The Last Remnant is a unique, exciting, and beautiful RPG from what’s now considered the last generation – so long as you’re playing the later PC version, that is. Now before everyone runs for the hills for fear of being caught up in some awful “Master Race” rant I want to take a moment to stress that the PC version really is objectively better, as the team went back and reworked everything from the graphics to the fundamental nuts-and-bolts of the gameplay for the PC port. Pick a fault levelled at the 360 release and it’ll have been adjusted, fixed, and polished for the PC version - then they’ll have stuck knobs on it and made it look prettier too. The total list of tweaks, tucks, and outright do-overs comes to sixty-eight bullet points according to this wiki, and they aren’t being particularly specific about it either.
So, with that out of the way I can get on with gushing about this lovely game! If I wanted to distil it down to a quick sound bite I’d say it’s the closest we’ll ever get to a true Final Fantasy XII-2; another world-driven story with a fantastically quirky battle system that is misunderstood by some, simply not to the taste of others, and raved about by weird people like me. In fairness the game had the stupendously bad luck of being released on the “wrong” format twice, with neither the 360 or PCs of the time being particularly receptive markets for no-name JRPGs with experimental fighting setups.
The main character’s a young chap called Rush, although as with Final Fantasy XII he’s not the most powerful, experienced, charming, or intelligent member of the cast, outshone as he is by super-researcher family members, important political friends and powerful generals. This style of storytelling can put a few player’s noses out of joint but in my opinion this approach coupled with the worldbuilding that comes in bits and pieces from NPCs, location information and side quests (rather like modern RPG-ish darling Souls games) really makes everything come alive – shopkeepers, caves, and the idle pub chatter feel like they’d all be there whether Rush and his array of four-armed catmen, fishmen, not-frogmen and plain old human friends happened to be adventuring in the area or not.
But even with my deep love for this sort of worldbuilding at the end of the day liking (or not) this form of storytelling is merely a matter of personal taste, so I’ll leave that there. The battle system however is another matter entirely, frequently misunderstood and leaving gamers feeling intimidated by all the weird stats, lack of direct control over individual units, and random skill acquisitions. The main thing to remember here is that it’s really not half as complicated as you think it is, it’s just a bit different from your typical JRPG (as you’d probably expect when you learn some of the staff previously worked on the SaGa series).
So while it’s not your usual line-up-and-hit-each-other-in-polite-turns scenario this shouldn’t scare you off, because what it’s been replaced with is amazing. Fights are beautifully chaotic affairs with multiple squads on both sides manoeuvring about the battlefield and rushing to intercept enemy forces, backing up other team members, and skilfully flanking a powerful foe. Before each round you get to choose which enemy units to focus your teams on and issue a relevant general order from a choice of five for your team to act out – standard commands include “Attack with combat arts!” “Attack with mystic arts!” and “Attack wisely!” – now these may not seem especially helpful at first glance, but the game always displays an info bar at the top explaining exactly what each option does and the AI is incredibly smart, capable of changing the actions of team members further down the turn order line – throwing out another heal if an earlier one didn’t turn things around, for example. Basically the important things to remember are that:
A) The game was designed around dishing out general orders from the beginning – no control’s being taken away from you, because it was never there in the first place.
B) As with any RPG the main thing is to hit stuff hard and not die, so as long as you’re keeping your teams HP up and aren’t doing anything daft like trying to take on four enemy groups with one half-dead team you’ll be fine.
Oh wait – there’s kind of a C) point to consider as well! After every battle all HP/AP and any incapacitated teams are completely restored, which is the game’s way of encouraging you to use every trick in the book during every battle and avoid the old “Play in a really dull and conservative way then blow everything on the dungeon boss” not-tactic tactic.
If you do find yourself enjoying what is actually a pretty straightforward game (just one with a lot of minor variables) then you’ll be pleased to know it’s stuffed to the gills with optional quests, secret party members, item recipes and even a groovy New Game + mode too! Hooray!
The Last Remnant suffers from a broadly similar issue to Vagrant Story in my opinion – people overthinking things and/or trying too hard to break the system. Is it possible to do better if you learn absolutely everything and faff around farming specific item drops for weapon recipes? Yes, it is. But this is called “Being rewarded for putting in some extra effort” not “Playing the game properly”. Just winging it and going in with a bit of RPG-tinged common sense will do the job just fine and the end result is an enjoyable adventure in a fascinating world with an endlessly exciting battle system – so why not give it a go and see for yourself?