The Last Story
(And so goes the second game of the Operation Rainfall Not-Really-a-Trilogy.) Hopefully, by the time you're reading this, somebody finally caves in and releases Pandora's Tower in America to complete the still-not-a-trilogy. But for now, we're stuck with The Last Story. Ever wonder why it's called that? What? Because Hironobu Sakaguchi treated this project as if it was his last? Don't be stupid. It's clearly because the development team was fired after the publishers saw what they were paying for.
Why the malice? Well, it's largely because the story's absolute crap. Maybe I'm at fault, here, but I believe myself justified in expecting a good story out of a game called The Last Story. Anyway, it all begins with a group of mercenaries trying to kill a group of lizard people. On this journey, one of them gains a mysterious magical power...and then promptly ignores it for half the game. I'd like to go on about how many plot threads go absolutely nowhere, but I'll take the game's leave and ignore the fuck out of that, too. This leads us to Lazulis Island, where the Count's daughter is getting married. One problem: she doesn't want the passive life of royalty and sneaks out of the castle shortly before the wedding, only to be found by the protagonist, who doe-You know what? It's Aladdin. The beginning of the game is a worse version of Aladdin.
Although now that I think about it, I have played another Wii game this year with strong Disney vibes: Skyward Sword. Now this provides an interesting case study in trying to figure out why exactly it works for Skyward Sword, but not for The Last Story. Simply put, it's what they choose to borrow from Disney that separates them. Skyward Sword decided to rip the aesthetics from Disney, and was better for it. There, it creates a sense of magical whimsy that brings the world to life and jacks the fun factor all the way to Skyloft. (Let's ignore the fact that Skyward Sword essentially begins in Skyloft.)
The Last Story, on the other hand, chooses to borrow Disney stories, which isn't exactly the best idea in the world. These stories are made for children; why would you look to that for inspiration on your serious RPG? (I bet all the kids are clamoring for T-rated games where one of the characters is a rowdy alcoholic.....You know what I mean.) Yes, Skyward Sword blatantly steals tropes from Disney (Groose being the most obvious), too, but it's not content to end there. It at least tries to add some depth, giving Groose a character arc and bothering to explain just how the hell Zelda got through all those dangerous areas. The Last Story, on the other hand, never bothers to take that step, leaving us with a stupidly anemic storyline populated with characters less developed than a fifth grade girl and villains less believable than Hitler. I wish I was kidding. It's like every villain is simply checking off boxes on their List of Villainy, which probably explains why every one of them is so eager to give Disney Princess Calista five to the face.
And predictable! Don't forget predictable! There were just too many moments where I said to myself something would happen, and then the game followed that to a T. Perfect example: when end-game time came around, I said, "Go ahead, game. Make Calista hum her stupid little tune and then use that to fade into your evocative vocal credits song. GO AHEAD AND DO IT. I fucking dare you." Guess what it did? Now imagine an entire game that's like that. And it's not even like the game offers anything to make up for this. I mean, what's the point of the story? That authority figures suck? Of course they're going to suck when their only previous work experience is as fucking scarecrows! Or is it something about inside/outside? I don't even know.
OK, I think that's enough angry rants toward the story. (Believe me: I could say much more.) How about I talk about something I like, instead? Like the art style! I honestly don't have a lot of complaints here, because the art is fantastic. Hell, I'm not even sure where to begin. How about the ability to turn your entire party into a pastel Power Ranger nightmare? No? Then the soft focus seems a semi-logical place to start, since it lends The Last Story a warm feeling. Combine that with how delicate and intricate the character design in general can be, and it's hard not to love the way this game looks. It's like the graphical design team had a clear idea of what they wanted this game to be like, which is more than I can say for everything preceding this. Granted, the faces can be really strange at times (here's Lowell getting mashed in the dick), but overall, there's more good than bad about the graphics.
I wish I could say that about the gameplay. Instead, it's more a murky mix of good and bad. Looking at it on paper, things start off really good. It's what happens when you combine a cover-based shooter with an RPG. Now I could say "which explains all the blue-grey-brown", but it's hard to be derisive toward something so tactical, because that's where all the fun lies. Sure, you can run up to a lot of enemies and aimless wave your sword to victory, but where's the fun in that? You're supposed to wait back, plan things out, observe enemy positions and whatnot. Sure, that's a lot of work to put into fighting enemies, but it's all worth it when you're slicing enemies in half one by one, or picking off their healers from halfway across the world, or burying them under a collapsed bridge, or any of the various options the game throws your way.
