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  • RedSwirl 11:55 pm on October 1, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , The Last Story   

    @impynickers Yes… Hawken. We’ll see how many of us unload that game onto the Squawkbox once the NDA runs out.

    @bluesforbuddha Agreed on Persona 4 Arena and Last Story.

    I couldn’t afford P4A yet, but whenever I can I’ll be totally down for its visual novel storyline. With any other game (like BlazBlue) I wouldn’t even remotely give a shit, but since I’m actually invested in P4’s characters, I’m totally prepared to spend 40 hours reading a book on my 55″ HDTV. Speaking of visual novels, 999 2 comes out on the 23rd of this month.

    I actually finished Last Story within a rental a couple weeks back, and it felt like a good typical JRPG mashed into the structure of Mass Effect 3 – one central town, real time combat with somewhat scripted tactics, etc. The character designs were cool and you’ll really hear Uematso enter the scene during the final boss fights. Otherwise though, Xenoblade at least has me invested in terms of sheer amount of content and freedom of exploration.

  • RedSwirl 11:54 pm on September 17, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , , The Last Story,   

    @Shingro Wii U Thoughts: Nintendo’s problem is still in attracting the right developers – of which almost none have any working relationship with them. The tablet thing in my opinion has a lot of potential and I’m liking most of what I hear about the interface. I just don’t know if a lot of developers will give a shit. I also think many of the critics need to understand that Nintendo will probably never sell a beefed-up $500 console at a loss like Sony and Microsoft likely plan to. New Super Mario Bros. U, Wonderful 101, and Rayman look like they’re going to be incredible games.

    Borderlands: Didn’t buy the first one because I was already playing enough loot-driven games at the time. I’m going to rent the new one and see if ti can get its hooks in me in the first few hours. If so and if enough of you guys are playing it on Steam, I’ll grab a physical PC copy… eventually. Same goes for Dishonored, Far Cry 3, and Hitman.

    Finishing up on Last Story now. To me it feels like the Japanese Mass Effect 3. Nothing to do with the ending, but just structurally it resembles that game the most to me. One central town location, relatively linear main quest, easy combat with heavily scripted boss battles, and sparse side quests. Character designs are cool though. Really enjoyed pimping out each characters’ costumes individually.

  • Pete Davison 12:27 am on March 1, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , The Last Story   

    First up, lengthy final thoughts on The Last Story may be found here.

    I remember the first time a video game was specifically praised for “dealing with religion”. It was Xenogears. It may be a bit laughable and cliched now, but I remember that game’s subject matter being a big deal then.

    I think when it comes to JRPGs, the whole “conflict with God” thing is the natural progression of what I like to call the “crescendo of ridiculousness” which most of these titles follow. Humble beginnings beget heroism beget improbably-huge monster slaying beget TAKING DOWN A GOD. It’s a somewhat lazy narrative device (though I admit it still gets me excited) fallen back on by writers who don’t have a more interesting plot to follow.

    If you want to get poncey arty-farty about it, you could look at it metaphorically. A god (not necessarily God) can be seen as a seemingly unstoppable, infallible, invincible force, and Our Band Of Plucky Heroes dealing with his inevitably nefarious and/or world-destroying schemes can simply be seen as a triumph of human adversity over what initially appeared to be impossible odds.

    Religion’s a rich topic and it can be explored in many ways. As @feenwager says, though, a lot of the time, game narratives aren’t infused with enough maturity to be able to deal with it on anything more than a superficial level. As time goes on and we start to see more genuinely mature games (i.e. ones that are actually grown-up, not festooned with breasticles and gore) hopefully someone will tackle the subject in a bit more depth.

  • Pete Davison 9:01 pm on February 29, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    The Last Story: Done. I’ll be posting a full “review” of sorts on my blog later tonight, but I thought I’d discuss the ending (in a spoiler-free manner) given our discussions about Fallout 3, Amalur and open-world game endings below.

    The Last Story’s finale is interesting. There’s your usual JRPG crescendo of ridiculousness (though it remains relatively restrained compared to many other examples of the genre — Xenoblade included) culminating in the usual climactic final showdown(s).

    But then it carries on. Not in a “fake ending” sort of way where it looks like you’re at the grand finale and actually you’re only halfway through. And not in a “hey, you finished, but here’s the whole world open to you so you can go and do sidequests that now seem thematically inappropriate” way, either. Nope, the story actually continues through the “epilogue” chapter, and even contains a couple of optional dungeons and bosses for you to take on. These aren’t stupid masochistic level 99 dungeons, these are just optional additional little bits of story you can go through if you so please. And then you can move on to the actual ending whenever you please — which, unlike the bombastic endings of titles like Final Fantasy, is relatively low-key, restrained, respectful and character-centric. Much like the game itself, in fact.

