I’m not sure what’s going on, but I recently realized that I’m becoming something of a sap. Maybe it’s stress, maybe it’s the melancholy of winter, maybe it’s the onset of old age, I really don’t know. But lately a syrupy sadness has shrouded my brain. I’m not saying that I’m now one to suddenly start crying at the drop of a hat — though you had no reason to drop that hat, it was just minding its own business and then boom! Floor. That’s just cruel. But random, little things, from TV commercials to pictures on Facebook, have made me a little misty-eyed of late. And now, the waterworks have trailed into video games…for the first time, possibly ever. And the game that brought them on was The Last Story (2012).
***Spoiler-y stuff ahead!*** If you have a Wii and like action/adventure JRPG games, go play this game. Or at least put it on your to-play list. You won’t be disappointed.
I first heard about The Last Story on The RPG Square. The review there made this game seem so very intriguing, and I’m not the world’s biggest JRPG fan having really only played Final Fantasy games. But I enjoyed those games immensely, and our poor Wii had been so very neglected, so The Last Story sounded like just the thing. It took me several months to finally get round to the game, but it was totally worth the wait.
The Last Story, set on the fictional Lazulis Island, told the tale of a mercenary named Zael, his relationship with his friends (also mercenaries, all of whom are quite pretty and clean-cut for a scrappy band of rogues), and his quest to become a knight. Oh, and love. The Last Story was a love story, love between people, love for the environment, love of family, love of a righteous cause, love for the world you lived in.
Over the game’s first few chapters, we learned of the friendship between the elder Dagran and the younger Zael. We learned of how Dagran took Zael under his wing, and trained him the ways of a mercenary-for-hire. We also met the others in the group: the feisty Syrenne, the mysterious Yurick, the flirtatious Lowell, the graceful Mirania. Though they all seemed to simply fit into stereotypes at first, as the game progressed, their stories and deeper personalities were revealed in very interesting ways. While you played as Zael throughout much of the game, your group members varied. Between character-specific missions and scattered conversations, you almost always learned something new about the people you were with during each chapter.
After completing a few initial battles and tasks, a girl named Lisa was introduced, for whom Zael quickly fell head over heels. But Lisa was not just a common girl. She was, in fact, Callista, the sheltered heir to the house of Arganan (the ruling house on the island), and she was slated to marry the questionable noble Jirall. From there the story took off and I was thrust into Zael’s world, a world full of humor, joy, war, politics, betrayal, and sacrifice. Zael’s story was a very poignant one, and I was surprised by how engrossed I became in it.
Honestly though, at first, I really wasn’t sure I’d like the game. I know the Wii is not a powerhouse of a machine, but the dated-looking graphics were initially a bit off-putting. It also took me several chapters to get used to the “old-fashioned” menu system and the controls, which involved both the Wiimote and nunchuck. There was no flinging the Wiimote round to move; instead the nunchuck’s joystick and the Wiimote’s directional pad moved your player. In battle, you only had to push the joystick forward to engage an enemy — that took a lot of getting used to on my part, maybe because it was too simple. I also had trouble remembering which buttons did what. Tutorials popped up each time Zael obtained a new skill, but even they weren’t all that helpful.
From YouTube user NintenDaanNC.
Beyond the controls, there was also no delineation between main quests and side quests, or any listing of the quests/chapters at all, which would have been nice. I know I missed a bunch of sidequests only because I didn’t remember they were even there. And once the game moved onto the next chapter, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back to the missed sidequests, so I forgot about them even more. The Last Story was a very non-linear, linear game. There were points where you could make “choices,” but I don’t think any of them mattered in the end. And there was a tiger in the game. A ghostly tiger that you fought at one point, and then he became your…guardian? I don’t know — I just found him confusing.
None of these issues, however, tarnished the overall gameplay. I became predictably addicted to customizing the characters — changing their armors and weapons. While tons of interesting weapons presented themselves throughout the game (and most could be upgraded further), there were only a few armor sets, each with different properties (and upgrades, certainly). But that didn’t stop me from constantly playing Barbie. The game also had a robust dye system with a large initial color palette and additional colors that could be made from special items once found. So yes, I spent many a wasted hour wondering just which shade of orange perfectly completely Lowell’s beautiful eyes or which armor best complimented Mirania’s form. (I might need to seek help for this…someday.)
But when it was all said and done, I was drawn headlong into The Last Story’s story, even it’s hackneyed parts. The voice acting was pretty good and very British. (And Lowell, with his smooth Scottish lilt…damn sexy he was! I mean, for a…game…a virtual entity, that is.) There were plenty of odd lines that made me chuckle and some, um, unusual “adult” moments, like thinly-veiled references to sex and the fact that Syrenne might have had a drinking problem. But all the story’s elements meshed well together and formed three plot lines: the relationship between Zael and Callista, the relationship between Zael and Dagran, and Zael’s efforts to save his world (which is a whole other story! You’ll just have to play to find out.) And while there was little doubt in my mind that Zael would get the girl, Dagran’s story left me guessing until the end. His rise was obvious, but his downfall was not. And after the game’s final battle, when Dagran’s tale took a distressing turn, I felt it, and I felt for him, and Zael. I didn’t expect it, and it was heart-wrenching and wonderful.
So yeah, I cried a little a the end. And it was totally worth it. I challenge anyone to play The Last Story and not shed a single tear at the end. If you don’t, you might be a rock, or dead inside. Or both. A dead rock. Though somehow I think even a dead rock could enjoy this game.