Title: The Last Remnant Remastered
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: December 6, 2018
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Square Enix
Now, perhaps this is best coming from me, but I just want to let it be known that I’m a huge fan of obscure RPGs — this is coming from someone who beat Final Fantasy Mystic Quest and thought it was pretty decent. So when I pick up games that are generally critically bashed, I try to see it in either a different light or understand more about the product to produce a proper criticism of the product.
I feel that’s what is needed to review Square Enix’s The Last Remnant Remastered, a game that released at a time when JRPGs weren’t the hottest thing on the market and Square Enix was still trying to find where it would fit in the new console generation. After poor reviews and mediocre sells when the game released in 2009 exclusive to the Xbox 360, I was fully capable of writing The Last Remnant off and thanking it for its services, but that all changed when the Remastered version was announced. I found myself deeply curious to get my hands on the game with my added 10 years of gaming experience and give this game a try once again.
The Last Remnant Remastered does have a story. However, it’s impossible to really understand it until about 4 hours into the game. Before that, we have a trail of coincidences that lead and push the main character Rush Sykes to where he is supposed to be. You see after Rush’s sister was kidnapped, Rush found his way to a new region where we coincidentally noticed his sister’s favorite flower, after he coincidentally ended up in the middle of a large war, after that he coincidentally mistakes a fighter for his sister, after that he coincidentally has a famous last name, after that he coincidentally get news of possible sightings of his sister.
It all feels spoon fed and happens quicker than it should. With that said, the story does slow down a bit and allow events happen naturally during the later parts of the game. I feel like this choice was made in order to streamline western players into receiving all the information possible about Rush’s situation in the shortest way possible. It’s going to be up to the player to just take all of this and accept it, if they want to get to where the game gets good because I assure you that it does, eventually.
You see, Rush is actually a very complex character, even though you will probably dislike him in the early parts of the game. Throughout the game, his true power and fate will be revealed as he searches for his sister’s captures and discovers more about the political agenda that revolves around the Remnants, the Agency, and the Lords of the regions. There’s actually so much that happens storywise in the game that at hour 20 you look back fondly on the times when everything was just so coincidental and easy. What made me enjoy the story a little more is how random the main characters are in this game. They aren’t your typical hero looking group, instead, they all seem like if they were in any other game they would be side characters which, to me, makes it feel a little more grounded.
The Last Remnant Remastered has a battle system that at first glance seems complex but gets a little more manageable the more you play. Party members are separated into units that share stats like HP and AP. These units act as a group called Unions that can be given orders by the player. The choices for these orders are automatically populated with various actions, which can include various skills and attacks from the characters in the Union. This is also the only way to properly heal in the game. When a Union’s HP is low, other Unions can heal them or they might be able to heal themselves.
The battlefield also isn’t your traditional JRPG turn-based set up. Enemies and Unions are scattered around the player must strategically plan which enemies to attack if they don’t want to end up surrounded. As Unions and enemies interact on the battlefield a few different things can happen, such as, if they meet head on it will trigger a Deadlock, or if the Union is already in a Deadlock and another enemy tries to attack it’ll be a Flank. Using this knowledge to your advantage is key to winning some of the more difficult battles that the game throws at you and, trust me, they’ll definitely throw them at you.
Along with the story, it took me about 2 hours to get comfortable with the battle system, but then I had to understand how to use the Unions and put them together because up until that point the game more or less does it for you. There is very little handholding, which I enjoyed to a point, but I could have used a little more than some text boxes with highlighted words to help me out a little. What I discovered is that choosing a Leader changes the style of the Union and going for all out strength isn’t that important.
I actually really enjoyed watching the battles play out after my choices, and I also liked how easy it was for the tide of the battle to change from everything going good to two Unions dead and feeling defeated. However, I can say that this system is not going to be for everyone and definitely takes getting used to. With that said, it was cool to play something different and unique that I haven’t seen done before or after. It’s because of this that I gave it my all to figuring it out and finding its strengths, which there are many. For one, all battles require the attention of the player, mindlessly pressing X isn’t going to get you anywhere. Furthermore, there are moments when characters will be able to defend or extend an attack with the time button press, this demands even more attention from the player.
The Last Remnant attempts other systems that aim to streamline the JRPG experience by only letting the player worry about Rush’s loadout. Although there are times when party members will ask for equipment, everyone worries about themselves and I actually enjoyed not having to buy five swords at the weapons shop or farming materials for multiple weapon upgrades. Furthermore, enemies will scale with the player so returning to old dungeons and finding new areas to explore will always provide enough experience to level up Unions and not be a total waste of time.
Dungeons in the game usually will seem small at first, but get larger throughout the game as you unlock secret routes or a side mission opens up a new area. There are plenty of themes and gimmicks that make them feel unique, but they don’t truly get enjoyable until you unlock Mr. Diggs, the star of the game. In all seriousness though, Mr. Diggs offers a reason to pay more attention to dungeon layouts and discover digging points to farm materials.
There are also a lot of towns in the game that are represented by dots on a map and then expand to a bigger area when entered. I’m not sure why this approach was taken and not something similar to what we saw in Final Fantasy XII. I only found town exploration annoying when I had to trigger an event but wasn’t told how or where to go to trigger it. Lack of direction is a theme that is reoccurring in the game, but it does the same thing so often that you get used to it.
When it comes to the “Remastered” in The Last Remnant Remastered, this game definitely benefitted from the upgrade. The framerate that plagued the Xbox 360 version is no more and the autosave and run feature helps out loads. There’s also a way to speed up the battles, which saves a ton of time because this is a very long game.
I’d also like to point out that The Last Remnant Remastered has one of the best soundtracks out there for a JRPG. Paired with the decent English audio and nice sound design, and I could easily recommend this game based on the sound direction alone. Additionally, there are some really epic boss battles that I feel any fan of JRPGs can appreciate because the villain in this game is one who is easily hated.
Following Rush on his journey was something that I might have passed up on if The Last Remnant Remastered hadn’t been released. Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of bad things about this game, and what it tried to do using a new engine and battle system. Thankfully, I tuned that out and sat down for hours of enjoyment fueled by a great cast of characters, unique battle system, and a beautifully remastered port, at least after the first couple hours of the game trying to find its feet.
The Last Remnant Remastered is brutally difficult, and requires an investment that some players might not be able to give it. The game lacks a polish on direction but has a refined battle system that isn’t as intimidating as it looks. For those willing to put in the time, they will be treated to a truly nice JRPG experience that isn’t talked about enough today. Sure, the game has its flaws, but I ended up looking past most of them as I rooted Rush on to accomplish his goals.
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