The Last Story

The Last Story was released in the US market because people like me whined enough that The_Last_Story_NAXSeed decided to pick it up. I bought it at release knowing that I wouldn’t get around to playing it for some time. I didn’t expect it would take three years, but hey that’s how it goes for a dope like me who buys far more games than is possible to play. Here are my very late thoughts on the game.

The Setting 

The world of The Last Story is typical to JRPGs. A medievalish land with magic and a dying world. The main character (Zael) is a member of a group of mercenaries and aspires to make something of himself and become a knight of the land. Lazulis Island is at war with a quasi human species called the Gurak. At the start of the game Zael is granted mysterious powers by a godlike being and also falls in love with the princess of the realm. What else is there to do but save the world?

While saving the world, Zael and his band of mercenaries get caught up in political intrigue and find out things are not as straight forward as they seem because this is a JRPG so that’s how things go.

The Battle Mechanics 

The battle system in the last story works a bit like Namco’s Tales series in that you directly control one character in real time and can give orders to the rest of the party. However, you cannot switch which character you control (it is always the party leader) and there is a very limited amount of choice in the actions you can take. You must fill up the Command Gauge to give any orders, but as you are directing action rather than actual skill casting and use there is no need to access orders constantly. Command Mode is not available immediately because of a decision to tie certain gameplay aspects to character progression in the story.

By default the game has battle mode in “automatic” which means you’re playing a 3D version of Ys I (you run into enemies to attack them). I played in this mode for a while because I missed that you could change it to manual where you use a more traditional button mashing attack style. I really disliked auto because in multi-enemy battles I found myself attacking enemies I was trying to get away from. I don’t really understand why the developers thought this was a good idea.

You can also drop behind cover and use crossbow bolts to eliminate distant enemies or order teammates to take specific environmental damage actions in certain scenarios. When these are available the game takes your hand and says “do this thing”.

The Graphics and Design 

The character designs (done by Kimihiko Fujisaka, known best for his work on the Drakengard series) in the game are really neat/extremely early-middle Square FF, but the colors in the game are all muted and things look mushy at times. I think this was an intentional choice to express that the world is unhealthy, or at least I have decided to believe this because the Wii features some of the most beautifully colored games ever. There is lots of lots of greybrown on greybrown.

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Nothing is done badly, here, it just never becomes very exciting or notable.

Other Notes

There are times when you’re running around and you hit some slowdown due to the amount of characters on-screen. This is, I believe, caused by the hardware limitations of the Wii but I’d rather have no slowdown and less people walking around on screen. It happens enough to be notable and annoying.

There is a lot to do in this game if you’re into side-questing, which I really appreciated. Doing sidequests get you useful items for crafting to improve your weapons or unique weapons that aren’t available elsewhere. There are a couple of extra dungeons which give you some extra insight into the world/your companions.

The Last Story doesn’t spend a huge amount of time telling you about your companions, but talking to them between the main mission gives you some idea of everyone’s background. Everyone is pretty well fleshed out without a ton of exposition, which I appreciated.

The Conclusion 

The Last Story is a very solid, well-made JRPG that you will enjoy on a scale of “how much do you like JRPGs?” If you really enjoy JRPGs, you will really like the game. If you think they are bad, there is nothing here for you.

Quilted Pink Creampuffs (Kirby’s Epic Yarn Wrap-Up)

The Kirby series is a favorite of mine, and I’ve played every game in the series through Epic Yarn several times with the exception of the Crystal Shards (I did not have an N64 and never bothered to buy one). Unlike the other premier platformers Nintendo makes the Kirby games are pretty easy which I appreciate because it allows me to just sit back and enjoy them with no hair tearing action. Plus, Kirby is stupidly cute and the theme music makes me irrationally happy.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is incredibly successful in every aspect of being a Kirby game and is just immense amounts of fun. My criteria here aren’t any kind of world wide standard so I’ll run through my checklist:

[ X ] Easy, but not boring.

The biggest challenge with making low difficulty level games is keeping them interesting. There have to be some mild challenges which is achieved through boss fights, but the gameplay has to be good enough that it doesn’t matter if you breeze through levels. Kirby’s Epic Yarn does this with diverse level settings, user interactions with the environments and light puzzles. There is a music themed level where walking across or jumping on instruments plays little tunes. It doesn’t really matter that the world isn’t full of deathtraps when you’re having fun traveling through it.

[ X ] Whimsical, but not overly cutsey.

Kirby is a series for youngins, the rest of us are just joining them along on the ride. However for the games to be successful they have to appeal to people older than five years old, and that means they can’t be the video game version of a Benji movie. The cutscenes are a bit much but skippable (though I recommend watching the Meta Knight one, I thought it was very funny) and the game itself is adorable but not overwhelming. The different styles of quilting for the worlds are beautiful with a splash of cute.

