Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Nov 202020

Operation Rainfall was a 2011 fan campaign organized to push for North American releases of three Wii JRPGs, Xenoblade Chronicles, The Last Story, and Pandora’s Tower.

The campaign was a success. I bought all three Operation Rainfall games at launch, but until this year, I had only ever played Xenoblade Chronicles. Similarly, Xenoblade is the only one that really took off, while the other two seem largely forgotten.

But now I’ve finally played The Last Story, and it deserves a lot more attention and recognition than it gets.

The Last Story is an action RPG from Mistwalker (Hironobu Sakaguchi’s company) about a mercenary named Zael who gains a mysterious power and ends up drawn into conflicts surrounding the Empire’s ongoing war with an enemy race.

The combat is a little unusual for an action RPG, as basic attacks are only a small part of what you’ll be using. You also have a crossbow for ranged attacks, Zael’s power that lets you draw enemy attention to him, and a command system that lets you issue orders to your party members.

Combat ends up feeling fairly strategic, with a lot of time spent issuing commands and deciding how to use spells together with Zael’s “Gale” ability, which lets him diffuse a party member’s spell circle. For example, a fire-based spell circle will deal fire damage to enemies, but diffusing it breaks the enemy’s guard.

There are also a lot of quirky little things in the game, like how you can shoot banana peels at NPCs to make them slip, or aim at sparkling spots on the ground or in the air to collect a stat boost, or watch for random traveling merchants selling items at low prices if you reach them fast enough. It’s definitely not a by-the-books game; while some of its decisions feel odd, they also give it a lot of heart.

Now, I’d somehow gotten the impression before I played that The Last Story wasn’t particularly story-heavy, which is one of the reasons I never got around to it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Last Story is very story-driven, and sometimes I’d miss party banter because I accidentally walked into the next cutscene before the dialogue had finished. The pacing can be odd, with large linear sections broken up by sections where you’re back in town with new side quests to accept and optional chapters to complete, but it doesn’t feel bad. I went into it knowing nothing about it except “band of mercenaries,” and I enjoyed the twists and turns as the story went on.

It’s not a perfect story by any means. Some of the dialogue felt a bit forced, some parts were too predictable, and a few points could have definitely used improvements to be stronger.

Click for major The Last Story spoilers
In particular, I felt the game did itself a disservice in the way it handled Dagran. I grew suspicious of him early on because of how hard he was pushing to work with the Count, and the confrontation where he admits to framing Jirall pretty much confirmed it for me. If they had left that ambiguous, if they left me only suspecting that he framed Jirall for a while longer, I think it would have worked better.

But worse than that, the game really sidelines him after a certain point. He starts out being a major part of the team, but after a while he disappears from story events entirely. The others started feeling more like my true party, so the emotional impact of learning the truth felt weaker. If they kept him more involved for longer and really built up that bond, it would have made his betrayal so much more impactful (and less obvious).

A few more “casual” scenes to show the bond between party members also would have helped a lot. Yet even if The Last Story wasn’t perfect, it definitely was enjoyable. There were so many fun parts and beautiful moments that made me wish Mistwalker was still actively making games.

I understand why The Last Story ended up overshadowed by Xenoblade. It hasn’t become a new must-play favorite for me the way Xenoblade did… but it’s a game that deserves a second chance. I would love to see The Last Story remastered or ported so that more people have a chance to play this overlooked JRPG, and if they ever make The Last Story 2, I’d absolutely give it a try.

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  6 Responses to “The Last Story Deserves More Recognition”

  1. I never got around to Last Story either (not touching that spoiler panel…)
    I feel like I’d give it a try if it got a re-release on Switch. It does seem like a fun, quirky game, and I am glad to hear story is a large focus.

  2. “Now, I’d somehow gotten the impression before I played that The Last Story wasn’t particularly story-heavy”

    I mean, it’s in the name…!

    So…we gonna hear about Pandora’s Tower sometime in 2021?

    • Haha, I thought about that while I was writing it, but just because “story” is in the title doesn’t necessarily mean it’s story-driven.

      And regarding Pandora’s Tower… who knows, maybe? It’s sitting there in my backlog waiting for me, after all.

  3. […] Playing The Last Story left me dying for more games from Mistwalker, and while another mobile game isn’t exactly what I was hoping for, it might be too soon to write it off. Fantasian is being designed with handcrafted dioramas and looks at least visually interesting from the tweets shared by Mistwalker. […]

  4. […] played The Last Story for the first time just a few months ago, and I stand by what I said in my review – this Wii action JRPG deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. Now, why is it on this […]

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