Game Review: The Last Remnant

I was going to review this awhile ago, but I decided I’d better finish it before talking about it. Those of you who know me from Facebook know that I’ve been raging about it lately.

But today, I finally finished it.

The Last Remnant is set in a world populated by four different races: Mitra (humans, basically), the fish-like Yama, the amphibious Qsiti, and the four-armed Sovani. Scattered throughout the world are artifacts of immense power known as Remnants, which can be bound to a person and have many uses. Unbound Remnants have a tendency to “collapse” and spawn monsters. You play as Rush Sykes, a dim-witted young man searching for his kidnapped sister.

And when I say “dim-witted” I mean that Rush is quite possibly the poster child for the “Idiot Hero” trope. I mean, in his very first scene he rushes headlong into a battlefield because there’s a slight chance that his sister might be there, because we all know sane people CHAERG when there’s a fight goin’ down.

Needless to say, the plot does eventually become a bit more complex than “your sister has been kidnapped, go and save her!” But I would say the story isn’t really the game’s strong point. Don’t get me wrong, when the story isn’t pulling plot points out of its ass, it’s engaging enough, but don’t expect the same depth of characterization as something like Dragon Age. Seriously, you know your antagonist is a misogynist when the first thing out of his mouth is “I despise women! They should be servile!”

Speaking of which, the voice acting runs the gamut from “tolerable” to “very, very annoying” (Pagus, SHUT UP!) but then, it wouldn’t be a Square Enix game without at least one character with a really annoying voice (Seymour, OMFGS Seymour).

The real meat of the game is in the side quests and the combat, the quests are simultaneously an interesting part of the game and unfortunate. For starters, there are a ton of them, and they range from long drawn out battles, more traditional fetch quests or “kill all the monsters in this area” type quests. Completing quests allows you to recruit new characters, give Rush new abilities to help in battle, and obtain new components to craft weapons and accessories, as well as providing an opportunity to get to know some of your traveling companions. Some quests have multiple “parts” where you need to complete them all in order to recruit a certain character (an early example are the quests involving Paris and Charlotte). Many quests are also missable, so you’ll want to complete as many as you can as soon as possible. Unfortunately, I found myself becoming frustrated with the quests, as a few of them involve revisiting dungeons that I found particularly annoying, so I stopped doing them for a time. It’s kind of a shame that the quests are so repetitive, because there is a ton of quest-related content in the game. I did try to do as many “companion” quests as I could, though.

If there’s one saving grace in this game, it’s the combat system, which is both simple and complex. Instead of controlling single characters, the way you would in, say, Final Fantasy, you control groups called unions. You can issue general commands to these unions, such as telling them to attack while using healing items and skills, to focus their attacks on the leader of an enemy group, to use special abilities like summons, and many other things depending on their position in the battle and the amount of AP (Action Points) the union currently has. A crucial element of combat is the Morale bar, high morale increases the damage you dish out and decreases the effectiveness of your enemies’ attacks and vice versa, so it’s really important to keep your Morale high. You can also maneuver your units in a variety of ways, from the usual “deadlock” (when units are caught in close combat) to flank attacks and interception/interference (where a union forces another union into a deadlock when they were trying to deadlock a different union. Unions who meet certain conditions can perform special abilities, like Synergies, which require a specific combination of Mystic arts (magic, basically) to cast. I was only able to unlock one Synergy (Rejuvenating Water) which was an extremely powerful healing spell. There are also Critical Triggers, which are a bit like mid-battle Quick Time Events where you can press a button at the right time to score a critical hit, but failing them doesn’t result in your attack missing or “pressing X to not die”, and there is the option to turn them off.

A typical battle screen.

For a turn-based system, combat is a lot of fun in The Last Remnant, battles seem chaotic as your units and enemy units run around flanking each other, weapons spill ridiculous amounts of blood, and the ragdoll physics are frequently hilarious (especially when your characters are caught in an explosion-type attack). I found myself spending time just watching the characters move (they even have idle animations where they “attack” other unions while you’re in the middle of issuing commands).

