Last Story, even more so now that long-term fans of the Final Fantasy series are tiring somewhat of the changes being made by Square Enix’s current team, which saw Final Fantasy XIII prove to be one of the lowest selling in the long-running series so far, and Final Fantasy XIII-2 not exactly setting the world alight either.

Screenshot for The Last Story on Wii

Although the core theme of the tale within The Last Story is based around how a young man by the name of Zael, who just so happens to wield a gigantic blade, and his mercenary cohorts are eager to put that life behind them, there is a sting in the tail when certain early aspects take a twist and a turn when an evil force named the Gurak turn up, causing subsequent havoc to the land that had seen peace for so long that knights had almost forgotten what their swords were for. Zael’s dream of becoming a true knight plays second fiddle after this as he is caught up in the fight against Zangurak, the Gurak King, attempting to save Lady Calista, niece of Count Arganan, the ruler of Lazulis Island, and restore peace unto the land once more. All in a day's work...

There are definitely overtones of other Sakaguchi-san projects -- which to clarify is no bad thing at all -- with even an air of Cloud and Aerith’s dramatic scenes from Final Fantasy VII when watching the way everything plays out between the main hero, Zael, and the mysterious and quirky female character, Lisa, who acts like she does not fit into the normal world (the twist is obvious and comes quite early in the game, but still works nicely). The characterisation throughout is of particular note, with the group of mercenaries each having distinct personalities that help them work perfectly as a team during combat, yet highlights how their ‘working’ relationship is somewhat stronger than their personal one during rest and relaxation scenes, creating a humorous atmosphere at times, yet on the other hand causing a realistic feel of friction that makes the scenario more believable. In terms of the voice acting, as with any game, it is definitely a mixed bag. There is an over-the-top Northern British female character that can grate at times due to over-zealousness, whilst the lead, Zael, can sound more fed up than dark and broody. However, over the course of the entire adventure, The Last Story’s cast proves to be strong enough to convey the wide range of emotions brought to the table and really do complement Nobuo Uematsu’s spine-chillingly stunning and impeccable soundtrack, which in itself deserves to be listened to through a high quality output source.

Screenshot for The Last Story on Wii

Although there are smidgens of Sakaguchi-san's heritage, rather than being a standard Final Fantasy clone, with plenty of grinding and turn-based battles, The Last Story takes on more of an adventure / action RPG style, with touches of Chrono Trigger and shades of Secret of Mana / Seiken Densetsu 3 being present in its approach. This is definitely a game from the mind of the man behind Final Fantasy, as stated already, and long-term fans that enjoyed the early NES and SNES entries into the (then) Square Ltd series, as well as the PlayStation trio of Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX, will feel the same core essence pumping through the veins of The Last Story, right down to simple elements such as the auto-equip function that gives each team member the best pieces of armour and weaponry dependent on a statistical calculation, saving heaps of time for those that find too much customisation to be fiddly and distracting.

The development team has decided to steer clear of the tried and tested turn-based approach, instead going for something more action-based, with players choosing whether or not to use the automatic method where control of the main character is key, letting him attack at will, or selecting to manually take hold of every step, slashing away in your own time. Before a battle commences, a top-down view of the area is given and the scene can be panned around in order to get a feel of where best to focus the attack. Sometimes it will be a case of distracting a large beast until using a move called ‘Focus’ from a long distance locates a weak spot, whilst others involve guarding any magicians in the team so they can successfully cast spells, or cases where hiding behind structures and quickly dashing-and-slashing is the order of the day. Merely charging into the melee without a proper plan will swiftly lead to death, and whilst regeneration occurs in some instances, dying several times in a row eventually does lead to a dreaded Game Over. To avoid a hasty defeat, Zael can draw the attention of enemies using a technique called ‘Gathering,’ where the on-screen lines of interest that highlight who is being targeted by which enemy (that can be turned off for any purists out there), all turn towards the hero, leaving the rest of the crew to work their tricks in the background, catching your foes off-guard with devastating results.

There is nothing more satisfying than being up against what appears to be a ridiculously large beast with an almost impenetrable outer-skin, only to find a minor weak spot that can be exploited by getting a magician to focus a spell on a piece of the surroundings (a bridge or pillar, for instance), and then ensuring the attention of the enemy is drawn away long enough for the plan to be set in full motion. Strategic gameplay like this works wonderfully in the likes of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, so being able to employ such tactics in an adventure-filled environment without the pauses associated with turn-based genres is always going to be a welcomed change of pace.

Screenshot for The Last Story on Wii

Despite the ‘auto-equip’ function mentioned earlier, fans of customisation will be pleased to know that The Last Story does have it coming out of its ears, with special dyes collected to change the colours and attributes of weapons and armour, blacksmiths on-hand to deliver upgrades, and numerous special items floating around after despatching certain key enemies, sometimes having to return to locations to kill off enemies that had to be run from due to the present situation calling for it. Every change is also mimicked by a visual alteration of the characters, and should you so desire, it is actually possible to de-clothe many a certain degree, of course! Whatever takes your fancy...

Speaking of visuals, The Last Story is another superb example of how Wii can produce stunning graphics, and the art style is wonderful on the eyes throughout, even giving off a look of Vagrant Story at times. Unfortunately, though, it does also highlight that the Wii hardware has pretty much been maxed out now, with noticeable tricks in place to fool gamers' eyes, such as blurring of characters in the middle distance to cut down on processing power, or a reduction in animation for things like clothing movement (resulting in the odd leg or two magically appearing through fabric when walking before disappearing again). The locations in general, and the detail on the wide selection of characters, is breath-taking, and elevates The Last Story to within touching distance of Xenoblade Chronicles.

Ultimately, the comparisons to Xenoblade Chronicles are unavoidable since Wii owners in Europe have not exactly been inundated with quality role-playing games, missing out on the likes of Arc Rise Fantasia, Tales of Graces, Earth Seeker, Rune Factory Oceans, Shiren the Wanderer and even Takt of Magic. The good news for Mistwalker and Nintendo is that The Last Story holds its own very well indeed, and whilst there is more emphasis on story development through the means of lengthy cut-scenes than the sheer volume of side-quests featured in Monolith Soft’s epic, the fact that the AQ Interactive-developed project goes its own way is admirable in itself, and there are still enjoyable side-quests to get involved with anyway, only not as many. The forty-four main chapters will not be too tough to finish off, but exploring Lazulis Island in its entirety, and its sprawling medieval capital Lazulis City, replaying specific dungeons for rewards, taking part in the arena, or even dabbling in some six-player online shenanigans -- against boss characters or even in teams against each other, limited to Europe only -- should be enough to keep The Last Story going long enough for Pandora’s Tower to arrive on European shores.

Screenshot for The Last Story on Wii

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

The Last Story definitely deserves to follow in the footsteps of Xenoblade Chronicles, appealing to RPG fans everywhere, tapping into what makes the classics, such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy so addictive, namely a strong focus on story with good pacing and a fluid battle mechanic that works almost flawlessly throughout the adventure. With only Final Fantasy XIII-2 as its main competition here in Europe right now, gamers should definitely be looking to snap this up instead as it proves to be far superior in almost every category. Hironobu Sakaguchi can safely say his latest creation surpasses his first ever.






Real Time RPG



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10 (7 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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