To know me is to know that I love my yearly series, and here’s a new a one! This year I’m taking on the 30-Day Video Game Challenge (30VGC). Though, actually, it’s going to be more like the 26-Week Video Game Challenge, since I’ll only be covering two or three topics from the challenge each month. You can check out my intended schedule in this post. With that, it’s game on!
My pick for an underrated game is The Last Story.
So, the thing about me and The Last Story is that I probably never would have sought it out had it not been recommended by another blogger. At the time — this was late 2012 — I was looking for a short RPG/JRPG. Just a quick and easy fling; one that wouldn’t completely upend the overextended relationship that I had developed with Skyrim that year. Much to my surprise, The Last Story was just the ticket. It’s a mostly standard RPG, as far as RPGs go, with a combat system that requires a learning curve, an intense story that’s both confounding and sappy, and a memorable cast of characters (with, in the case of the U. S. version, very good and happily British localization). Oh and lots of dyes. SO MANY DYES I COULD HAVE DIED! And I did, several times over.
The game also did well enough critically, but it wasn’t a monster success. And unfortunately, it’s one of those games that one could really nip at from all angles, because the game just has a general set of…issues. The graphics are good but not great. The combat can be confusing, but you can inelegantly mash your way through things. Though the story unfolds nicely throughout the game, it does vacillate between trite and “what the hell is going on again?” The menu system is pretty old-school, but it offers quite a lot of value if you’re up for some micromanagement. In the end, one’s personal qualms with a game like the The Last Story has everything to with one wants and expects from a game like The Last Story. If that makes any sense.
In other words, it’s a easy game to knock.
All of this leads me to calling The Last Story underrated. But wait, there’s more…
The Last Story’s biggest problems — two of them — had nothing to do with the actual game:
(1) It was released at a bad time in the U. S.
(2) It was made only for the Wii.
Okay, so maybe it’s really just one big problem, because the two points go hand in hand. In the states, The Last Story was released in early 2012. Pulling up sales stats (which are probably accurate, but y’know…because “the Internet”) the Wii console had been steadily declining since 2009. (Going by my own social circle, the Wii because a dust collector around 2010/11.) The Wii limped along for a few more years, but it hardly mattered because in the Fall of 2012, the Wii U debuted. If, by some means, The Last Story had been redeveloped for the Wii U, I think I’d be writing a much different post. Honestly, the Wii just wasn’t the right console for it. It wasn’t capable of handling the graphics, and having to use the Wiimote and nunchuck was mostly just annoying. Yes, you could hook up a controller like I did, which made the gameplay so much better (but not perfect). And yes, you kinda got use to the game’s middling visuals, but it was okay because at least all the characters had distinguishable faces. But in the end, we ended up with a game that remains little more than “oh yeah, that’s that Wii JRPG, right?” and that sells it short.
Oh shit, I didn’t even mention the brilliant soundtrack composed by Nobuo Uematsu! Folks, it’s really, really, REALLY, good.
The Last Story has a lot going for it. It’s a contained and interesting game that doesn’t require a ton of investment on the part of the player. It’s story has a pretty good twist, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in the lives of its characters — I, myself, even got a little weepy at times. I’d say that it’d be nice to see it get the credit it deserves, because it’s no slouch of a game, but I doubt it’s something we’d ever see remade or remastered. But perhaps time and Nintendo will prove me wrong.