On Lazulis Island, a nation isolated from the rest of the suffering empire, a diverse band of mercenaries delve into ruins and kill monsters to earn a living. When war finally envelopes the island, the mismatched band get caught up in the action. The premise may be standard fare for a JRPG, but The Last Story still manages to entertain. Its title is also rather apt, as it will most likely be the last 'big' title released on the Wii before the launch of the Wii U later this year.
You play as Zael, who is of course the most soft-spoken, angsty and romantic one of the group. He is also lucky enough to be given an ancient power that allows him to pull off some special moves (or 'cut sick') on the battlefield. The rest of the characters are about what you'd expect: the stoic, handsome leader, the shy magic-user with an eye patch, the cute bookworm with healing powers and the blonde guy who flirts with all the girls. There is one refreshing character in the perpetually-drunk Syrenne, who manages to be more sleazy than the designated sleaze of the group. She's a nice break from the doe-eyed anime girls that are the norm in this type of game.
The banter between characters is actually one of the games highlights. In the downtime between combat or story moments you can relax at the local inn, having fully-voiced acted and surprisingly funny conversations with your party. As an added bonus, most of the voice actors do a decent job with the occasionally clumsy script. On the flipside, The Last Story's soundtrack is forgettable, although my expectations may have been unfairly raised after the incredible Xenoblade, which has one of the best video game soundtracks in recent years.
Graphically it's quite impressive as far as Wii games go, which unfortunately means you have to put up with FPS drops when there's a lot of enemies on the screen. Frankly, the fact that you're interested in this game probably means you know enough about the Wii to expect this sort of limitation. Textures are very low-res across the board, but the art style and facial animations more than make up for it.
Gameplay is incredibly linear and straightforward. For the first hour or two I kept thinking: “Ok, I'm through the intro, now it'll let me see the world map and I can go wherever I want”. This moment never comes. You simply go from setpiece to setpiece. Cave – City – Inn – Palace – Cliffs – Ship etc. It's not a huge problem, but it's certainly jarring if you're not expecting it.
At first the combat seems rather overwhelming, it's all in real time until after an hour or so of gameplay where you'll unlock the command mode ability. This allows you to pause the fight and instruct your party to use specific abilities. It's a fun system, if a little easy, and it steadily gains depth as you progress. There's also a cover system of sorts, which is really bizarre for an RPG. It's not too integral to the combat however, so if you don't like the sound of it, don't worry, its not much of a hindrance. Tutorials pop up whenever a new mechanic is introduced and while there are a lot of them, they never feel intrusive or treat you like a blind monkey.
The Last Story is a worthwhile experience and a fitting way to send off your poor, dusty and neglected Wii. If you feel like having one last fun, simple yet satisfying adventure before you pack it up/sell it for scrap, then you should definitely pull the trigger on this one. On the other hand if you feel like you've been playing in HD for too long to go back to the dated graphics of the Wii, then don't feel like you're massing out on a classic here.
In closing: buy Xenoblade, buy it now.
3.5 out of 5.