For a while, people have talked about the future of Japanese style RPG’s and well, RPG’s in general. The genre itself is getting less and less about the RPG aspects from games like Ultimata and Wizardry and has leaned into genre mixing. We have seen the Bioware franchises like Dragon Age and Mass Effect pull out the third person action-and-shooter RPG. Bethesda is also pushing its RPG franchises like Fallout and Elder Scrolls into the same genre mixing, but has added the flare of the first person perspective that never truly works for Elder Scroll’s melee combat. Now, more criticism of where the RPG is going and if it’s going to die soon is aimed more at Japan’s line of RPG’s. Admittingly, at some points in history, the JRPG might have needed to need a good kick in the rear of innovation, like in 2001, 4 million copies of Dragon Quest 7 were sold in Japan, but flopped over here in the U.S.A. Maybe this also came up when Final Fantasy 10 came out and was, more or less, the same stuff Square Enix was doing. Then, they decided to mix things up with Final Fantasy 11 being an MMO and Final Fantasy 12 being designed like an MMO. While I am currently playing through FF12, and while it reminds me of Xenoblade Chronicles, one of my new all-time favorite games, I am currently wondering what side to be on. Do I want to side with the fan base that likes RPG’s like Dragon Quest 8 like they are and not want to change them. OR, do I want to side with the fan base that wants to see more genre mixing with the RPG. I like both, and can enjoy either in any situation, and I think there is room for both kinds since ambition of mixing other genres with the RPG can run into the syndrome of being a bit too ambitious. Today’s review slightly falls into that situation. It is an RPG, mixed with action, storytelling, stealth, third person shooting, and actual passion and determination of changing what the RPG can be and not be stuck in the past. It is very successful at what it does, and even though I say it falls into the “too much ambition” category, I love this game. It is one of the best games of 2012. Does it beat out Xenoblade as one of the best RPG’s of this year? Which RPG beats the other in being the RPG refresher? Let us take a look at The Last Story.

The story revolves around a band of mercenaries on Lazulis Island. The main hero of the story from this band of mercenaries is named Zael, voiced by Jack Ryder. While going through a mission at the beginning of the game, he almost loses one of his allies after an encounter with a horde of skeleton warriors. Luckily he is the main character of this story and he gains a special ability granting him many magical abilities like reviving his ally from death and many other abilities I will explain later in the review. After meeting up with the leader of the mercenaries, Dagran, voiced by Nico Lennon, the group decides to stay within the city that is run by Count Arganan, voiced by Peter de Jersey. While there, he meets a young woman and the main love interest of the story, Calista, voiced by Alix Wilton Regan. Soon, realizing that she is the princess of the island’s count who is marrying a punk of a prince of another kingdom, a war breaks out between the humans and a reptilian-like race of beings and of course, our mercenaries and the princess are caught in the middle. The story mainly focuses on whether Zael should stay with his fellow mercs or become a royal knight and develop his relationship with Calista. Since this game is called The Last Story, you would think the story would be good, however, it is actually one of the best stories in ANY JRPG. It might be head-tilting at first when the themes are love, trust, and friendship that might induce some groans at RPG’s that do these themes poorly, but the game’s story is great! It’s more focused than, say, Xenoblade Chronicles, which is more open and loose. This game is very story-driven and its characters very memorable. Do not think you are about to run into a cut-and-paste RPG story here because you are not.

The gameplay is a mix of genres. You’ve got your action RPG, third person shooting, stealth, and your real-time strategy elements all mixed into one game. You control only one character, but later on, you get to input commands to your allies. Even if you don’t give them commands, their AI is actually pretty good. You do have the ability to auto-attack, but for your sanity’s sake, please switch it to where you just press the A button to attack. The hack-and-slash and shooter parts of the gameplay might be simple, but Zael’s magical abilities make up for it, giving the combat a lot of depth. You can do many many things from running up walls, giving said allies commands on what to do next, pull off a wind attack, a strong slash attack, and you get the idea. There are even moments in the game where stealth is the best way to tackle a situation and while it isn’t too deep, like Metal Gear Solid 4 or the recent Deus Ex, it’s solid. The game is linear, but there are side quests and stuff to explore so it won’t be like Fable 3, Tales of Graces F, and Final Fantasy 13 in linearity. The game is big and will take you about 35-40 hours if you want to do everything. I bet this was a surprise to everyone when they announced it, that this game has multiplayer. It isn’t huge like Halo or Battlefield 3, but it’s solid. You’ve got your free-for-all, team death match, and the ability to team up and take down bosses. All of the modes will reward you with items and even some of those items cannot be found within the main game, so both single player and multiplayer are worth playing even if the multiplayer might be slightly underdeveloped. Overall, this game is rather ambitious with a whole lot going for it. This isn’t your dad’s Dragon Quest, this is the next evolution of the JRPG.

The graphics, while having some minor nitpicks, are truly amazing. It looks great on the Wii and I dare say looks better artistically than most HD games. The art style and character design was done by Kimihiko Fujisaka. He is also known for his artistic styles for the Drakengard games. It just looks so detailed and has the ability to be more focused and detailed since it isn’t an open world RPG, like Xenoblade Chronicles. The characters are awesome. I love the two women in the mercenary group, Syrenne, voiced by Kelly Wenham, and Mirania, voiced by Montserrat Limbard. I like how they are not of the typical female kind of character in a fantasy game. Syrenne is a beer lover and Mirania likes to eat. I also liked the other characters, like the two other guys, Yurick, voiced by Colin Ryan, and Lowell, voiced by Derek Riddell. There isn’t one character that I found annoying or just a complete waste of space. They each have their own characteristics and are well-developed. The music is beautiful. It is, of course, composed by the god that he is, Nobuo Uematsu. If I need to explain what he has composed, something is very wrong with you. The overall presentation is great and while it might be on the Wii, it is just amazing what they could do on the Wii.

While this game is truly an amazing game, there are some minor faults. The game has the same problem as Conker’s Bad Furday. Its ambitious design suffers from clunky controls. It is hard to explain, but your movements won’t be as fluid as say other action RPG’s like Kingdoms of Amalur. The camera could also be pulled back since it can get very close to you at times and end up with cheap hits from enemies because you couldn’t see them. The third-person-shooting with the crossbow could also have been better. The reason why I say this is because you can’t move when you aim and fire your arrows. It is basically like Resident Evil 4 and 5. In a way, it leaves strategy in where you plant yourself so you don’t get surrounded by enemies, but you should be able to move and shoot at the same time. The multiplayer is also in need a bit of tuning. Since you can go into battles in multiplayer with whatever items and weapons you have, you can easily get into a battle with someone who has stronger weapons and will slaughter you. However, I will admit with all these complaints, they are rather minor and don’t really detract from the game that much.

Even with those small problems, this is one of my favorite games of this year. Heck, it is one of the best RPG’s ever! It evolves the JRPG genre to new levels and well, who else would have done it other than the guy who created the Final Fantasy franchise. Now then, here is the question. We have two amazing RPG’s on the Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story. Which one do you get? One has a more free-roaming MMO quality, with a weaker, but still great story. The other has a more solid story and complex combat system, but is more limiting in that it isn’t free-roaming and is more linear. Well, get both. Either way, these two RPG’s are going to be released in limited numbers and will be expensive in a few years. Plus, these are amazing games! BUY THEM! I mean, you could wait till these two games go down in price, but I would get both games. They both innovate on the JRPG genre and bring it to new levels in how JRPG’s can be designed. Why not just sit down and take on two of the best games of 2012.

This game gets a 9 out of 10