The Last Story: First Impressions

I haven’t been updating in some time. But things are about to improve. And there is a lot to talk about. One of them being The Last Story.

If you have been living behind the moon, The Last Story is an amazing Japanese action-RPG that was just recently released in Europe for the Nintendo Wii. It is one of the games that many fans demanded to be released in the west during Operation Rainfall. The reason being perhaps because the producer of The Last Story is none other than Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of the Final Fantasy series. He is not the only Final Fantasy superstar working on this title. The music was also made by none other than Nobuo Uematsu, the composer behind most of the iconic Final Fantasy tunes. Since Sakaguchi left Square Enix, the Final Fantasy series went downhill very fast. Here is a great Eurogamer article explaining the fascinating history of Sakaguchi’s departure. So for many, The Last Story is the hope for a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy, a reboot under a different flag. Does it fulfill this promise?

It’s hard to tell. The Last Story REALLY changes up the traditional JRPG formula a lot. There are some amazing inspirations from western games. This makes the game very innovative. But it’s just a very different game from a Final Fantasy. Here are some first impressions:

  • Gears of War with Swords – The game features a cover mechanic very reminiscent of Gears of War. The crazy thing is that your characters fight primarily with swords so hiding behind cover doesn’t seem to make much sense at first. Yet, the cover mechanic doesn’t feel out of place. There are some nice sneaking sequences that make the mechanic feel more natural than in many shooters. And that’s just one of lots of new battle mechanics. You can freeze time to give commands to your team from an top-down perspective. When you sync your attacks with another teammate, you do some extra damage. There is a special power that draws the attention of enemies to you but slowly charges a special attack. Not everything is a success but it’s a massive influx of innovation. Innovation that JRPGs need urgently.

  • JFPS – The game has some FPS elements. Your character can use a crossbow at any point. There are moments where you can get some cool strategic advantage using it. More importantly, the FPS mode is well-integrated into the story. Every now and then, a sound cue tells you when you can “discover” things using the FPS mode. You need to find some detail in the environment by looking at it – reminiscent of scanning in Metroid Prime. A compass helps you in case you have no idea where to look. It’s not a huge challenge. But it’s used frequently and helps rooting the FPS functions more deeply into the rest of the game.

  • Assassin’s Creed Gaiden – There are some subtle clues from the Assassin’s Creed series. Early on, you find yourself in a city with a distinct Italian flair. You bump into other people pretty much likein Assassin’s Creed. And by the end, there is a sequence where you are being chased by guards. Generally, parts like this feel free-roam-ish. But make no mistake – the game is a very linear series of levels, quite unlike Final Fantasy. So far, I haven’t seen a map of the world or anything.

  • Costume Quest – The game does look great. The character models even hold up to Xbox 360 and PS3 titles in some regard. But the thing that I was impressed by the most were the costumes. They are beautifully designed. They are simpler than the fashion overkill you see in the modern Final Fantasy nowadays. But they are still unique and have some stylish details. And then each character can wear equipment that actually integrates into their outfit. And then you can even change the color of each individual piece of clothing. That kind of attention to detail just blows my mind.

  • Very British – All voice work is done by British actors, just like in Xenoblade Chronicles. Apart from a weird line every now and then, it works very well. I love how fresh and unique the game feels just due to the voice work. The different characters even have different accents. Marvelous!

In total, I’m quite surprised with the way the The Last Story turned out. It took me by surprise and it’s certainly a game I’d love to finish. I can recommend it to anybody, who likes JRPGs, but always wished for them to be less formulaic. The Operation Rainfall games just keep giving. I can’t wait for Pandora’s Tower.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

2 responses to “The Last Story: First Impressions”

  1. sirleto

    thanks for posting this micro-review.

    i had it sitting on my amazon wishlist for months, i guess now is the time to finally order it – even though i expect to find zero time to play it. stupid backlog is not shrinking even a tiny bit.

  2. Santino

    I have to admit that when i found out this game was made by the creator of the final fantasy series, my mind immediatly went back to the good old days of skipping school to play ff VIII. Needless to say i pre-ordered the last story the second it was possible to do so. Im exceedingly happy to announce that nostalgia aside, this game is spectaculer. From the innovative and just down rite fun battle system to the engaging story this game majesticaly weaves, its hands down my favorite wii title. The only flaw ive managed to find is that the game ends to quick. It would take the average rpg veteran 20-25 hours to complete. While that may sound like a decent enough length for a game, it definatly falls short for a jrpg type game. That being said, i whole heartidly recommend this game.


The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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