What is it with these Japanese RPG’s and their strangely unsuitable names? Look back towards what most consider the ultimate JRPG series, the Final Fantasy games, and ponder just why Square decided to call them FINAL Fantasy. Final? Considering the vast number of spin-offs and sequels in the series there’s nothing final about them.
So here we go with The Last Remnant, the latest try from Microsoft to crack the hardcore RPG market. Earlier Xbox 360 exclusive RPGs Lost Odyssey and Infinite Undiscovery have sadly failed to hit the spot with the gamer on the street, and hence here comes another try from the kings of the genre, Square-Enix.
Initial appearances are shockingly poor. Stick the game in your 360 and the initial batch of gameplay, taking in a hectic battle within the first few minutes, is unfortunately packed with the kind of texture pop-in problems and terrible frame rate that you’d not really expect from any modern day gaming production.
Usually slight visual errors can be forgivable, but here they come close to entirely tearing apart your chances of enjoyment all in themselves. Textures frequently won’t appear on characters and backdrops until a good number of seconds too late. It’s astonishingly noticeable, and incredibly off-putting when you’re trying to figure out the nuances of the convoluted storyline.
Yet despite these visual flaws, loading screens still crop up with annoying regularity. Every cutscene, battle, and change of location will be opened by a few seconds worth of “now loading”. Yet despite this constant loading, the texture errors continue to stack up.
On the plus side, a sizey install to your 360 hard drive does go some way to alleviate these flaws, particularly with the loading screen times which are roughly halved. But the stuttering frame rate, and horrific texture pop-in remains virtually unchanged, leaving these major errors as blatant to every eye.
Most RPG’s are made by the strength of their story, and The Last Remnant offers up a typical tale. Your character, Rush, is the typical moody main character, intent on rescuing his kidnapped sister. Obviously things aren’t quite so simple, with Rush uncovering all kinds of story threads surrounding the titular Remnant artefacts, the Academy researching these magical stones, and battles between those who look-up to these mystical items, and the people who want them off the face of the planet.
It’s a lengthy tale, and one that is indeed fairly interesting. It’s certainly a step behind the kind of story telling included in the best of the Final Fantasy titles, but it’s certainly the biggest shining star in The Last Remnant’s armoury.
The battle system works differently to most. Here you’re able to recruit soldiers and leaders, who you can group together in squads of five to create unions. All you’re left to do is hint each union towards the kind of actions they need to perform, leaving the kind of micromanagement you find in these brand of games totally out of the picture.
It’s an unusual system, and one that ultimately fails to work to any degree of comfort. While this lack of true interaction is fine for the random skirmishes you’ll consistently find yourself taking part in, you’ll find yourself desperate for major interaction during the larger, more important, battles. It’s a shame Square-Enix couldn’t find a happy medium.
If it wasn’t for the numerous technical errors, The Last Remnant could have been a decent title. The story is mildly invigorating, and the strangely passive battle system is fine for random battles.
But, the terrible frame rate, the frequent texture pop-in, and the constant loading screens hint towards a rushed title that simply isn’t ready for the shop shelves. Another few months tweaking and we could have had a decent title on our hands. As it is, this is one to maybe peek at once it hits the bargain bins.