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.

The Games of 2012: Ys Origin

Ys Origin originally came out in 2006 but only in Japan, leaving poor suckers like myself who desperately wanted to play it in a language we could understand waiting for a fan translation. The fan translation finally materialized in September, 2011 but by that time there were already rumors that XSeed was getting ready to release it digitally so I decided against importing it like I done with some other Ys titles.

For those unfamiliar with the series–it is, afterall, a niche franchise beloved by gigantic nerds like me but unknown to everyone else–it’s a long running series of action RPGs with lots of remakes and ports and re-releases. Origin is the first of the games to break from telling the story of red-haired Adol having adventures all over the place and finding bits of the leftover Ys civilization while solving other, more urgent problems. Origin is not about the origins of Adol and his gang but rather the tale great civilization of Ys fell.

The gameplay in Origin is pretty similar to the titles since The Oath of Felghana. You hit things with weapons, you have some spell options and there are platforming and puzzle elements. There’s not really any level grinding required as long as you don’t just blow past enemies without bothering to defeat them, which I think of as a huge plus. Overall, Origin plays like your standard action RPG, but it is so competently made and charming that it overcomes the run-of-the-mill press-x-to-attack gameplay and enter the really fun zone. The Ys games have a formula that has been pretty much perfected and just own it completely.

The other thing Ys games always do well–and it’s an element of Origin that I enjoyed a whole lot–is giving you tough, interesting boss battles. In Origin once you are about a quarter way done with your long climb up the tower they suddenly become something like a SHMUP. The bosses have several attacks, shoot a whole lot of different stuff at you and require a tactical approach. It’s not R-Type Final, but here’s a video of the first boss that does this in the game:

I love it! There’s not a really a moment where you can just stand still (which in Ys means no healing!). It’s intense, and it’s fun. When I beat bosses in Origin I was very pleased with myself.

As it goes on the bosses become more and more like they were ripped out of a SHMUP. When you get to the final boss there is stuff all over the place and you are constantly running and reacting to whatever attack he’s queued up. The frenzied music works perfectly with what’s going on in the game. It’s just amazingly well put together.

If you don’t mind spoilers, or don’t think of a boss fight with no story context as one, here’s what that last battle looks like:

Ys: Origin is a niche game because of the market it inhabits, not its appeal to a wide audience. If you enjoy hitting monsters with weapons, sometimes setting creatures on fire and light puzzle fare then this is a game (and series) you’ll dig.

Buy Ys Origin on Steam. I get nothing out of this and you get a good game!

Random Ys Blather

This lasted about half a day but it was nice to see:

I personally did not pick it up but that’s because I am a crazy person and imported the PC version ages ago. But the days of sending form letter-esque emails to Falcom to order items are over thanks to XSeed. Living in a world where I can buy Falcom games like the Ys games and The Legend of Heroes and not have to fuss with translation patches is pretty cool.

The one drawback about buying things digitally is that you don’t get fancy editions like this, but it’s a small sacrifice.

(Please release Ys Origin soon before I go even madder waiting it out for an English version)