|[Xbox360][Review] Last Remnant
||[Apr. 5th, 2009|04:22 pm]
On a mission from Glod
Title: Last Remnant
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: Xbox 360
Date of play: March 2009 ~ May 2009, January 2010
Play time to date: NO IDEA. Probably about 50 hours or so.
Current location: COMPLETE!!! VICTORYYY!!!
This is more of a review than a gameblog, per se, so I'm going to do this a little different than usual. I.e., first I'm going to talk about non-spoilery stuff, and then I'm going to put all the plot-related commentary behind the cut.
Whatever else you say about Last Remnant, it is a beautiful game, especially in HD. The highly detailed 3D scenery, right down to the way water splashes when you run through it or how cave walls glisten slightly with moisture, took my breath away. It is SO PRETTY, especially once you get out of the caves and the desert. I mean, they're very impressive, but a cave by its nature tends to be dark and dank and a desert is barran, so even if they look fantastically realistic after a while you get a bit sick of being in a cave. There are plenty of impossibly beautiful wetlands and coastlands, though. The sunset over the coasts at Fornstrand (Fon Coast in Japanse) particularly stuck in my mind.
The one issue was that I played over half the game using normal AV cables - which, yes, fair enough, it's never going to be as pretty when it's not in HD (and it's still quite impressive, nevertheless) and you'd never recommend playing in normal definition, but in this case I'd actively recommend against it, at least in the Japanese version, because the text was blurry and gave me a headache and made me feel like I was going blind. I don't know if it's the same in the English version - it's probably not as bad because there's no characters as complex as kanji - but in any event, it made reading text a chore I really didn't want to perform, which meant I pretty much skimmed anything that wasn't important (which was basically most things that weren't voice-acted anyway). It's crystal clear in HD, though, which was a massive relief.
Sometimes the battle theme got old, but what battle theme doesn't? By and large, really pretty, especially the ending themesong. I am quite pleased that, having bought a secondhand Last Remnant Xbox 360 pack, I got the soundtrack as well as the game along with it.
Gameplay... is both one of Last Remnant's greatest strengths AND one of its greatest weaknesses.
On the pro side:
* It's incredibly innovative
* It's really fun once you work out what you're doing
* It really gets the scope of coordinating a large number of troops - while it might not be exactly war-scale, at a maximum you control 18 units grouped into up to 5-people squads, which is much more appropriate to the political backdrop than a traditional RPG party would have been.
On the con side:
* LOADING TIMES.
* Steep, STEEP learning curve; it's too complex and there's a whole bunch of stuff that's never properly explained.
* Battle length. Other people complain about how the game practically plays itself, but that's not so much the issue for me-- it's interesting choosing the commands and hitting the reaction timing buttons-- as it is that when you're not in the mood for fighting, it feels like it takes FOREVER. Or worse, when you're stuck on a boss that you keep dying on and there are successive battles with no opportunity to save in-between, it's INCREDIBLY frustrating to have to go through that half hour first battle to get slaughtered on the second one every time when you just want to try out a new strategy or combination of characters. NOT THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED TO ME OR ANYTHING. orz
So okay, more specifically, for me it was a constant tug-of-war between the innovativeness of the battle system and the over-complexity. I had to look up the guidebook to figure out how to revive people! (Which, coincidentally, was why I was having HELL on a particular boss. BECAUSE I COULDN'T REVIVE FALLEN TROOPS.) There were so many stats and choices and classes and things that most of it I had no idea what was going on. In a basic sense I worked out that if I used the artes I wanted to use, they'd level up and I'd get more similar artes-- particularly relevant where using healing and item artes-- and that if I kept using characters, their stats would go up. Looking at the guidebook gave me a better idea of how to make stats go up. Looking up the internet and the guidebook let me know that Battle Rank isn't directly correlated to strength, but is a good indication. But all the stuff about class changes? Answering questions about what fighters should focus on? Obtaining weapon artes, levelling up equipment? That all went WHOOSH over my head. It was so complicated that you'd need to devote yourself to figuring out what the whole damn thing means. You'd practically need a PhD in it. And that was MADDENING.