    This, it seems, is a good way of doing “post-game” content while the player is still engaged — i.e. before the credits have rolled and they’ve subconsciously set aside the game to make way for something else. Who’s to say that the final boss’s HP reaching 0 has to be the trigger for the ending cinematic? What we have here, essentially, is an interactive ending that is very satisfying indeed.

    Conversely, I have a shitload of post-game stuff to do in FFXIII-2 and I’m feeling relatively little inclination to go back and do so. I’ve given up caring about Trophies and Achievements, so that isn’t particular motivation for me. I’m mildly curious about the eight “paradox endings” but enough to go and grind? Not sure.

    Total play time was about 27 hours, and there were a few more bits and pieces I could have done if I wanted to — call it 30 if you want to do absolutely everything, I’d estimate. It was a good length, arguably flagged a little bit around the halfway point but soon picked itself up for an excellent final act. Highly recommended.

    As I say, further, more detailed thoughts on my blog later tonight.

    Next up, I’m looking at Shadow Hearts, Fortune Summoners and/or Persona 1. Y’all enjoy Mass Effect, yo. 🙂

  • feenwager 12:19 am on February 28, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , The Last Story   

    @angryjedi definitely sounds up my alley. Maybe that’s going to be the first Japanese game I play in over a year.

    Quick update on Reckoning. I’m 41 hours in, and if I wasn’t about to seriously ramp up my pursuit of the main plot, my guess is there is at least another 40 hours there. Keep in mind I’m fast-traveling at every opportunity, too.

  • Pete Davison 12:15 am on February 28, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: , The Last Story   

    Hey Lik, good to see you here. 🙂 Drop by more often!

    The Last Story update (at Beige’s request)

    21 hours in. Those people who said 20 hours lied, apparently — though things are at least building to that recognisable sort of JRPG climax right now. One thing we pleasingly haven’t had so far is some sort of godlike villain who wants to destroy/conquer/eat the world. There’s been plenty of magic and mysticism and whatnot alongside a ton of political intrigue, but no castle-sized tentacle monsters as yet.

    The good design of the combat arenas continues to be a highlight of this game. As you progress, you learn new techniques at a steady rate, providing you with more options with which to batter down your enemies. I remain impressed with the AI of the companion characters, too, who will generally “follow your lead” quite nicely — fall back to a healing circle and they’ll follow, for example, while if you charge in for a frontal assault, they’ll support you with magic and their own skills.

    A number of the later fights are almost puzzle-like, with careful use of your special abilities and the facility to order around your companions becoming necessary for success. The order interface never becomes overly fiddly, though — the most you do is pick which ability you want them to use and, if applicable, which baddy you want them to cast it on. There’s no micromanagement of their positions or anything like that, which is a blessed relief as I suck at RTS.

    The “dungeons” of the game remain relatively linear paths from start to finish with few side branches or opportunities for exploration, but due to the game’s design and rather cinematic nature, this isn’t a bad thing at all as it keeps things pacey. I drew comparison to Uncharted a few posts back and I stand by that — the structure of the dungeons is very much “run a bit and admire scenery, get in fight, see plot, admire more scenery, fight more, boss, plot”. Some may argue that this goes against the grain of what makes a “good” RPG, but when your whole game is designed around cinematic, story-heavy, character-driven action, it really works.

    Besides, if you want exploration, you have one of the most impressively detailed and well-realised cities of any game I’ve ever played to run around during plot downtime. The city of Lazulis is rammed with back alleys, mysterious men babbling about dragon skin, fortune tellers, groupies, gambling addicts who bet on your performance in the arena, market stall holders just waiting for someone to come and help them out, kids who have lost their cats… The list goes on. You want freeform exploration? Hang out in the city a bit. You want to power through the plot? Knock yourself out — all the city stuff is purely there for narrative colour, as you don’t get many rewards for a lot of these little events. That doesn’t stop them being satisfying and worth doing, however — but at the same time, their optional nature means that people who want to concentrate on the more spectacular side of the plot can proceed without hesitation.

    It’s the game’s deviations from what you typically expect from an RPG that are the most interesting things. Take equipment: I’m still wearing the armour I got at the beginning of the game, for example, but the game is designed in such a way that rather than repeatedly finding new equipment, you instead gradually upgrade your protection with items you find lying around the city, as quest rewards and during combat. You can see the improvements in your armour on your character model, too, which is cool — heavy armour, for example, starts as normal clothing, then gets a pauldron, gauntlet and armlet on one arm, then the other… and so on. Combine this with the dye and “make certain layers of clothing/armour invisible” systems and you can take a surprising amount of control over the appearance of these otherwise preset characters, which is nice.

