Xbox 360 was home to some unique JRPGs, one of which was The Last Remnant with its battle system that has you command unions of troops. I remember enjoying it back in the day so I jumped at the opportunity to play this remastered version for PlayStation 4.
The Last Remnant's story focuses on the Sykes siblings: Rush and Irina. They are each other's best friends and closest confidants as they've grown up with their parents being away for months at a time. As a result, they've come to depend on each other for company and protection. In the opening sequences, Irina is abruptly captured by an unknown villain, leaving Rush to set on a worldwide journey to find her and bring her back to safety. Along the way, he befriends Lord David, leader of Athlum, and quickly becomes chums with the Lord's personal entourage. Lord David is a new ruler who is facing pressure to live up to his father as well as deal with the world around him as it's uprooted by war. Meanwhile, a man calling himself The Conqueror is out to bind himself to the remnants that are protected in all of the towns across the land and it's up to David and his allies to take him down. This story is interesting right from the start and Rush's unwavering focus to save his sister will keep you rooting for him throughout.
The world that you traverse is populated with many different races including humans, cats with four arms, cute small reptiles, and large fish-like beings. The amount of detail in the characters is very well done with each individual adorning unique battle gear that fits their frame and gives them their own personality. The same can be said for the many towns that you peruse with each one containing a large remnant which appears as a huge crystal-like statue that protrudes into the sky with the town being built around it.
It's unfortunate that the world map is simply a menu where you select your next destination because seeing the amount of detail that went into the towns; I can imagine how interesting the overworld could have been to explore. However, I can't say that they spent much time in the dungeons and battlefields as most of them are just large open expanses with the odd treasure chest. It's disappointing that there is a lot lacking in the way of puzzles, interesting terrain, bridges, or anything to break up the monotony. Whenever you come across a treasure chest or a spot for Mr. Diggs to dig into to find some precious materials, you'll be happy that there was a reason to run down a certain hallway but more often than not, there won't be.
The enemy variety is a little disappointing, too. Most of the enemies look very similar and a lot of them are large versions of insects such as spiders, butterflies, beetles, and flies with slightly different variations appearing at different moments in the campaign. The enemies appear on the map itself, allowing you to try and run away if you want. You can also slow down time and choose to tag multiple enemies then start a battle with them simultaneously after choosing your starting position. This is a rather nifty mechanic that I enjoy in JRPGs as it allows you to set the difficulty of your next battle by deciding how many enemies you want to fight at once.
Prior to commencing battle, you must set up your unions. This involves choosing how many unions you want and how many allies in each one as well as their formation which may grant bonuses to stats such as defense or provide an edge against certain enemy types. The number of allies in a union and the amount of unions you can have increases as you get further into the story. The HP of each union is the total HP of the units within it so that plays a big role into deciding how much you want to split up your allies. You also want to make sure you balance those who are better at physical and magic attacks, healing, and those stronger in long or short range attacks.
At the start of each turn in battle, you give a general command to each union such as telling them to focus on physical or mystic artes, heal themselves or others, or choose to see how things go and play it by ear. After selecting your commands, you basically sit back and watch to see if your decision was a good one or if your party will get slaughtered. The only thing that breaks up the waiting period is the odd quick-time event that grants more damage or stronger defense if you manage to hit the button at just the right time. This is more difficult to do than you might think but you can also choose to have it automatically triggered in the menu if you'd prefer.
When in combat, there are multiple events that can occur on each turn depending on where your and the enemy's unions are on the map. Attacking an enemy party dead-on causes a deadlock which means you fight until one team is knocked out. You can also flank enemies which moves the morale meter more towards the favourable end, causing more damage to occur. If you let the morale meter go completely red, you'll risk major damage on each blow from the enemy. Also, if you get flanked by multiple enemies, you may go into multi-deadlock which results in a further hit to morale for the party being attacked. There are also rear assaults and interception / interference moves that come into play, moving the morale meter favourably towards the attacking party.
The average battle's difficulty is just right as they required me to think on my toes to make sure I kept each party's HP up and I flanked enemies whenever possible. When it comes to bosses, they took me multiple attempts to master and often required luck, extra grinding, and multiple weapon upgrades. It definitely won't be a walk in the park so be prepared to strategize if you decide to play this.
The Last Remnant has a less traditional approach to combat, having you command unions of allies to take down enemy forces with strategy, luck, and patience. Although its campaign lacks variety, the story, unique characters, and world will keep you intrigued.
- + Unique and challenging battle system
- + Detailed character and city models do a good job of bringing the world to life
- + Interesting characters and story
- - Dungeons and monsters lack variety
- - Battles can be rather dull and monotonous between issuing commands