But once I managed to let go of my OCD and decided I didn't have to know everything that was going on, that I could deal with not completely mastering the game or getting Emma's weapon arte, then I realised it didn't actually matter. It's obviously convoluted, but it's actually not that hard to smash your way through the game ignoring the class system and just using the characters and artes and weapons you WANT to use. So while it's definitely a point against Last Remnant's favour, it's not a fatal blow and I actually did really enjoy the battle system when it wasn't frustrating the crap out of me. (Which was caused by a combination of having a bad setup of unions and being underlevelled for the bosses I was trying to beat, anyway.)
One other thing - this was more an issue for me than it would be to less obsessive people, but it drove me ever-so-slightly crazy that there was no way to hire all the unique leaders, let alone use all of them. In fact you couldn't even use all the compulsory union leaders. In the end I just gave up and used all compulsory characters, because I had the strongest connection to them. Blocter was the one most frequently left out towards the end - not that I didn't like him as a character or that he wasn't useful with high attack, HP, defence and healing item skills, but I was more attached to the other characters and he was the only one who hadn't obtained some kind of limit-break attack, so.
(Oh, also, it could've used a new game+ mode, too. Apparently the PC remake has one, but not so for the Xbox360.)
You know, for a guide book that is ONE THOUSAND PAGES LONG - I shit you not - it had a tendency to be obnoxiously unhelpful. Square for some reason tends to be obsessive about avoiding spoilers over certain things. Things like, oh, I don't know, HOW TO BEAT THE LAST BOSS. Not that I needed it, but still, when you buy a guidebook it's pretty much implicit you WANT to be spoiled for how to beat the last damn boss. And if you don't, you won't look at that page, because you are not a MORON.
Aside from that, there were a bunch of other things that annoyed me about it. There was a bunch of things it didn't really explain - like how come Emma didn't have a weapon arte when she had the weapon? - that I had to look up the internet for, and it didn't have a proper sensible index, and it didn't have any extras. No character art, no extra information about the characters or world - in fact it doesn't even really explain who the non-compulsory unique leaders are, just gives their stats and how you get them, and given how many there are it's easy to forget this stuff or miss those quests or whatever. Che'. That's one thing I really like about the Famitsuu Tales guides, they give you a lot of extra information and they have a good index. Although, in the Last Remnant guide's favour, I did like how the sidequests were cross-referenced by time AND location. That's always troubled me about the Tales guides.
Anyway, yeah, the guide did come in helpful at times, it's shiny and I'm glad I have it, but it has some serious flaws. ><
Plot and characters, generally speaking
Okay, first off: this game has really strong, likeable characters. Even the non-compulsory unique leaders generally get interesting sidequests that make you actually care about them and their lives, and it's only intensified when it comes to the main characters. I really fell in love with them - not just the main trio of Rush, David and Irina, but all the Athlum Generals as well.
And I mean, it doesn't hurt that David and Rush spend a lot of time staring meaningfully into each other's eyes and having Moments together, but I swear that's not the only reason! XD
More seriously re: the plot... the world-building was amazing, all the politics and technology and the role played by remnants swirling around the mystery of the Sykes siblings. It had a really strong ending, too. But the pacing was really off. The game felt too short for the story it was telling. There was too much that wasn't properly explained, and that's probably the other major flaw of this game, with the overly complex system. I think it could have been an utterly amazing game if they'd done those things properly. But... even so, it was really solid. It had the most important elements - the compelling characters, the intriguing world, a narrative that really pulls you into the story and a powerful ending. The execution could have been better, but in the end I was still really drawn into it and when you get down to it that's what matters when you play an RPG.
( Whole game spoilers under the cutCollapse )
Conclusion: It was a good game and I enjoyed it. The problems with over-complex gameplay and the lazy story telling in parts stop it from being truly brilliant, but the plot was interesting, the world was beautiful and complex and the world and characters are going to stick with me. For me, at least, it was definitely worth it. (And not just because it's really, really gay! No, honestly. Although I won't lie: it did help.)