The Last Story
I was really excited when this game got licensed for North American release. At first, Nintendo of America stated they had “no plans” to release this RPG in the U.S. even after it was a big hit in Japan and Europe. Great idea, guys. Let’s not release a game that was critically acclaimed, a financial success, and created by the same person who created the Final Fantasy series. Sure, Nintendo, you’re right, that shit’s not gonna sell at all.
Anyway, Nintendo of America finally pulled their heads out of their asses and released The Last Story for the Wii in late 2012. Now, I’ve long since given up on the Final Fantasy franchise. It has too rigidly adhered to extremely outdated JRPG tropes. Final Fantasy IX was the last game in the series I enjoyed, and my personal favorite was Final Fantasy VI. Final Fantasy X can still suck it.
The thing I found appealing about The Last Story was that the creator set about making a game that would introduce more Western concepts to the Japanese RPG genre. That included real-time battles, fast-travel, a third-person viewpoint, non-random encounters, and a cover system. If anything, I was intrigued. It sounded like this would be a very unique RPG.
The Last Story succeeds and fails at the same time. As far as updating the tired JRPG genre goes, it was a triumph. The gameplay flows nicely. The story moves along at a brisk pace. Fast-travel makes moving around the world less laborious. The battles are exhilarating. The environments are gorgeous. The graphics are outstanding, and this is without a doubt the prettiest game on the Wii.
The game’s failures come mostly from its story and setting. It features a very “been there, done that” tale of a Chosen One who must rescue a princess and save his kingdom. The setting takes places in a pseudo-medieval world with a touch of advanced technology. So, it looks like just about every Final Fantasy game ever made. While the story moves at a quick pace, and the cutscenes are skippable (thank god), the story lacks cohesive flow. After traveling a bit, fighting some bad guys, and killing a boss, you get a black screen followed by a lazy narration telling you what happened next. After that, the game opens up again on the main characters back in the main city. You are playing through chapters more than you are playing through a fluid story. Yes, I realize the chapters system kind of makes sense since this is The Last STORY, but I didn’t like the vibe of it. It felt disjointed.
The other major irk was that there is no world to explore. There is a single city, and from there you go off on various missions. But there is no world outside the city, and the missions all take place on linear paths. This is one area where old JRPGs got it right: world exploration. It’s a shame the game creators didn’t give The Last Story a full-fledged world to explore. Xenoblade Chronicles had an enormous world to explore, and they nailed it. The world helps sell the game, it helps the player really get immersed. Without it, the game feels lackluster.
Overall, I have to say The Last Story was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the characters, the story was generic but serviceable, and the combat system was a real treat. If they had only spent more time working on world-building and tightening the story, the game could have been legendary. As they didn’t, it drops a level in the ratings. If you have a Wii and are an RPG fan, be sure to pick this one up, you won’t regret it.
Take one part hard-boiled crime novel, one part Rockstar Games, one part L.A. Confidential rip-off, blend well, and get L.A. Noire. This is a very unique game in that it eschews non-stop action for a more cerebral approach. The game features a police detective in 1940s L.A. who is adjusting to his life after returning from World War II. Since this comes from Rockstar, they try their best to make the game feel like an interactive movie.
The game is a blast to play . . . at first. The main character, Detective Cole Phelps, shows up at a crime scene and has to investigate. It’s up to the player to discover clues, interrogate suspects, and eventually make an arrest. Clue finding is tedious at best. At first I was trying to be smart about it, looking around, figuring out where a murder weapon might be stashed, etc. But as the game dragged on, I dropped this tactic. By the end, I just walked around every crime scene, mashing the A button until Cole discovered the next clue.
Interrogations could be fun, but were also quite difficult. You ask questions and listen to the suspects’ response. Based on their tone of voice or movement of eyes, you have to decide if they are telling the truth, lying, or hedging. If you accuse them of lying they will ALWAYS say “Prove it,” and then you have to present a piece of evidence showing them how you know they are lying. If you don’t have the piece of evidence, you will fail, even if you correctly guessed they were lying. The interrogations become woefully repetitive and they have a very basic “rinse and repeat” manner to them. Like everything else in the game, they were cool at first, but eventually became a chore. If they wanted the interrogations to be more realistic, they should have offered a “Beat a Confession Out of the Suspect” option.
L.A. Noire does have some action with the occasional car chase or shootout. But those are few and far between. Rockstar wanted the game to play out more like an old detective movie, and for the most part they were successful. I get the feeling sometimes they just want to make movies. This becomes apparent once you realize that your choices in the game don’t matter at all. You could literally discover no clues, get all the interrogation questions wrong, and the outcome of the case would be exactly the same. It was like Rockstar wanted to make a movie where you’d just pop the disc into your console and watch it. But they didn’t take that route for obvious reasons.
The game’s major success comes in just how beautiful it looks. Rockstar used real actors (including my personal favorite John Noble), and motion-capture technology. They characters all look great, and I was instantly sold on how realistic the game appeared. The acting is good, too, as they got a number of recognizable faces to play the game’s various roles. Unlike Elder Scrolls, there aren’t repeated performances.
The game drags on almost endlessly. Case after case after case. I’d say it lasts about 5 cases too long. By the time I reached the end, I was just playing to finish the game. I no longer cared about the story. And in case you were wondering about a shitty ending, yes, Rockstar strikes again. Just like in Red Dead Redemption, the main character you spent the ENTIRE GAME playing as dies at the very end. The last three cases are spent playing as a new character. Well, that’s just fucking great. Rockstar seems to have a hard-on for killing off the main characters. Unlike Red Dead Redemption, Cole’s death didn’t bother me all that much. He was a self-righteous prick, anyway. But still, it’s kind of a bullshit move, and I could see how it could piss someone off.
I have a better idea for an police-based game. You should be a cop who goes around taking bribes, beating up bad guys, doing drugs, and banging hookers. It would be a playable version of Nicolas Cage’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. Now that would be a game!