My Favorite Japanese Role Playing Game

I’m back this week with the good folks of  The Duck of Indeed, Planet Zombo, and My Two Caps answering the tough questions!  This time round the question posed was “what is your favorite JRPG?”  Hmmm…okay.  But before I get into my choice, let’s take a look at what my compatriots chose. Hatm0nster of My Two Caps chose Chrono Trigger.  Sadly, I don’t know much about this influential SNES JRPG; but he offers up a great look at it and offers solid opinions behind his choice.  (Is this game in the Wii Shop?  I should *really* play  it someday.) The Duck chose my favorite Final Fantasy title, Final Fantasy VII. Some call it overwrought, others call it brilliant. (I call it “undone” since I’ve yet to finish it.  But I swear it’s now sitting on the shelf next to Red Dead Redemption and Xenoblade so it’s at least on my mind.) FFVII is a wonderful game and The Duck explains exactly why. Be sure to check out their posts!

In answering this question, I started out by listing the few (relative to many gamers)  JRPGs that I have played.  Got a few Final Fantasy Games, a couple Kingdom Hearts games, The World Ends with You, The Last Story…and that was it.  I even threw in Xenoblade Chronicles, which I’m currently playing (or rather, trying to play in between bouts of Red Dead). And as I looked looked over my list, the one game that jumped to the top was the one game I still can’t forget: The Last Story.

The Last Story cover art © XSEED, Nintendo (source)
The Last Story cover art © XSEED, Nintendo (source)

If you read my previous write-up on The Last Story (ahem…go read it NOW…ahem) in which I gushed all over the place, this might not come as a surprise.  In this post, however, I promise to be more level-headed and… *burst of laughter* HA! LOL! Whew…sorry, sorry, I just couldn’t say that with a straight face.  I’m not level-headed at all when it comes to most games, especially not a game like The Last Story which was as addictive as it was beautiful.  But it took more than a few nice adjectives to make The Last Story my top JRPG. I’ll explain why by examining it in comparison to the two other games that rounded out my top three: Kingdom Hearts and The World Ends with You.  (Nevermind that some may argue that neither KH nor TWEWY are “true” JRPGs.) And quickly — why no Final Fantasy games? Well, besides never finishing VII, I have III, IV, and X under my belt, and they didn’t make the top because of their convoluted stories. I had the worst time trying to follow the stories in each. So as pretty and as playable as those FF games are, the overall experiences weren’t as well-rounded as with my top three.

Yes, you're all good people. Confusing as hell, but good people. (source)
Yes, you’re all good people (mostly…Wakka…). Confusing as hell, but good people. (source)

I compared all the games on my list using several different categories, but because I can only type so much before even I get bored with what I’m saying, I’ll only go over three line items here: story, gameplay, and graphics. First off, story. Between The Last Story, Kingdom Hearts, and The Worlds End with You, you couldn’t ask for three more diverse story lines.  Number three here was The World Ends with You.  In it you played as a boy name Neku who had died but was living in a limbo of sorts. He had to participate in a series of “Games” with a variety of cohorts. There are pins and memes to find, and fashion plays a large role.  And…yeah…the story was as twisted and baffling as some graffiti lettering, and there were certainly key plot points that I missed. So TWEWY stood a very distant third because both Kingdom Hearts and The Last Story had really great, fluid stories.  Kingdom Hearts was about friendship and betrayal, AND it was bolstered by Disney characters, which was a huge plus in my book. The Last Story was about love, dreams, and friendship. The core group of characters, headed by Zael and Calista, were all so likeable!  The fact that The Last Story focused not only on Zael’s story but also his connection to his group was really fantastic, and it pulled me into the game much more than I expected.  So as much as I love me some Disney nostalgia, The Last Story had the better overall story.

Aww, I miss you crazy kids! (source)
Aww, I miss you crazy kids! (source)

Second, gameplay.  The Last Story won by a landslide here, even though it took me several levels to get used to the controls. But then again, neither Kingdom Hearts nor The World Ends with You were all that easy for me to learn, especially The World Ends with You.  Its combat system was something reminiscence of Mortal Kombat’s button tap-tap-tapping.  Add in pins and “light pucks,” and it was complex to say the least.  Fun once you got the hang of things, but complicated.  Kingdom Hearts was a hack-and-slash, action-y game, so its controls were pretty standard.  Though I didn’t like The Last Story’s controls at first (and I don’t like the Wiimote in general), they grew on me.  Part hack-and-slash, part third-person shooter, part RTS, the combination of Zael’s abilities was impressive and unique among games I’ve played. (And as I’m playing Xenoblade, I find that I keep wanting to use the controls from The Last Story. In fact, I had to buy a Classic Controller for it so I’d stop mimicking The Last Story’s button scheme.) So gameplay went to The Last Story.

