Hot shit. I will download that in time for the next run on my Emi schedule (tomorrow).

Today is The Last Story day if you’re European, i.e. me. I have been playing it for about 4 hours today. And I’m sure some of you are quietly wondering exactly what it’s all about and whether or not it’s any good.

In answer to the latter question, yes it is, very much so. As for the former question, I present for you a list of spoiler-free bullet points that may answer some of the questions you have surrounding this game.

  • This is not your Grandad’s JRPG. Combat is real-time, but not like FFXII or Xenoblade. You control Our Hero, who can run around the battlefield, attack, hide behind things, shoot shit with a crossbow, shoot bananas from his crossbow (yes, really), “diffuse” allies’ magic circles (causing special effects), look around for convenient lumps of masonry and bark orders at your friendly neighbourhood magic users to bring them tumbling down on monsters’ heads and, later, call down a top-down map view to issue specific orders. It is bewildering at first because it’s completely unlike any other JRPG you have ever played. But it works brilliantly.
  • Like Dragon Age II, this game is largely set in and around a single city. Unlike Dragon Age II, the city is convincing, open-plan in its design (no loading breaks between “zones”) and populated with people who go about their business. You can bump into people, bang your head on signs, spill fruit in the street and watch everyone go flying. You can swim in the river, sneak up on frogs, catch bluebirds and deal with street urchins. There’s a shitload of optional nonsense to partake in when you’re not running through the main quests of the game. A quest log for this side content is surprisingly notable by its absence, but it’s nothing a notepad won’t fix. Kicking it old-school.
  • Talking of old-school, I get a surprising Baldur’s Gate vibe from the game. Perhaps it’s the city-focused medieval-ish politics-heavy plot, perhaps the number of sidequests, perhaps something indescribable about the atmosphere. But if you’ve been looking for that BioWare magic and failing to find it in more recent releases, ironically it’s right here.
  • The main quests have so far been relatively linear rather than exploration-based. This is fine, though, as it allows for battles to be setpieces which require forward planning and strategy rather than simply mashing the Attack button (I’m looking at you, Final Fantasy XIII-2). In fact, before each battle, you get a top down “recon view” of the situation allowing you to assess what you’re going to do. Allies will often suggest appropriate approaches to deal with a situation — for example, taking a pincer attack approach on a room with two doors. Following these suggestions is often wise.
  • There’s a hefty amount of character customization available — a surprising amount for a JRPG, in fact. All armour starts off equal as a set of clothes, albeit with slightly different looks. Upgrading your armour, which involves collecting components and paying a small fee to your friendly local upgradesmith, adds bits on to it a piece at a time. For example, the Heavy Armour set starts as a jacket and T-shirt combo, but upgrading gradually adds various pieces of heavy plating to it until (I imagine — I haven’t got that far yet) you’re sporting a full set of imposing-looking plate. As well as this armour customization and upgrading, you can also dye all parts of your character’s costume and even, once you’ve completed a couple of sidequests, make parts of it “invisible”. So if you want your party running around bare-chested you can do.
  • This is a lovely looking game. Not “lovely for a Wii game”. It’s a lovely looking game, full stop. Gorgeous lighting and shadows, excellent use of bloom and HDR-style effects and some decent character models with good animation. Within moments you stop noticing the resolution and simply start to soak up the sumptuous visuals.
  • The sound, too, is worthy of note. Nobuo Uematsu’s still got it in the music department, and the English voice actors (a la Xenoblade) give the game a unique atmosphere that is a far cry from your usual pretty-boy whining of your average JRPG. There’s plenty of excellent ambient sound, too.

In short, so far it appears to be pretty great.

Also, Bowley, I am now very confused.