[ X ] A large variety of powers to defeat enemies

Since the second Kirby game you’ve been able to suck enemies up and absorb their powers, which is not a feature of Epic Yarn. To make up for this there are several mini-game areas of levels where Kirby transforms into vehicles such as the all time classic UFO and takes a break from the straightforward platforming.

[X] You fight King Dedede

Can’t forget about this one, although it is really a nice to have rather than a critical item! All the bosses you expect to find in a Kirby game make appearances though they are not the end level fights of the past. And yes this includes the annoying thunder cloud thing with an eye, who is as aggravating in Epic Yarn as he is in all the other games.

Beyond the check-list Epic Yarn also has a very good soundtrack that really compliments the levels. The music is not necessarily something that you’ll want to listen to when you’re not playing but it’s perfect for traversing through the game. An added bonus, if you will.

Nothing in Epic Yarn will blow your mind the way that the levels in say, Super Mario Galaxy do but it is a different kind of genius and deserves a playthrough. If you aren’t at least a little charmed by Kirby’s world, you are probably some kind of frozen heart villain like Mr. Freeze.

Jasper Batt Jr Is Going To Drive Me Insane

I realize the point of the final boss battle in No More Heroes 2 is to be completely crazy and hard, but I am going to lose my mind before I beat him. The bosses before him are often quite challenging but there’s a trick to beating them that is somewhat easy to decipher if a bit difficult to execute, which is something that isn’t present in the last fight.

Batt Jr’s first form is easy peasy, same with the second. But when he turns into Pizza Batt Man it just becomes ridiculous, especially when he spams the nearly undodgeable three teleport combo move. He once performed that particular move six times in a row, needless to say I didn’t get a word in edgewise.

It’s definitely a winnable battle–I got PBM down to almost no health every time I faced him so far–you just need to get lucky and I haven’t yet. My next plan of attack is to see if I can trigger the AI to try and do close range moves and dodge away quickly but I have a feeling that won’t work.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

Before I put together an actual list of the games I wanted to get out of the way during the baseball offseason I knocked out Vanillaware’s Muramasa: The Demon Blade. If you’re not aware, Vanillaware’s ambition is to make great 2D games and Muramasa is their third title to be released in North America following Odin Sphere and Grim Grimoire for the PS2.

Here’s a quick summary of each of these games:

  1. Odin Sphere – Sprawling action RPG where you play as several different characters in a story based off Norse mythology. Beautiful game with ridiculous difficulty at times, got a lot of attention for being well made and standing out as something different. I enjoyed it a lot but the game felt very long.
  2. Grim Grimoire – RTS where you take the role of a young student at a magic school where something isn’t quite right. Relatively easy, short RTS. It took a lot of flack for having a story “like Harry Potter” because people pretend that Harry is the first ever kid born to be the greatest wizard ever who needs to learn magic.
  3. Muramasa: The Demon Blade – Action game where you play through two intertwined stories about a sword forged by Muramasa Oboro. Easy or hard depending on which play mode you select, the action is really smooth and effortless but it never feels like you’re just button mashing for combos.
    I really enjoyed all three but even though it didn’t get the critical acclaim of Odin Sphere, I think that Muramasa is Vanillaware’s best game so far. Because the game isn’t punishingly hard unless you choose it to be, and the controls are great so running around Japan and fighting hoards of enemies never gets boring.

The game mechanics other than fighting are solid and easy to understand. At the start of the game you acquire the soul of Muramasa who hangs out in your bag and forges swords for you. To forge swords you need soul, which you get by killing enemies and spirit which you acquire by eating food.

There isn’t much to distinguish the swords from each other except the type (long blade or blade, slow but higher damage or fast with lower attack power) and personal preferences about their special attacks which only really matter if you’re playing in hard mode.  I hate slow attacks so I used blades almost exclusively as soon as I was able to. The characters level up as they gather souls but the world levels up with you so it doesn’t impact much, just heals you for free in the middle of a fight and allows you to equip more powerful swords.

Muramasa has three endings for each character which are easy to unlock and don’t require you to play the game over and over. This is something I really appreciated because I wanted to see them but playing a full game through a second and third time is a chore even if you really do like a game (I make an exception for games that branch off a bunch like Valkyrie Profile DS where you don’t see much repeat action).

Before playing through Murasama the last (home console) game that I just completely ran through without a break was Super Mario Galaxy 2. I never got tired of playing it, or so aggravated that I needed to take a break. Seeing as I am a crazy picky person with no attention span, that’s pretty good company and I really think anyone who enjoys hitting video game enemies with swords will find something to like in Muramasa.