Zael's "Gathering" poswer in action...because he's...gathering...power...and all. (source)
Zael’s “Gathering” power in action…because he’s…gathering…power…and all. (source)

Third and last, graphics.  Since it wasn’t fair to compare the game to each other, I looked at them in regards to their various systems (KH – PS2; TWEWY – NDS; The Last Story – Wii).  In this case, TWENY and The Last Story edged out Kingdom Hearts.  It looked fine on the PS2 — bright, pretty, smooth — but wasn’t outstanding.  TWENY’s comic-book/graffiti-like graphics were probably my most favorite thing about the game.  It was defined by sharp, dark outlines, classic anime-style characters, and scenery that range from cartoon-y realism to outlandish.  TWENY looked awesome and larger than life on the DS.  As for The Last Story, well, when I first loaded up the game, the first thought that crossed my mind was “is this a PS2 game??” The game started right with a battle, no cut scene or introduction. And things looked…rough.  You were underground, in a gray a cavern, with enemies that were hard to distinguish from the background.  I got used to the game’s look after awhile, but only slowly and over time was the game’s beauty revealed.  Still, everything had a very typical fantasy-world look.  That’s not to say it wasn’t pretty.  I mean, the game looked really okay for a Wii game. But The World Ends with You and its crazy-colorful-urban-youthful graphics edged out The Last Story.

Slammin'! (or whatever the kids are saying these days) (source)
That’s some pretty sweet graf, yo. (source)

So despite it losing a point or two for graphics, The Last Story reigns supreme as my current favorite JRPG.  It still resonates with me. I still find myself thinking about the game months after completing it. I rented it initially, though I really want to buy a physical copy to keep in my small collection — and I don’t keep games, especially for the Wii. So yeah, The Last Story wins in my book, for the moment anyway.  Xenoblade could give it a run for its money, but it’s going to be a loooong time before I complete it.  When the time comes, whether two months or two years from now, I’ll revisit this post and see who the winner is then.

The Last Story killer?  In time, my friends...in time. (source)
Will the Monado end The Last Story’s reign? Just wait, my friends…that story is coming. (source)

6 thoughts on “My Favorite Japanese Role Playing Game”

  1. Still must get that game. I keep getting distracted by other things, though. Darn new PS3, giving me all these new options of games to choose from. I’m slowly working my way towards it, though. Slowly.

    This is somewhat on topic, mostly off, but I’m currently replaying “FFX”. This time, whenever I finished playing, I’d summarize what happened so far, so I finally understand the story pretty well. I’m probably a couple days from being done. But, I still really can’t figure out what the heck Yu Yevon is. It sounds like a diabolical name for a pet, though. Come on, Yu Yevon! Come get a snack! Come on!

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    1. Believe me, I know a thing or two about backlogs! If you do ever get a chance to play The Last Story, it’d be great to hear your opinion. I feel like a crazy fan when I talk about it, but I just can’t help it! Anyhoo, Yu Yevon… (no spoilers)…yup I remember, him…her…it? A buggy-shaped thing. FFX was full of strange things I didn’t understand. I probably just needed to pay attention better. But I think I might have been a kitten in a former life because I just get so distrac…hey! Check out that colored light! And what the heck was that noise just now? Hmmm, doesn’t matter now cause I’m hungry.

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  2. Great post and I’m happy people enjoyed The Last Story. I immediately got the vibe of the old Final Fantasy games when Sakaguchi was still involved. The story and the characters were classic Sakaguchi and as you pointed out they were interesting and endearing. The gameplay was different, but once you got into it, it was very addictive. Hope you like Xenoblade!

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    1. Thanks! I’m having a blast with Xenoblade…when I get to play it, that is. I picked a bad time putting it up against Red Dead Redemption. Plus, it’s a rented copy and I’ve been scouring the internet looking for a copy to buy at a reasonable price (which is proving damn near impossible!).

      In the meantime, there aren’t enough good things to say about The Last Story. I’m sure it doesn’t please all the JRPG enthusiasts, but to anyone out there who is thinking of playing it — just do it. Its strength far outweigh its weaknesses.

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