10 hours in to The Last Story, and I have another status report for you that will likely be another wall of text. (@shingro, buddy, worry not about posting walls of text — we made our name with massive walls of text, after all. So long as you continue to use paragraph breaks, we’re all good. :D)

Bold statement: The Last Story is the Uncharted of JRPGs.

Let me clarify that statement somewhat, as it most certainly is somewhat bold. The comparisons are apt though, in several important areas.

Firstly, the characters and their chemistry. The Last Story has a great cast made all the more distinctive by their regional British accents. We have a feisty Lancashire lass who enjoys drinking and fighting (much like real Lancashire lasses), a softly-spoken Ewan MacGregor-style Scot who enjoys chasing the ladies, a dreamy-voiced hippy chick who comes out with some of the most hilarious deadpan dialogue in the whole game and numerous others. Probably the least interesting character voice-wise is Our Hero, but this makes him somewhat easier for the player to stamp their own identity on, particularly as, unusually for a JRPG, you often get to choose what he says.

The characters by themselves aren’t what gives this game Uncharted levels of charm, however. It’s the banter between them during combat, the incidental conversations during downtime, and the way they respond to one another. You get a very firm sense of who these people are, and while there’s your fair share of standard RPG tropes (killed parents, burned down villages, mysterious dark pasts) they take a backseat to how these characters are with each other. Over the course of the game, rather than sticking with the same party lineup, you’re often thrown into situations where you’re given the opportunity to spend some more intimate time with one or two of them, and in the process you get to find out what makes them tick and what makes them the person they are.

This leads on to the second point: structure and pacing. Many JRPGs are guilty of having so much content that they drag on and on and on. In some cases (Xenoblade and Persona spring immediately to mind) the 100 hours is very welcome, because there’s plenty of stuff to do and the world is just simply an enjoyable place to hang out. But in others (FFXIII, FFXIII-2) there’s a sense that you’re simply running around doing stuff that just plain doesn’t matter in an attempt to ensure you’re badass enough to take down the final boss.

This doesn’t happen at all in The Last Story. You’re constantly moving forward from plot point to plot point, rarely getting bogged down in exploration or level grinding. The plot’s pace isn’t artificially stalled by reams of sidequests for you to complete before you move on. It’s split into Uncharted-like “chapters”, each based around a specific location for you to work your way through in a mostly linear fashion, and each incorporating a number of battle scenarios which must be beaten in order to move on, much like how Naughty Dog’s opus leaps from “talky bit” to “explorey bit” to “shooty bit” and then back again.

Like Uncharted mixes things up in its shooty bits, though, so too does The Last Story with its battle sequences. The basic mechanics are rather simple and don’t change a huge amount over the course of the game, but the application thereof changes a huge amount. In one scenario you might be hiding behind a wall, firing crossbow bolts at skeletons to lure them away from their compatriots, before leaping out and hitting them with a powerful “Slash” attack that shatters them into pieces. In another, you might be accompanied by six or seven other people and tasked with ensuring that everyone knows their place and does the right thing. In boss fights, you may find yourself tanking, or running up a wall to leap down onto an enemy’s head, or riding atop a giant monster and stabbing it repeatedly in the head Colossus-style. Couple this with the destructible scenery which can often be used to your advantage, the third person shooter mechanics, the “Gathering” system which draws aggro onto your character and allows mages to cast their spells quicker, and you have a system quite unlike any other JRPG you’ve ever played.

The game’s linearity works in its favour by ensuring that the game is always moving. You never feel obliged to simply run around in circles in an area level grinding. It’s the polar opposite of Xenoblade in many ways — short (about 20 hours, from what I have heard), scripted, linear and setpiece-based vs. Xenoblade’s lengthy (100+ hours), sprawling, open world and quest-based nature — but the two games do what they do exceedingly well. Both tell interesting stories in very different ways. Both have casts of memorable characters. Both offer extremely convincing examples of how and why the JRPG could and should adapt.

In short, both are essential plays for any RPG fan. And yes, they’re worth acquiring a Wii for.

Pandora’s Tower has a lot to live up to.