The Last Story Review
Aside from what looks to be a stellar compilation of past Kirby games and the sequel to the fantastic Epic Mickey (which is multiplatform, by the way), The Last Story is, guess what, the last story gamers will see on Nintendo's revolutionary Wii console. The Wii U is right around the corner and to say that new Wii releases have trailed off is about the understatement of the decade. Though the title and circumstances with developer Mistwalker's latest action RPG couldn't have fit more perfectly, it weighs on my conscious that by waiting for the Wii's eleventh hour, The Last Story may not capture the audience it so deserves. What is, for all intents and purposes, Nintendo's last Wii release is not only impressive, it stands as one of the system's all-time greats.
The Last Story, interestingly enough, also manages to define and crystallize the Wii's highest and lowest point: the motion controls. If you've got a Classic Controller, you're going to want to break it out for this title; if not, you either need to buy one or skip this game altogether. The motion controls aren't completely broken, but certain actions don't always register or even make sense. In the heat of battle, the basic action of swinging a sword (move Wiimote forward) can be vexing and annoying, much like the seemingly simple but totally broken flying in Skyward Sword. And having the nunchuk's single analog stick mapped to character movement feels ok at first, but you'll end up almost constantly tapping Z to center the camera behind your hero. Compare that with the simplicity of dual stick control and you'll be tossing the Wiimote/nunchuk combo down faster than you can say "repetitive stress injury." The Last Story reminds us all, at the Wii's sunset, that oftentimes motion controls just don't work and can detract from normal, enjoyable gameplay.
With a name like The Last Story, the plot better be great, right? Well, it isn't bad, but clich�s abound in this RPG's tale. You play as Zael and his band of mercenaries who will kill whatever or whoever you want - for a price. RPG clich� #1: Check. The group eventually gets drawn into a conflict much bigger than themselves. RPG clich� #2: Check. And through the journey, the characters mature, make tough choices and eventually end up as heroes. RPG clich� #3: Check. Oh, and don't forget the skimpy outfits on the females with odd-colored hair. RPG clich� #4: Check. The individual characters outshine the "every RPG ever" plot, and emerge as a group of funny, memorable protagonists. The amount and quality of voice acting really helps out in this area, though apparently every inhabitant of The Last Story's world originally hails from the British Isles. Yes, I know that, like Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story was localized in the U.K.; it is pretty obvious not just from the speech, but also when "neighbour" and "colour" begin showing up in the subtitles. The accents do feel natural, though, especially if you've interacted with Darksiders II's Makers in the past week or two.
With Classic Controller in hand and the knowledge that the characters, not the plot, make The Last Story what it is, it's time to talk gameplay. Thankfully, though the game relies on some pretty overused RPG nonsense, boring combat isn't something it shares with others in the genre. Both long-range (over the shoulder, like in Resident Evil 4) and short range (and third person action game) combat are available to the player, and experimenting and learning both can be a lot of fun. Short range, in my play style at least, ended up being more effective, though it never devolves into button-mashing craziness. Fighting multiple enemies at once is easy enough to handle on your own, but you'll often have a handful of computer-controlled allies working with you. And just when it begins to feel as though things are getting stale, The Last Story introduces a strategy aspect that feels wasted at first, but become ultimately very important as you near the end of the adventure. The main character, Zael, also acquires what boils down to an agro redirector, but I rarely found it as useful as just letting the others take care of themselves while I worked my way through waves of bad guys. It isn't that your team is a well-oiled killing machine, but that the game gives each player five deaths PER ROUND to finish things up. This can make even the toughest battles a little too easy, but they still entertain nonetheless.
Perhaps the most appealing part of the combat is that it happens in real time, in the environs you are already exploring. That's right; there are no random encounters, nor are you or your team whisked away to some arena for all your battles. These tired standards would have been an easy cop-out for Mistwalker, especially on the underpowered Wii console, so kudos to them for going the extra mile.
What some might see as a drawback, I see as a major selling point: The Last Story's length. Unlike most JRPGs these days, The Last Story seems to know you don't have thousands of hours to set aside for gathering potion ingredients or killing five tigers. You can plow through the entire game in about 20-25 hours, and the length feels just right. You never crash into slow, pointless tasks that serve to extend playtime; you jump right from major event to major event, which makes sure that there is never, EVER, a dull moment. Even dialogue scenes, thanks to the aforementioned stellar voice acting, never drag on endlessly, and each conversation adds something new and significant. If 20-25 hours doesn't sound like enough, the game also has an online battle mode, if that is your thing. It is most certainly not mine, though I won't get into a rant about unnecessary multiplayer here.
What can I say? The Last Story is a great way for the Wii to go out. It is a great game on its own and reminds us of what went right and what went wrong in the years since the console's launch. The characters are endearing enough to all but erase the sour taste of the paint-by-numbers plot, and the combat is exciting and varied enough to be featured in an action game, rather than an RPG. If you really want to enjoy this one, though, you're going to need a Classic Controller. It is a small price to pay for an RPG that is fun and leaves a lasting impression. Just because you've already pre-ordered a Wii U, don't let The Last Story slip under your radar.
Final Rating: 86%. The Last Story is a great way for the Wii to go out.