Screw America! Those plebs aren’t refined enough to enjoy a good RPG. That’s what Japan thought when they localized Xenoblade Chronicles and that’s once more the case with The Last Story. Another splendid title, filled with high fantasy settings, intuitive combat, tons of content, strategic options and even a multiplayer component.
Zael is the protagonist of this last story, revolving around a pack of mercenaries and their aspirations in a land torn by impending doom. Their job will take them across the plains of existence where they’ll meet up with the many characters within. The Last Story has a sizable lore, which can be also read up on, accompanied by a wide variety of British voice talents and a strong narration element. The result is a compelling story broken into chapters, in a world as vibrant as it is fantastical.
Kingdoms and their knights create hardships amongst each other and their denizens stuck in between. The silver line is that they live in a gilded cage, as the refined environments are rich with detail. The faded veil across the screen also helps set the historic atmosphere that the steampunk sci-fi tries to present. Towns are rich with life and have activity crawling all over them. This tour de force also looks splendid, as the visual restrictions get hidden with skillful usage of blurring and bright bloom settings. The impeccable cutscenes that truly show off the world’s high fantasy vibe are the cherry taste of the overall eye candy.
The game itself uses this élan to create a truly unique title with fluent combat, weapon upgrades, looting, conversation options and more goodies. Battles are broken into certain parts, such as melee and ranged. Close quarters either start as they occur or get prompted with a battlefield overhead view in order to gain some tactical knowledge. Here, players can simply approach enemies and will automatically them when in striking distance. Along with the simple use of blocking and dodging, as well as locking on, this creates a combat flow which transitions completely organically. Players facing obstacles can simply vault over them or choose to take cover or can even take out parts of the construction to crush enemies.
Ranged combat is also available to casters as well as Zael, whom uses Seeker mode to get a first person perspective. Here, our hero can spot weak points, special targeting areas or he can alter his projectiles to suit his needs. In addition, he can also use a Gathering skill that sets off a barrage of modifiers. While active, enemies slow down, allies speed up, health can be regained, players can be revived and so on. Gathering is the Super Saiyan mode of The Last Story, although that comes at the price of having enemies targeting Zael exclusively. But given the slew of differing enemy types and intense boss fights, this creates an exciting layer of tactics, especially since allies can only be revived a set amount of times.
But the real treat is filling up the skill gauge and entering Commander mode. Here, time stops for a brief moment as Zael can issue orders to the entire party. Brawlers can gain temporary buffs, casters will cast faster and enemy casting circles can be dispelled. There are a ton of possibilities and fights use this element well, which offsets the simple automated struggle with yet another layer of gameplay. As pre-battle prompts give an idea of how the fight will ensue, players can start thinking where magic circles will appear, what buffs to apply and who to strike at what point in time. Its seamless implementation in the combat mechanic is one of the most well designed things this game has to offer.
As if that isn’t enough, The Last Story also adds a few more layers, such as the option of random encounters, instead of a mandatory setting. It also creates tactical advantages from sneaking and emerging from cover, landing headshots, random treasure drops and so on. Collecting items and ingredients can be used to upgrade equipment, which in turn helps it stay relevant throughout story progression.
Last but not least, a multiplayer facet offers an additional 2 modes of play. One of them pits players against each other in some sort of RPG deathmatch. The other mode is team-based and features huge boss fights. In both modes, gameplay is balanced to their respective traits in order to keep it fair. For instance, fighting bosses will keep the weapons carried over from the singleplayer, but going up against each other levels the playing field of all available characters. This additional component gives an extra lasting appeal to The Last Story and it uses synergy between the single and multiplayer experience as well, which is a good thing.
If there is any discrepancy to be had, it’s that the camera angles are sometimes a bit on the slow side to try and get a complete view of all the action. Party members can get cut down and hidden behind obstacles or retaining a complete vision of al enemies can sometimes be tricky. This is however a slight slip-up in comparison to the rest of the glamor that this game has to offer.
If it isn’t clear by now, The Last Story is a gem, unique in its kind. It shines bright and has almost no spots about it to be scrutinized. A long, captivating story along with vast content and tons of unique gameplay are more than enough for any one title to succeed. This localization effort is a blessing for any fan and a must-have for any Wii owner.