The game also seems to have cut down on micromanaging. While you can arrange unions in any way you see fit, you only really have full control of Rush. Other characters will snag dropped loot to upgrade their own weapons, and they’ll also bother you for components or ask you where they should focus their training or learn a new skill. So there is some degree of customization, but it’s not a matter of clicking through everyone’s inventory to make sure all their gear is up to date, which was actually kind of a relief, as I always manage to miss that one character I need to upgrade. Some may be disappointed with the overall lack of control the game gives you over your unions, though.

In terms of graphics. It’s Square Enix, so the graphics are pretty (so pretty my computer seemed to have issues with playing cutscenes properly). The enemy types are varied and surprisingly detailed (particularly the larger enemies). It’s not hyper realistic by any means, and there are, of course, some Squeenix staples like pretty boys, flamboyant costumes, improbable giant weapons, and belts and zippers (although it doesn’t seem like there are as many zippers this time around). Musically, the game has different battle themes for high and low morale and the final boss theme kicks a lot of ass, other tracks can get repetitive fast (although, I kind of liked the world map theme).

The game’s other strong point is that it isn’t afraid to completely and utterly crush you if you make one wrong move in a fight. Those of you who like a little challenge in your JRPG will be very happy with this game. It’s definitely tough but fair, though, and there are some moves that definitely venture into game-breaking territory. David’s Gae Bolg ability might as well be renamed the “I win” skill, because it’s powerful enough to instantly clear the field of all enemy unions.

Overall, The Last Remnant is a fun game with a simple-yet-complex combat system and a difficulty level that is challenging but not sadistic which, I feel, more than makes up for the repetitive questing, and for $15 on Steam, I’d say it’s well worth a look (it was also released on the 360, but the 360 version apparently suffers from massive slowdown). There’s also some replay value in the form of optional dungeons and any quests you missed the first time around. The game itself will take a fair amount of time to complete assuming you do a whole lot of quests and you’re trying to do a low Battle Rank run. For reference, I beat the game with a Battle Rank of 70 and I think a fair amount of luck was involved with the final boss. You know how final bosses in the Final Fantasy games tend to be cakewalks? Yeah, The Last Remnant is not your average Squeenix game.

And now, because I can, here is an unofficial The Last Remnant drinking game! (Note: Seriously, don’t do this, because you WILL end up in the hospital from alcohol poisoning before the halfway mark).

The Last Remnant Drinking Game (English version only)

Take a sip every time

  • Rush says some obvious thing that the player has figured out ages ago
  • Every time you hear “Yes, my Lord!”
  • Every time Rush calls Lord David “Dave”
  • Every time Rush and David give each other longing looks/nod at each other
  • Irina refers to David as “Mr. David”
  • Every time you pronounced David incorrectly in your head while you were reading this review (it’s pronounced Dah-VEED)
  • Every time a quest ends in a boss encounter (basically, every time you get a “Mission”) <—This one will probably get you very, VERY drunk
  • Every time an antagonist talks about being “awakened”
  • Every time “Marion’s Blessing” is mentioned

Take a drink any time

  • The game gives you no other choice except to use a special ability (Gae Bolg, Talisman, Summoning Cyclops, etc.)
  • An important character dies (take two drinks if they are replaced by another character who is practically identical to them)
  • Every time you don’t actually get an opportunity to fight an antagonist

Finish your drink every time

  • SomeoneĀ finally explains the plot of the game to you (be prepared for a LONG wait)

(Not So) Alternate Character Interpretation

Rush and David have a thing.

The game becomes much more interesting if you look at it from the angle that Rush and David are more than friends. Suddenly the way they glance at each other, the quest in Fornstrand (where David goes on about a girl he failed to save) all of it makes so much sense, and this is just in the English version, in the Japanese version (yes, you can play the game with the original Japanese voice track), there’s a really interesting pronoun change (“they” in English, “he” in Japanese) at the very end of the game.

Also there’s that bartender in Athlum. I was going to put “take a sip every time the game drips with Ho Yay”, but TBH even the heavyweight drinkers would probably be dead by the end of the game. There’s just so much of it.

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