|PS3 / XBOX 360 / PC||USA|
By Jeriaska . October 21, 2008 . 3:07pm
While the game’s artistic team has a strong J-RPG pedigree, for this title they are blending anime styles with Western artistic tastes. For instance, art producer Yusuke Naora brought idyllic island locales reminiscent of Okinawa to Yuna’s hometown in Final Fantasy X. Peaceful Eulam Village, the home of The Last Remnant protagonists, has a similar feel, but it is visited by a blood-soaked gladiator called The Conqueror, who according to the production materials has been consciously lent attributes of a Western-style title centered on the battlefield. The Last Remnant will
be the first Square Enix game to carry an M Rating, due mostly to the sprays of blood that are sent up whenever enemies exchange blows.
Along those same lines, the music by Brave Fencer Musashi’s Tsuyoshi Sekito incorporates Hollywood-style orchestral tracks and heavy metal flourishes, both genres that are at the fringes of Japan’s traditional role-playing titles. Sekito’s facility with an electric guitar, as demonstrated by his participation in The Black Mages hard rock Final Fantasy band, may have played a part in his being chosen as the composer on this title. While the gameplay is turn-based, like any age-old Final Fantasy title, instead of commanding one character at a time, the focus is on coordinating squads (called Unions) as in a real-time strategy title.
As for the game’s story, the narrative largely revolves around sacred objects called Remnants. These ancient artifacts are scattered all over the world and are the source of all power. They can take any shape, from treasure chests, to massive structures, to living creatures. In prehistoric times, cities were built around the largest of the Remnants, which served to endow those places with power and repute. One of the paradoxes inherent in this plotline seems to be that while Remnants are made out to be strange and mysterious, they are also nearly ubiquitous, can take just about any form and all have different inexplicable powers.
The main protagonist is Rush Sykes, the teenage son of Remnant researchers at an institute called The Academy. Because of the all-important status of the Remnants, the Academy is an influential institution. Presumably this is where you go if you want to know how to control or make use of a certain Remnant. However, the Academy causes trouble for Rush when one day a secretive clan abducts his sister Irina in order to blackmail her parents. This sets Rush out on the quest to rescue her. On his way, there will be eleven main characters rounding out the cast — seven protagonists and four antagonists.
The focus for the game is not on the party of four, but on the collective of Unions. The key difference is that multiple Unions can be operating on the same battlefield simultaneously. Up to four characters can be placed in any one Union at a time, and you can control up to five Unions. While 20 allies is the maximum size of your team, depending on the situation you can find yourself engaging seven unions on the enemy side. However, it is important to keep in mind that Union sizes vary.
On the world map, you will control Rush in his 3D environment, scoping out enemies from afar. Each one of the monsters you see will represent a Union, just as Rush himself may be traveling together with three other allies. If you see a pack of three wolves prowling the plains ahead of you, it could be that there are just three enemies total, or they could be three unions of four monsters. There is no way to know until you have encountered the enemy and engaged in battle. Just beforehand, you have a degree of choice over the number of creatures you want to take on at one time.
Upon approaching the foe on the world map, you can switch into a bullet time mode, where Rush moves much faster than his enemies. You can then encircle the target, deciding whether to fight one Union, or a combo of several at once. (Those who are familiar with the battle initiation combo system of The World Ends With You might get the gist of the idea). Again, because there is no way of knowing how many monsters form a Union, these decisions can largely impact the challenge level of the battle. The Union as a whole shares a total HP bar, once again placing emphasis on the battle mechanics of the group over the individual. Also shared is a morale bar, which will boost the attacks of your characters as you make inroads into defeating the enemy, or cause you to stumble when the enemy gains the upper hand.
Once battle has started, you can see how many monsters make up each Union. At that point you can give commands to the members of your Union, such as whether to attack, use magic, or defend during the coming round. Because this is not an active time battle-based game, you can spend as much time as you want weighing your strategic choices before diving in. A clear choice is to begin by targeting the enemy’s weakest link. If, for instance, there is a Union with a single monster present on the battlefield, you can go for eliminating it first. Alternatively, you can target whichever enemy is closest to you in proximity, as following after a far-away foe will give your opponents a chance to catch you off-guard on your way.
The Last Remnant will be appearing simultaneously in North America and Japan on November 20, 2008 on the Xbox 360. It will also be coming to the Playstation 3 and Windows at some future time.
Images courtesy of Square Enix.