Of course, this is all assuming that you know what to do. Half the time, though, you won't. You're going to spend a lot of time flailing about and looking for exactly what the game wants you to blow up. Your only option in these instances is to find the fun and kill it. Now, to be fair, the game does try to inform you of what you should do. It's just that it always does it when you already know what to do. Yes, I know that I'm supposed to hit that giant spider thing in the ass. You don't have to repeat your hint dialogue every three seconds throughout the fight. Although the fights are kinda-challenging as it is, what with the wonky camera, the sticky controls, and the madly fluctuating party member levels, so I can't fault the game too much for that.
What I can fault it for, though, are the boss battles. All of them (save this one late in the game) are terrible. Remember what I said about the voices being annoying? Simply add to that exactly one strategy for the entire fight, and you have the boss battles of The Last Story. Predictably, it's less engaging than it is something that occupies time. The final boss is probably the worst about this, since he's pretty much all that multiplied by three and divided over what I can only call musical vomit. Fortunately, the game's over once you de-wait, no, there are a few chapters after him, because the game wasn't long enough as it is. It can't even end itself properly. I'd end on that, but I want to end on something positive: this is the last The Last Story game. Hopefully.
- I can't even be clever about it: the story sucks.
- And so does the execution of the battle mechanics, if not the core concept.
- But at least it looks good.
And then Sigurd just let all hell loose when he found out that his entire army let Emperor Palpatine abduct his wife.
(Well, this is certainly strange.) Have I ever ironically hated a game? I mean, I know I've ironically loved some games in the past (Takeshi's Challenge being the most obvious), but what about ironic hate? That seems a new concept. Yea, let's roll with that. Nnngghhh! It pisses me off how great this game is! All those cool power-ups and levels and what-not just get my blood boiling!
It's one of the most sickeningly superb games I've played in a while. I'd explain the concept, first, but what value is there in that? Jelly Boy (or, as he would have been known if this game was released in America, Jam Boi) is pulling some type of bank heist that involves puzzle pieces, for some reason that is quite obviously drugs. Also, fruit's involved, because that's what jelly is made of and this game is more clever than you'd ever give it credit for.
Anyway, those puzzle pieces are what tie the entire game together. You have to search most of them out in each level, and while that sounds like a refreshing pain in the ass, it's actually the "worst" thing that could happen to this game. Those puzzle pieces force you to appreciate the really solid level design going on. You know, jumping around like a madman and reacting to things on the fly and everything else that makes a game challenging and engaging and fun and other boring words. Also, invisible blocks. Don't know what they were thinking there.
Then again, part of why those levels work so well is power-ups. Actually, that's the only reason. I'd repeat the last part and simply list them off, but there's just far too many to make that a viable option. Besides, I only need to mention three words to hook you on Jelly Boy: dick-gut punch. Sure, it's hard to build an entire level around punching something with your dick, something I can't say about the other power-ups, but what more do I need to say? Don't tell me that you've never wanted to kill something with the force of your erection. That includes you, too, ladies.
Fortunately, though, not everything about the game can be good. Most of it is, but there is a small vestige of suck that lies within the Jam Boi. For instance, the level themes. OK, on their own, they're not terribly offensive, but give it time. Soon enough, all those levels are going to look exactly the same. I'm not even kidding. That screenshot above? That's how the entire first world looks. It gets dull fast, and later worlds don't exactly escape this fate. It doesn't help that they lazily recycle enemy designs, thinking I wouldn't notice. Not that I can blame them for thinking that, since I couldn't notice any other flaws in this game. Yea, load times in a cartridge game, but that's mere chump change. As sad as it is, the rest of the game is superb. It's hard to think of a single meaty criticism against this game, although that might be because of that whole jelly thing.
- Combine some technically amazing levels....
- ...with a bevvy of power-ups...
- ...and you have one of the few games I ironically hate. Why couldn't you be worse, Jelly Boy?
- Fun fact: other Giant Bomb blogger Jay444111. has been involved with every game blogged of this week. I probably should have explained that in the beginning instead of at the butt-end. Also, I missed the perfect opportunity to make this about