The town, castle and beyond are beautifully presented and populated with enough buildings and characters to make the place feel like it lives and breathes. The voice acting adds to this even further, bringing the characters out of the screen and making the player feel for them and their plight. This is all backed by a wonderful score, penned by Nobuo Uematsu, which ebbs and flows along with the storyline.The first few battles serve as basic tutorials, with more techniques and moves introduced over time. The battle mechanics are part action, part strategy - the battles are in real time, with time freezing when issuing commands to allies who are otherwise left to the AI. The player assumes the role of Elza for the most part, with a sword and crossbow as his weapons. To use the sword? Push towards an enemy. Wow, simple. There's more. Hiding plays a big part in combat. Elza can hide up against practically any object or wall by pushing towards it and pressing A. Simply pressing A again will "unhide" from the object. Tilting the control stick towards an enemy and pressing A will perform a slash attack, with Elza jumping out/over and attacking. Holding ZL (classic controllor set up) will make Elza pull out his crossbow and take aim, A then fires whatever variety of arrow is currently selected. Up/down on the d-pad changes the kind of arrow - even Mischief Bananas which can be used on regular people for fun and high-jinx. Having no specific button for attacking is novel and usually works, with there being times when Elza needs to move around but instead decides to attack. Other than this, the controls handle well, even giving the player the ability to back-roll over other characters when they are near him!
Special attacks can be used when a character's TP bar has been filled, 25% corresponds to one use. Elza's attack is Wind element-associated and has Elza speed across the field to a point selected by the player and disperses Magic Circles. These Magic Circles come from the use of magic by either side and the effect of dispersing them varies with the element, for example, Light causes Deflector, giving teammates and extra shield. Using Heal Circles to heal all members at once comes in very handy during most tough battles.The player can also make use of Command Time by pressing Up on the D-pad after the TP bar reaches 100%. This allows the player to command Elza and all of his teammates in a more coordinated way. As the story progresses, each character also gains a Tension bar in time, which can be used to unleash an even stronger attack. Tension moves can be anything from Elza's Accelerate speeds up his movement and attack speed, to Manamia's Revive which either heals all team members or restores one life to everyone.
Each character has a health bar and five lives. When those lives are gone, the character can no longer take part in the current battle. If Elza loses all his lives, it's game over time. Elza's Otherworldly Power gives him the ability to attract the attention and wrath of enemies, and has the capability to be charged up and unleashed as an attack. With the Otherworldly Power active, and at least 25% TP, a single downed character can be revived without it costing them a life. Very useful for keeping the team backing the player up during the tougher battles. Armour and weapons are all upgradeable with money to start, and then some rare items to forge the more powerful versions. There is an Auto-Equip function which will give characters the items best suited to them and their role overall, with Elza ALWAYS receiving the strongest. Which brings us to leveling up the team. Grinding is maximised at certain points in a chapter, with "Summon Circles" basically equating to Grind Points, where Elza can summon enemies an unlimited number of times. However, there always comes a point when the level of the character is over that of the enemy and handicapped XP comes into play and the amount of points is reduced beyond the point of it making a dent in what is needed to get to the next level. This allows grinding not to become a main part of the play time, but to be restricted to bursts. This greatly affects the difficulty of the game, as without levelling up most boss battles would be over very quickly, and the monsters in battles do not regenerate. The Summon Circles are akin to running through the long grass in Pokemon but not needing to spend the time actually running, and completely removing the random element from the situation. Perfect for those bored of the standard grind.
There are two online multiplayer modes, which are still actively played at the time of writing (approximately 9 months after release in Japan); one being a 6-way battle royale, and the other being more Monster Hunter in its styling of fighting one of the big bosses and receiving items/weapons as rewards that can be used in the single player mode. Good for a quick blast.It has to be said there seem to be too many save points in the single player quest, with automatic quick-saves occuring before most tough battles/areas. It could be seen as mollycoddling the player, but on the other hand it can be refreshing to be able to jump in for 10 or 15 minutes and then get back to real life. The game itself can be played through in about 25 hours, including some meandering and skipping a few of the chapters, either on purpose or due to ignorance. Making it any longer would simply have felt like dragging out the story pointlessly.
From what is written above, it may seem like The Last Story is a short RPG with all the thinking removed. This is pretty much the case, yet that in no way detracts from the enjoyment taken from playing through the game, seeing how the story develops, and leading Elza and Kanon to their destinies. A dramatic storyline, well-written dialogue, beautiful scenery and music that fits perfectly. The Last Story is definitely a game that belongs in every Wii owner's collection.
+ Excellent storyline
+ Easy to master battle system
+ Perfect voice acting
- Overly simplistic
- Save points too frequent
Genre: Action Strategy RPG
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Reviewer: Steven Walker