Since it was released in 2006, the Wii has had a less than stellar showing of role-playing games throughout its lifecycle. Competing in the modern day RPG market on a console with technical limitations is a tricky proposition for most developers. Attempting to create a game with the same scale and complexity that other consoles offer, without discounting the overall experience is next to impossible. This is why all good RPG games that have been released on the Wii have always come with a console qualifier. Xenoblade Chronicles is a great RPG... for the Wii. Little King's Story is a solid RPG experience... for the Wii. Super Paper Mario is a must play RPG... on the Wii. In short, the Wii isn’t a great console for RPGs, but one game is hoping to change history as the system enters its twilight. The Last Story is the latest release from RPG legend Hironobu Sakaguchi and his Mistwalker studio, and they may have made the next great RPG, not just the next great RPG for the Wii.
The Last Story tells the tale of a group of mercenaries who are looking to up their stature in life and become knights. Traveling around Lazulis Island, Zael, the game's main hero, and his fellow mercenaries have been looking for work, slaying Reptids monsters, and hitting up the pub for quite some time, but they long for a more noble existence. One night Zael helps a mysterious girl, Lisa, escape from castle guards that are chasing her. After spending the night with him and his friends, she heads home, and turns out to be Calista, niece of Count Arganan, and is about to be married to Jirall, even though she does not want to be. As all this comes out, Lazulis is attacked by a Gurak fleet, causing all kinds of disorder and disarray within the city, and that's where the game's story really ramps up.
In fact, it's the story that really carries The Last Story. Whereas most JRPGs tend to create these wildly fantastical worlds and then try to cram convoluted narratives into them, The Last Story manages to balance creating a rich world with characters that you care about while progressing the story along. Putting Zael in the lead role, and weaving the conflict between him and the other mercenaries in with the game's main plot, alongside the emotional diver of the game, his relationship with Calista, could result in one horribly confusing mess of story arcs. However, the way that Mistwalker managed to keep everything in line, while keeping the player invested in everything that's happening (even a lot of the side missions) is something that other JRPG developers should look at as a role model.
With the story out of the way, the other big pillar of The Last Story is its gameplay – it should feel comfortable to JRPG fans, but unique enough to feel somewhat innovative. As the story progresses Zael will learn different abilities that help him combat enemies, bosses in particular. He can also combine his attacks with his team members to create special abilities, which is particularly helpful since a good deal of the game is spent on the battlefield with your teammates. Outside of the special attacks, Zael is a strong swordsman, and can also provide support from afar via ranged weapons. He's a solid all-around character that can take advantage of the wealth of treasure and loot that can be found throughout the game.
There is one small caveat to the whole gameplay section – it's only good if you want it to be. For some reason, the default gameplay setting for the game is basically autoplay – in other words, the game controls most of the combat during battles. While this might be okay with some players, the vast amount of gamers that are looking to actually play The Last Story are going to want to turn this setting off. There's a very distinct difference between the gameplay experiences of someone who plays with this setting on, and someone who plays with this setting off. One thing to keep in mind for whichever way you decide to play is that the controls take a bit of getting used to. While the game offers two types of control schemes (nunchuk and classic controller) there's a lot going on during battle, and it may take more than a few chapters of the game for players to settle in to the overall scheme.
One slightly unexpected inclusion in The Last Story is the multiplayer mode. While it isn't unheard of for an RPG game to feature some multiplayer options, The Last Story relegates the gameplay to two, non-story based, online modes: Suppression (basically boss rush) and Fray (player-versus-player competitive). Since you can bring your single-player character over into multiplayer, these modes tend to end up being a bit unbalanced, but it was a decent attempt at including a little something extra for anyone that picks up the game.
Since The Last Story will be one of the final releases on the Wii, the developers have managed to drain every ounce of power out of the console to make this game look good. It's still not HD, but you can tell that there was a lot of time and effort put in to the finer details of the game, attempting to bring it up to par with its competitors. However, cramming all that pretty into a Wii game can cause a few problems here and there, causing the game to chug a bit when the onscreen action gets intense. Either way, it still makes watching the cutscenes pretty enjoyable.
If for some reason you happen to pick up The Last Story and end up hating everything on the screen, there is one thing that's still undeniably an absolute joy – the music. Composed by the great Nobuo Uematsu, the score for The Last Story is consistently enjoyable to listen to. The orchestral compositions prove to be a joy to hear over and over, and yet, aren't overdone in the game. They never overpower a cutscene, and always manage to compliment what is going on instead of overwhelming it.
The Last Story accomplishes what it sets out to do - be an enjoyable RPG on the Wii. It's a very good game, but it doesn't transcend the genre or the platform that it is on. While it manages to not make many of the various missteps of its JRPG contemporaries, The Last Story isn't perfect, and it does come with some faults. If you find no use for the multiplayer, and can get past the occasionally choppy graphics, there's an enjoyable game here... especially if the only console you own is a Wii.