    Weapons are another matter. You find loads of different weapons throughout the course of the game and can upgrade these to a certain degree using nothing but money. After you’ve upgraded them a certain number of times, they too start to require crafting items, and it’s usually at this point that they start taking on special effects, gaining elemental attributes or other cool things. Again, their appearance gradually changes as you upgrade them, with a simple sword becoming more ornate and glowing with magical power as you make it better and better.

    Also you can hit people with a leek. And a ladle. And a frying pan.

    The game’s making the Wii creak a bit at times, with the frame rate occasionally struggling slightly in big combats, but it continues to look and sound lovely and the frame rate drops certainly don’t make it unplayable. Is it better than Xenoblade Chronicles? I honestly couldn’t say, because they are two wildly different experiences that show two completely different directions the JRPG could (should?) evolve in. Xenoblade Chronicles was certainly one of my favourite games of last year, though, and The Last Story is shaping up to be one of the best titles of this year.

  • Pete Davison 11:27 pm on February 26, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    @scribl @jeffgrubb Nothing weird about being interested in The Last Story. The Project Rainfall guys were passionate about it getting a Western release for a reason.

    17 hours in so far and still loving it. (Re: the 20 hours thing — there are arguably hints of building to a climax, but it feels like there’s still a way to go yet.) It’s mostly been relatively linear dungeon-runs with some excellent combat, but there’s the occasional bit of downtime in the city where you can explore freely, do some sidequests and get to know the area. Or, notably, not. Most of these sidequests are purely for local colour, and there’s no achievements, XP rewards or, in many cases, items on offer in exchange for these. But going through a quest which results in your character getting a bunch of groupies swooning over him every time he goes down the pub is satisfying in and of itself. 🙂

  • Jeff Grubb 9:50 pm on February 26, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    @scribl @angryjedi I’m also weirdly interested in The Last Story. I think I’ll throw it in my GameFly queue and give a weekend to it.

  • scribl 1:26 am on February 26, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    @angryjedi “There’s no fluff, no filler and no grinding.” “20 hours” —> music to my ears!

    @bowlisimo RPS was not kind to Syndicate.

    “Syndicate, meanwhile, is guilty of that most dispiriting of crimes: overwhelming ordinariness.”

  • Pete Davison 12:17 am on February 26, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    @scribl It’s well worth a look. I also don’t think the importance of its length (or lack thereof) should be underestimated, either — at (supposedly — I haven’t beaten it yet) 20 hours, this is an RPG that most people can get through in a relatively short amount of time, even with a busy lifestyle. There’s no fluff, no filler and no grinding. In some senses it’s kind of RPG-lite, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re in it for the story rather than teh phat lewtz (though there is plenty of phat lewt and upgrading of said lewt if that’s your thing.)

    Bizarrely, there are two multiplayer modes, too, which I’ll be interested to see if anyone is playing. Will save checking that out until I’ve beaten the main game, though.

    EDIT: If you enjoyed FFXII, you should also check out Xenoblade. It’s takes the open-world field combat gameplay concept of FFXII and runs a very long way with it.

  • scribl 12:12 am on February 26, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    Holy god, guys. The text… o.o

    Gotta say, Pete, you’re actually kinda selling me on Last Story. And I haven’t played a JRPG since FFXII.

  • Pete Davison 11:05 pm on February 25, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story,   

    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.

  • Pete Davison 10:20 pm on February 24, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    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.

  • Pete Davison 2:33 pm on February 22, 2012 Permalink
    Tags: The Last Story   

    PSA: XSeed Games is bringing The Last Story to America later this year. Signs are good that you’ll get Pandora’s Tower too, I guess.

    I’ll be playing The Last Story this Friday. 😀

  • Pete Davison 3:29 pm on September 14, 2011 Permalink
    Tags: , Project Rainfall, The Last Story, ,   

    @unmanneddrone Funnily enough, I made the exact Daytona comparison in my mind earlier — particularly on the more “sensible” speed-type tracks. It felt like a Sega racer in the best possible way. I’m enjoying the new focus on drift-driving, too — reminds me of Ridge Racer. Looking forward to getting stuck in — it seems noticeably more difficult than past TM titles. Getting gold on the first track took a LOT of effort!

    @bluesforbuddha Don’t forget that The Last Story and Pandora’s Tower are set to come to Europe, too, I believe — so if you mod your Wii for Xenoblade and don’t destroy it you’ll be able to play those when the European editions come out, too. The Wii, she has plenty of life in her yet. I’ve actually been planning on modding my Wii at some point for the express purpose of playing Trauma Team, but haven’t had the guts to do it as yet.

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