Genre: Role Playing Developer: Square Enix Co., Ltd. Publisher: Square Enix Classification: MA15+ Release Date: 20th Nov 2008 Platforms:XBOX360
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The Good bits
Cool battle ideas and strategy.
The music is subtle and effective.
Decent dungeon size.
The Bad stuff
Cool battle ideas paralysed by graphical problems.
Lazy, shallow world map and town exploration system.
Going to the pub to advance the story is lame.
By-the-books RPG which cuts too many corners.
I booted up The Last Remnant with an open mind and precisely zero prior knowledge. I knew it was coming out, but unlike most RPG releases, I wasnít following this one from its inception. With the current RPG market in a bit of a lull, I viewed The Last Remnant as a
land of opportunity, where I was a tired, malnourished refugee looking for a saviour. The Last Remnant not only rejected my plea to be saved, but I was back out on the streets with a bad aftertaste.
The catalyst for my demise was Rush Sykes, some impudent punk whose sister is snatched away in the beginning of the adventure. While pursuing her captors, he runs across an army led by Lord David (apparently less generic when pronounced DA-VEED) and promptly joins their squad. They head back to the main city of Athlum, and the army general gives Rush some very sophisticated advice Ė head to the local pub and look for leads there.
What? The pub? This isnít an episode of The Bill, this is supposed to be an epic tale of family and betrayal spanning a massive world. I would forgive the lazy plot direction if the entire game wasnít based around going to the pub to check for new quests.
The underlying problem to all this is the broad vision of the gameplay. Instead of travelling around the world on your adventure, you merely select the location you want to travel to on a world map menu screen. This has been done before, but never to the extreme found within The Last Remnant. After you choose your city, you are then transported to the city map screen, where you select which part of the city you want to visit. This is supposed to be a bustling pseudo-medieval metropolis, I want to explore! From a strictly objective standpoint, The Last Remnant is nothing more than a menu-based battle system.
Thankfully, the battles are somewhat refreshing when you come to terms with the complex customisation engine. Your main character will always be Rush, but you can actually recruit many other members from army officers and guilds. The characters are called units, and are grouped into unions. Rather than controlling each unit with specific actions, you merely issue orders to unions as a whole, and they will act automatically based on your direction.
Picture a party with 12 members, grouped into three unions of four units each. Challenge John Q Monster to fisticuffs, and the combat begins. A radar shows the locations of each union on the field in relation to the enemies, and orders can be given based on position and union status. For example, a fresh union on the first turn will have a few basic commands, such as attack with normal weapons, mystic arts or combat arts. The union then rushes forward to attack an enemy union, and they will become deadlocked. From here, the battle commands might change for the other unions, where you can choose to back the other team up with a flank attack, support the heavy hitters with healing arts, or go it alone against other enemies. Itís a very dynamic system which results in plenty of original, intense battles.
The biggest flaw to bring down the enjoyable battle system is the graphical quality Ė or lack thereof. In the very first shot of the very first battle, the frame rate dropped and those stylish moves chugged along at a snailís pace. These problems will present themselves in every single battle, and the fast-paced combat is hamstrung time after time by nagging technical issues. The actual in-game graphics arenít bad, but considering youíll only ever see a fraction of the towns in the flesh (on account of the menu-based exploration system), experiencing a consistently gorgeous RPG is quite impossible.
Beyond the towns, there are actual ďdungeonsĒ to explore, with dungeons referring to areas where you encounter enemies. These are actually quite large, but itís a pity they are merely used to shuttle Rush from one enemy to the next. An ability called Timeshift is used to slow down time and engage multiple enemies at once, which is pretty cool. Itís a strategic decision on the playerís part to make Ė more enemies equals greater reward, but much higher challenge. A handy robot friend called Mr. Diggs accompanies your party in the field, who finds rare items and components for customising weapons and accessories. Thereís nothing much wrong with the dungeon-crawling aspect, but youíll always be disappointed when these are the most interactive areas of the entire game.
The Last Remnant is an RPG for the Ritalin Generation, where nobody has any patience for the subtlety and quiet dignity of classic RPG gameplay. Aside from the main quest, you will be undertaking many sidequests (found in pubs, of course) and guild tasks. The battle system is quite fun, but the annoying menus and constant graphical
problems force the story along at an awkward pace, and itís not nearly as engaging as it could have been with a little more love from the developers. Thatís right, love. Teddy bears and flowers to the max.
Role-playing games of yesteryear are clear labours of love, and it seems no one ever had, or ever will have, a passion and dedication to unleashing what The Last Remnant could offer. Since weíre stuck with an unrefined and choppy experience, itís better to dust off some classics and remind yourself what makes this genre so special. After that, give Square Enix a call and let them know.