While the gaming world waits eagerly for Final Fantasy 13, Square-Enix continues to attempt to woo fans towards new IPs. Recently we've had Infinite Undiscovery and now the adventures of Rush Sykes, otherwise known as: The Last Remnant. It's a different kind of game with some good and bad points, it's not quite as immediate and fun as some of Square-Enix's other offerings and it hasn't done as well as the company would have liked in terms of reviews either.
I'm afraid that this review isn't really going to sing the praises of the game, nor condemn it. Rather like Too Human, Last Remnant is pretty much average RPG fare with the only innovation, and I use that word fairly sparingly here being the use of a turn-based cinematic tactical battle system that allows for some pretty epic confrontations and has a few basic rules to bear in mind when fighting monsters.
The story is the typical Square-Enix cliché fare, Rush's sister has been kidnapped and it's up to you to find her. Along the way you cast in your lot with the local Marquis for a while and in typical Square-Enix hero fashion Rush manages to be bratty, obnoxious and emo all at once. This hero is better than Cloud and Squall however and is fairly likeable in small doses.
The game allows you to save anywhere and that's a bonus, since you can play as little or as much as you like and you're never going to have to worry about finding a tricky save point. There are city maps and a world map, you can explore the cities and open up new locations by talking to the right person or visiting the map at the right time. Square-Enix has cut down on a lot of space and also a lot of back/forth through locations by using this 'quick travel' system.
Some will love it, some will hate it and some will wonder why the heck Square-Enix went that route.
The same can be said for the battle system, where you set your various commands and sit back to watch the cinematic action. There is a kind-of quick-time event that triggers from time to time, press the right face button and you'll be rewarded with extra damage or a special effect in battle that will help you turn the tide against your enemies. There are formations to work with and each combat unit is grouped into something called a Union. Unions have a pool of hit points and each unit in the group adds to that.
There are various situational modifiers, Deadlocks happen when two Unions are in close combat and they must now battle to the death. Switching targets can have disastrous results and it's best to focus upon the enemy Union or target until they're terminated. There are other modifiers and Flank Attacks. The biggest selling point for me in Last Remnant apart from the save system and the fun battle system is the fact that you can initiate battles yourself, there are no random battles and after a slew of J-RPGs that can be described as grindfests, this one feels refreshing at least in that respect.
There are monster components to scavenge, monsters to capture and sell or break down into their component parts. Items to create and so forth, all the staples of the J-RPG genre are here and there. There is a problem in the story pacing, it feels broken up by the way that Square-Enix has handled the town/city map and there's very little to bring you into the world that they have created. You feel pushed from pillar to post and the whole experience is extremely linear.
Square-Enix has also chosen the Unreal Engine for their outing, rather like Mistwalker did for Lost Odyssey and it shows. Unless you put this game on the HD using the NXE you'll be in for longer load times, terrible texture pop-in/up and a shoddy framerate that slows to a crawl and can grind to a halt during the more epic battles in the game. For me this is a big game killer/breaker and with several glitches and texture errors Last Remnant feels rushed, which is a shame since there's a decent game under these problems.
Even when installed to the NXE the texture pop is noticeable but the framerate smoothes out, there are times when it takes a dip again but it's not as bad as running it from the 2 CDs that the game comes on.
The graphics are nice though, Square-Enix have done a good job using the Unreal Engine to produce and detail their world. The characters are well created and you can tell it's a game that they've spent time working with concept sketches on, since the environments are stunning in places and the complexity of the architecture rivals some of that found in the original Gears of War.
Combat animation and movement are good, the battles are epic and cinematic and when the framerate is smooth they look superb. The main character's animation is stilted when running and some of the other characters feel as though they could have used a little longer with regards to their general animations.
The music and sound is of an excellent quality and the score is worthy of a Final Fantasy style series, it's uplifting and dramatic yet there's a hint of melancholy there in some of the themes throughout the game. There's nothing overly jarring. The voice acting varies as per usual but has a fairly decent level of performance overall in the parts that are voiced.
There are sections of the game that aren't voiced at all, rather like Infinite Undiscovery and this is Square-Enix's attempt to cut down on space on-disk as well as production costs. After being spoilt though by the likes of Final Fantasy 10 we can't help but feel a little cheated when this happens. The Last Remnant is an average game with a fairly decent chunk of world to explore, yet it doesn't feel as massive as it should and the impact of this excellently designed new world is lost due to certain design decisions.
The texture problems and framerate issues are unforgivable in this current generation and to be honest; installing a game on the HD using the NXE shouldn't be a requirement. Whilst it's not listed as such on the box it should really be noted that there is a significant performance upgrade to the game if you do put it on the HD and that's one of my bugbears with the whole thing. It's supposed to be a convenience and whilst some of us have the 120GB drives there are several people with 20GB or memory cards that will find this game unplayable unless they install it.
All in all though, Last Remnant is still better than Too Human.