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Mistwalker's The Last Story: What the critics are saying

"It's a familiar tale, but The Last Story is far from a familiar game. It's a deep, fast-paced JRPG, that evolves the genre in ways that enhance its existing tropes, without stripping away at its soul."
This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Mistwalker's Nintendo Wii RPG The Last Story, which reviewers describe as "not just a fantastic JRPG, but a fantastic game in its own right." The Last Story currently earns a score of 80 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. GameSpot's Mark Walton scores The Last Story at 9 out of 10. "As you begin your journey in The Last Story," he recalls, "you get the feeling you've seen this all before; the maniacal dictator seeking ungodly powers, the crisis that threatens the survival of the world, and the band of shockingly youthful renegades, with even shockingly bigger swords, whose job it is to put it all right again. "It's a familiar tale, but The Last Story is far from a familiar game. It's a deep, fast-paced JRPG, that evolves the genre in ways that enhance its existing tropes, without stripping away at its soul." The combat system works especially well. "The action takes place in real time in the environment you're exploring, with enemies visible before you fight them," Walton explains. "There are no random encounters or swishy battle screens here. Your melee attacks and those of your compatriots are largely automated, each of them hacking, slashing, or casting magic at nearby enemies." "It's a strategic system that works brilliantly, not least because it takes place in real time, which makes fights dynamic, action-packed affairs," Walton continues. "The pace at which new abilities are handed out is also spot-on, giving you time to master them, without ever feeling underpowered during battles." "The best of the West is blended with the best of the East, resulting in a fantastically unique, exciting battle-system, beautifully rich visuals, and a story that -- while familiar -- has you feeling the deepest of care for the characters that live it," Walton praises. "It's not just a fantastic JRPG, but a fantastic game in its own right, delivering moments of touching romance, disparaging betrayal, and eruptive action, all with a poignancy that makes those moments feel like they've come straight from the heart." Edge Magazine rates The Last Story at 8 out of 10. "The cinematography is characteristically excellent, the pacing is typically glacial and there are times where Sakaguchi is unable to mask his penchant for saccharine scenes or leaden dialogue," the review reads. "Yet it's blessed with an engaging cast and an emotional power that sweeps you along." "Anybody who's played any of the Final Fantasy titles will be familiar with the thematic concerns of The Last Story," Edge's writer notes. "There are countless structural similarities, too: the dungeon crawling, the character levelling, the party-based exploration, the towns, the NPCs. Even the characters look like they've stepped out of Final Fantasy – one of them looks like Balthier (FFXII); another like Yuna (FFX); a third, at a push, resembles Cloud (FFVII)." The Last Story's approach to the genre remains distinct, however. "In other ways, though, The Last Story couldn't be further removed from traditional RPGs," Edge says. "The game weaves together a frenetic battle system with stargazing scenes and chase sequences. The story, too, almost seems to melt into the action, thanks to cutscenes with semi-interactive transitions. It's more 'gamey' than possibly any other JRPG you'll have played before." "For all its inconsistencies, complexities, inadequacies and oddities, The Last Story offers an entrancing and seamless flow of interesting experiences," Edge asserts. "And surely that, in the final reckoning, is what counts." Joe Juba at Game Informer gives The Last Story a 6 out of 10. "The Last Story makes no attempt to evade or disguise [...] genre cliches, relying instead on its action-heavy combat to fill the entertainment gap," he observes. "If the battle system was executed well, that strategy might have worked." "Because the predictable tale holds virtually no surprises or fresh angles, I couldn't get invested in the boilerplate world or plot," Juba continues. "Zael lacks strong convictions and falls flat as a hero, while each of his companions are defined by a single personality hook (e.g. the ladies' man, the drunkard, etc.)." Juba finds the combat to be problematic. "Combat wasn't adequately play-tested for fun or functionality," Juba writes. "It's enjoyable for the first few hours, but gets dull quickly since your characters develop so few abilities. I used the same handful of skills and strategies for the whole second half of the game, which kills any sense of progression or growing power." "Plus, you can only issue commands when a meter is full, making it hard to count on in a pinch," Juba adds. "Not that I was in a pinch often; most battles are extremely easy, so delving into tactics seems pointless since victory is assured regardless. That goes out the window late in the game, where a few boss fights are made difficult by the sloppy, imprecise controls." "The lack of polish throughout the experience makes The Last Story hard to appreciate, even when other things are going well," Juba concludes. "I had high hopes for this Wii-exclusive RPG. Given its pedigree, I never imagined that it would fail to meet the low bar set by dozens of middling entries in the genre."

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