The Last Remnant Xbox 360
Published by: Square Enix
Developed by: Square Enix
The RPG genre is one that's often accused of complacency. Over the last few years there have been some RPG titles that have tried do things a little differently. The danger is of course that when you take a tried and trusted formula and attempt to change it in anything other than a subtle fashion you always run the risk of upsetting those who didn't feel the need for any changes to be made. The Last Remnant is a game that's quite unlike any RPG I've played to date and some are going to find it's originality a little hard to take. The fact that the game has a few technical issues certainly won't do anything to help the game's appeal but underneath the problems and strange concepts, there's actually a pretty solid RPG to be found here.
In The Last Remnant you'll play as Rush Sykes whose sole aim is to rescue his sister, Irina, who is kidnapped at the beginning of the game by some strange looking soldiers. Rush and Irina are children of two scientists who have been researching Remnants, mysterious artefacts which hold great power. Rush is aided in his quest to find his sister by the Marquis of Athlum, David Nassau, and his forces. The game's storyline is about much more than Rush rescuing his sister however and Rush soon finds himself getting entangled with other events, and a man that he is somehow connected to, known only as the Conqueror, who is attempting to seize the various Remnants in the land.
So what does The Last Remnant do differently then? A lot of the time you have the freedom to save when you want. This might not seem like much but it's far less annoying than having to search for a save point, especially when you're playing the game in the small hours of the morning like I often find myself doing. Instead of controlling individual characters in battle you'll control squads and the battle system, whilst being turn-based, is much more complex than usual. There aren't any random battles and you can see, and sometimes avoid if you choose, your enemies on the map. Of course doing away with random battles is a trend that's becoming more popular but how many RPG's are there where your characters' health will automatically replenish after the fight and battles where morale plays a part?
The battle system in The Last Remnant is quite unlike anything I've experienced in an RPG to date. Essentially you give a general order to a squad such as 'attack with mystic arts,' 'attack with combat arts,' 'charge' or 'recover HP.' There is a feeling like you're not in total control at times and that the whole thing is running on auto-pilot. You'll also find that you can't access your inventory during battle which seems a little strange. Initially battles can feel like a hands off experience with only the occasional quick-time event style button press being required. Eventually you do get a good idea of what's going on but initially it's all very confusing seeing words such as Deadlock and Raidlock appearing on screen. Perhaps more perplexing is the way the game doesn't give you any control over recruiting party members, constructing your squads or changing your tactics until you're a good few hours into the game. The game feels as though it's determined to hold your hand for the first few hours and this is a little off-putting. Persevere past this stage and you'll find the battle system does open up and become more involving and enjoyable. It is a little strange how you can only have control over Rush's equipment however. Other party members looks after themselves. They will make a claim for the share of the spoils after a battle has finished however.
After the early, almost tutorial-like, stage of the game you're free to do as you please. It's around this time that you'll be able to take on side-quests and deviate from the main storyline. On the whole the side quests are quite good but there are some which require hardly any action on your part. For instance, the first side-quest you'll undertake is to deliver a letter. You'll get the letter and automatically be transported to the location you have to go to. You'll then simply walk Rush up to the Yama you need to deliver the letter to and then you'll be transported back to the woman who issued the side-quest to get your reward. This isn't the only short side-quest you'll encounter. I'm all for side-quests that don't take a few hours but having ones that are over in hardly any time at all is taking it a little too far.
As we've already mentioned, The Last Remnant has its fair share of technical problems. The game suffers from some significant load times and they can be quite annoying. There are even load times before you are taken into a battle which is really annoying. Thankfully, because of the NXE (New Xbox Experience) update you can install the game to your hard drive and this really does a heck of a lot to reduce the load times. The frame rate is generally fine when you're not in a battle but it can really take a dive during a battle when there are a lot of participants. At times it's not far off being a slideshow. The game also suffers from texture pop-in (in other words there's a minor delay with the textures appearing on objects) and during battles this is really noticeable. All of these technical problems give the game an unfinished look and they do detract from the overall experience.
It's a shame that the game does suffer from technical problems because it's actually a pretty good looking RPG. The character designs are some of the most original I've seen in an RPG over the last few years. The character models also look very good but the numerous locations in the game are what really catch the eye. The battles look quite impressive too and it's good to see battles on such a large scale in an RPG. As per usual for a Square Enix title, the cutscenes are superb and really add some much needed polish to the game.
Before beginning a new game you're given access to the game's options and the chance to enable subtitles before the game begins. The game's cutscenes are subtitled with a bold white font which makes it easy to see at all times. There are no character names or portraits to accompany the cutscene dialogue but this doesn't cause any problems. The in-game dialogue does display the speaker's name above the dialogue so you'll always be aware of who is saying what here. Tutorial messages are shown in text which is important as the battle system is quite complicated and takes some getting used to. You can't recall the tutorial messages however, which is unfortunate, and the game doesn't have a log or glossary to enable you to read up on events that have happened in the game and locations you've visited. Comments made by the characters during a battle are not subtitled which is unfortunate but the comments are of no real importance. The game makes great use of icons to convey information but it's a shame the game provides no way of being able to remind yourself what they all mean (although I suspect the game manual, which we didn't have access to, does list all of their meanings).
The Last Remnant is an RPG that's certainly going to divide opinions. There will be those who are open minded to its unusual way of going about things and there are those who will turn their nose up at the game because it's not your typical Japanese RPG formula. Likewise there will be those who are forgiving of the technical problems and those who simply can't look past them. Personally, I think that The Last Remnant is a good RPG that was a bold move on Square Enix's part. The issues the game has are unfortunate and I think certain aspects of the game could have been handled better but once you get your head around the game's concepts you begin to appreciate what is certainly a very refreshing RPG experience.