By Nintendo Released: 24 Feb 12
The Last Story doesn't quite match up to last year's exceptional Xenoblade Chronicles, but few games could. That it comes close is a laudable achievement. After an action-packed opening, the pace slows, allowing the player time to get to know protagonist Zael and the group of mercenaries he journeys with. Though events inevitably escalate, these are telling moments in an adventure that feels more intimate than many of its peers.
Then the ante is upped as the game progresses in short episodes that maintain a strong sense of forward momentum. Across the first half-dozen of these, the game's battle systems are sensibly drip-fed. At first it's all fairly simple real-time action: push the analogue stick in any direction when you're close to an enemy and Zael will swing his sword accordingly..
Meanwhile, Zael's Gathering power allows him to revive downed allies, at the cost of attracting enemy attention. It's a risky strategy in one sense, but by drawing attackers away from your magic user, you can give them the space to cast a magic circle, which you can stand inside to heal or imbue your attacks with elemental buffs.
Every battle feels like a set-piece of sorts. Naturally, some are bigger and more dramatic than others, but it offers a variety of skirmishes: one minute you'll be fighting a large number of small enemies in an open-plan environment, the next you'll battle a large boss in the confines of a small room. Sometimes you'll need to use stealth to stop low-level characters alerting others; then you'll have a one-on-one swordfight.
The drama provided by Nobuo Uematsu's excellent score makes for some pulsating encounters, and the ability to summon more enemies to fight at special portals offers the opportunity to get some practice and experience without the need to find suitable areas for grinding.
Story-wise there's the orphaned hero, the ragtag band of mercenaries with hearts of gold, the mysterious girl with a secret identity and even more secret powers - and a bad guy who's been taking fashion and grooming tips from Ganondorf. For a game that's so fiercely inventive elsewhere to fall back on such a rote RPG setup is disappointing.
The Last Story often feels like a game in a bit of a hurry, and such briskness extends to its runtime, which for most players will be around the 20-hour mark. Sadly, that pace doesn't carry over to the sometimes sluggish framerate.. Otherwise, it's technically solid, if a little too fond of bloom lighting and the colour brown, and can't compare with the scale and vibrancy of Xenoblade's world of wonder.
Full of gags, bawdy humour and pratfalls (what other game gives you the chance to shoot bananas at the feet of citizens for comic relief?) it's got charm to spare. The Last Story's title is more likely to be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it represents compelling proof that there's still life in the old JRPG yet.
Virgin Media verdict:
In this version of the classic game you must connect identical tile...Download
Battle Fire, Water, Air and Earth!Download
Search the Mediterranean for Atlantis!Download
Hordes of horrible creatures descend upon your fantasy land. Magic ...Download
Turn words into sweet-sweet honey!Download
Time to dress up your date!Download
Play snooker and improve your game!Download
Help Flubbles catch the apples!Download
These adorable little fur balls are trapped! Use your aim and skill...Download
Hidden Objects in the Ocean.Download