Hironobu Sakaguchi, director, gave a lengthy battle demonstration of The Last Story earlier today. He started with the basic controls and cover is an important element. You can hide behind objects by pressing the "A" button. You can move Elza, the protagonist, with the analog stick on the nunchuck, hold it and press "A" to dive for a dodge roll-like move, hit "B" to guard and jump over objects, "Z" to target spells, and "C" to activate gathering. We’ll get to that move in a bit. Elza automatically attacks enemies when he gets nearby them. If you like, attacking can be toggled to manual in the options menu. Unlike Final Fantasy and Blue Dragon, The Last Story has a real time battle system.
One thing interesting about magic is you can target background objects. This seems like an extension of Lost Odyssey where players could occasionally hit objects to get an advantage. In the demo, Elza crushed a column and damaged a nearby enemy. Yuris, the party’s magic user shattered ledges from a distance. While invoking a spell, Yuris floats and a number appears over his head. If he’s hit during this period the spell breaks. We saw enemies targeting Yuris, but Sakaguchi activated Elza’s gathering ability to draw them away.
Cocoon was a boss from the first area. During the fight, Elza had to scan for an enemy’s weak point and use the power of magic circles to damage the boss. Elza has a wind ability he can use to extend magic after Yuris casts it. The "Prominence" circle sends a blast of flame. There’s a "Recovery" circle too, which can restore the party’s HP when activated.
While Elza was fighting Cocoon the other characters were shouting for him to lure the boss outside. Sakaguchi did this by using the gathering ability to bring Cocoon onto a stone bridge. Once Cocoon was far enough outside, Yuris cast a spell to destroy the bridge ending the battle with a dramatic cutscene.
Sakaguchi jumped to another area by loading a game within the options menu. You can see one of the magic circles below. The blue area is for a Freeze Circle this ability hits enemies with ice magic and causes slip status. Hit them again and they’ll fall down. The black area is a Heal Circle, which one of the enemies is using to restore their characters. Using his wind ability, Elza can call a Freeze Circle and blow away the heal effect.
On Gurugu Ship, Sakguchi grabbed a treasure chest. The contents are random in The Last Story. A bunch of item names spin when you open a box and you get whatever item it lands on. In a boss fight with Muruu, Sakaguchi used a Holy Circle to protect his party with a barrier. He demoed other commands during this battle like giving characters direct orders and changing weapons on the fly to deal more damage. There was also a quick time event where Elza could press A to jump up on an enemy and then hit A again to attack while he was on top of Muruu.
Sakaguchi died during that fight (actually he died twice during the demo) so he demonstrated the fast forwarding feature. It’s a neat addition that lets you speed through event scenes by holding the A button – as if you hit the fast forward button on a VCR. The game skips over all voice acting while fast forwarding, but as soon as you stop it voice acting resumes. It’s possible to move the camera around during events too. There’s another kind of event scene at bars where Elza and a bar maid talk with floating heads, characters in the background continues to move during these scenes.
Out on the town, Elza can be a nuisance to townfolk by firing (I kid you not) bananas out of his bowgun. These stay on the ground and Elza can slip on them. Sakaguchi says other players can slip on them too during multiplayer mode. Sakaguchi then demonstrated the game’s customization system. You can purchase different kinds of armor at a shop and then equip them to style your character. Elza, for example, is wearing feather armor (the shirt with a scarf) and heavy legs. After you pick gear you can change the color of it to make a unique character.
It’s also possible to unequip everything and make Elza run around in his underwear.
Sakaguchi then customized Seiren with dragon armor before settling on a one piece dress. Characters keep their costumes during event scenes too.
In another area Sakaguchi showed characters can swim in dungeons. This fight against a Monstrous Spider, Sakaguchi demonstrated some devastating attacks like Meteor and Accelerate which made Elza attack more often.
And here’s a bunch of miscellaneous screenshots of menus, save points, and fights.