Hello, dear reader, and welcome to another Deck of Many Things review journal! Within the confines of this mysterious tome, you will find tales of brave knights, demonic cannibals, and pocket monster champions...as well as some inkling as to what this hapless blogger is to do about all of these things.
First up, The Last Story, which comes to us courtesy of Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy. Needless to say, this has been one of my most anticipated games for a while- I actually pre-ordered and got the collector's edition two years ago, before I even owned a system to play it on! In some respects, The Last Story can be seen as an opposing counterpart to another recent JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles. While Xenoblade featured a vast open world with innumerable side objectives and an epic scope, The Last Story dials back the focus to a core group of characters and setting- in this case, a band of mercenaries who have come to Lazulis Island seeking work and find themselves embroiled in a conflict over the powers that lie hidden there. The characterization is really a high point of The Last Story- this band of misfits has such a great sense of camaraderie that I hope the Final Fantasy XV team was taking notes. The main narrative arc, where protagonist Zael finds himself torn between loyalty to his friends and the pursuit of his dreams, is really well executed, and the small bits of exposition and further character development scattered throughout make The Last Story a tale worth experiencing.
On the downside, The Last Story struggles somewhat against the aging Wii tech- the game's artistic merits are second to none, and Nobuo Uematsu's music is as fantastic as always, but there are occasional bouts of slowdown and choppiness that can become quite noticeable. Like with Xenoblade, one imagines the possibilities that could have been granted by more powerful hardware, but the game still looks good regardless thanks to excellent art direction. There's also the matter of the game's combat system, which is easily the most divisive aspect of The Last Story. Personally, I rarely found the cover-based mechanics of this action-RPG interfering with my enjoyment of the overall experience, although I certainly recommend changing the default attack option to 'manual' to give the combat a more tactile feeling.
So, yeah, The Last Story is pretty great. Looking ahead, I'm doing another playthrough of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix in preparation for Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD ReMix while I'm on fall break. After that, I've managed to reduce my backlog to Pandora's Tower and the Digital Devil Saga games, either of which may end up being my next project. I'm pretty relieved to have reduced my backlog so substantially, as it takes some of the pressure of time commitment out of completing games and allows me to relax a little bit more (as odd as that sounds, I do occasionally get stressed out about this sort of thing). I'm also starting to get really hyped for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, even though I said in my review journal of X and Y that I probably wouldn't stick with the Pokemon series. I'm prepared to eat my words, however, because every time I manage to convince myself that I don't need OR/AS, Nintendo goes and announces something AWESOME. In this case, being able to fly around the overworld on Latias/Latios and catch Legendaries from prior games such as Dialga/Palkia or Reshiram/Zekrom is a massive draw for me.
Basically, there's a lot to look forward to on the horizon. Until next time, dear reader!