For the Wii, it may be true to its name.
Why did it take this long for The Last Story to make its way to North America? It's already been out in Japan since January of last year and in Australia and Europe in February of this year. Along with Xenoblade Chronicles, Nintendo has been making a strange habit of giving North America the shaft when it comes to epic RPG powerhouses. Perhaps Nintendo, with the Wii U looming on the horizon (known as E3 2012), has decided to stretch the potential swansongs for the Wii. Whatever the case may be, I'm thrilled that XSEED will finally be bringing The Last Story where it's needed most.
This won't sound that amazing since this is the Wii we're talking about, but the graphics for The Last Story are the among the best I've seen on the console. Aesthetically, it looks like an updated, albeit just as blurry, Vagrant Story with realistic character modeling and expansive environments. No, really, it's as if the main character Zael and his party of mercenaries raided Ashley Riot's hand-me-downs. The color palette is blushed out with pale browns, yellows, and plenty of gray, though you have the immediate menu option to change your characters' clothing using dyes, of which more can be collected throughout the game.
That's just one of many treasures that Zael, an orphan who lost his home when his homeland was destroyed, will find in his journey for knighthood and fame throughout the Empire. He and his motley crew of friends are lured to Lazulis Island, where the fabled Count Arganan has kept all enemy forces from penetrating the Empire's last defense. Though they are perceived by the people as low-class citizens, with some NPCs going as far as dismissing them because of their smell, the Count eventually gives them a chance to earn their place.
Eventually, Zael comes in contact with the same power that enchants the Count's mysterious weapons, a magical ability called Gathering which attracts enemies into one area. That might seem like an undesirable, over-aggressive tactic, particularly since Zael isn't exactly a tank, but Gathering also inflicts an array of effects. Any enemies caught within its radius are slowed by about one-third, and for the duration of the spell, he has the ability to cure and resurrect fallen party members. The game isn't particularly difficult since each party member has five lives, but the extra healing ability is still welcome.
The real-time battle system is about as fast-paced as Kingdom Hearts', where the main character is controllable while the rest of the party is controlled by the AI. Pointer lines let you know the various targets of your party. On top of that, you can issue commands to allies, directing magic users and archers at specific targets. Depending on the environment, you can also make use of cover and stealth to reduce damage or lure enemies into the open.
The Last Story comes with plenty of diversions, with over 30 side-quests, an online mode for up to 6 players to combine their combat prowess for special rare items, and a 'Seek' ability that hones the camera onto any hidden items nearby around town. Some of these are as minor as the aforementioned dyes but a wealth of them will increase your party's stats permanently. Get enough of them and they're just as important as leveling up and upgrading equipment.
If all of that doesn't win you over, the game design was directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi and the music is orchestrated by none other than Nobuo Uematsu. I'm sure that woke a few people up; to those people, please pre-order it, or don't complain that there aren't enough copies at your local store.
The Last Story will be told in North America on July 10, 2012.