If you’re psychotic enough to actually read these every week, you know that I recently game back from a two-week trip to the ol’ US of A, country of my birth. And since I live in Central Europe, it should go without saying that the commute there is nothing short of extraordinary: we’ve got an hour on public transportation to the airport, which is then a two hour flight to a bigger airport. For that trip particular, I stayed with some friends overnight in London, which meant a two and a half our trip one-way to get to their place, which happened again on the way back out, which was of course a nine our flight to get to the Midwest. And while I was there, my family was taking care of the driving, which was basically all the way up and down ol’ Minnesota, which meant I spent a considerable amount of time in the backseat of a car, too.
Fortunately, I have my reliable Switch, which kept me company for a good chunk of that time, and I decided to help slog through the hours by slogging through a RPG that I was curious about in my youth but was only reminded of at this year’s E3: The Last Remnant, which was just re-released on Nintendo’s console not more than a month ago.
Now, the reason I was first drawn to the game – which I couldn’t get at launch because it was during an era when I was in a fairly committed relationship with Nintendo’s consoles – was that it promised to be a JRPG (a genre I tend to like) with elements of real-time strategy (a genre I adore). So it was with excited, baited breath that I first cracked it open. Quite a bit of time has passed since then, but while I cannot make a proper review of the game on account of the fact I haven’t finished it (and also I’m bad at reviews), I think I can instead use it as a jumping point for an equally important discussion: crap I really hate about The Last Remnant.
1) I hate the main character
So when I was first introduced to “Rush Skyes”, I already knew he’d test my patience. He has the name of a parody 90’s action hero, and there was no way they had given him that name sincerely if they were taking him very seriously. And in the very first scene we see Rush Skyes walking alone in a forest, stumble into a giant battlefield, see a woman in armor very, very far away, and assume that it was his sister.
As introductions go, you can do worse. Until you learn one short tutorial later that his sister was kidnapped by strange figures with a flying monster, is about half the age of the woman he confuses her for, and looks literally nothing like her. So the fact that Rush Skyes assumes his kidnapped sister was suddenly promoted to the general of a foreign army, aged dramatically, and got several plastic surgeries is already a pretty big warning flag that our main character isn’t playing with a full deck of cards, and while that is without a doubt his crowning moment of stupid he has had plenty of other moments of stupid mixed in-between that keep me constantly aware of what a piss-drain he is.
Random example: there’s no “yes” or “no” option in dialogue, it’s all in-character confirmations or denials. These alone are a fairly frequent reminder of his utter frivolity. But they enter downright comical levels when he shows begrudging hesitation to visit an ancient bird-god who has only ever conferred with nobility and heroes, but absolute childish delight in assisting a man who actively threatens his and his friends lives if they don’t perform a trivial task for him.
Also, everyone thinks he’s cute.
2) Screw the combat.
I’m not going to bother trying to explain how the combat works in any comprehensive detail because it could probably fill an encyclopedia, but the long and the short of it is that rather than having individual party members, you have “squads” made up of characters you recruit along the way. In combat, you send squads against other squads, and the first squad to lose all their HP is wiped out of the battle. But you can also send multiple squads to, say, flank a squad or attack from afar without engaging, which not only increases your damage but also affects morale, which boosts your damage and defense the higher it gets, while penalizing both as it gets lower.
I know, even that baseline explanation is weird. But here’s where things get really ‘messy’ – you can’t really control your squadmates directly.
Rather, at the start of the round, you just sort of give each squad a target and a directive – maybe “Charge” or “finish them off” or “use mystic arts” (that’s magic) or “heal the others” – and each squad then performs that directive as best they can. 90% of the time, that works out fine enough. But that 10% of the time… you really feel that 10%.
For example: I have a unit that knows the spell Caustic. It’s a big AoE attack that’s great at clearing out weaker units. So when I’m swarmed by what can only be called a horde of evil bugs, I’m gonna want him to use Caustic. But if I don’t have an option that directly says “take them all out”, I’m basically playing craps and hoping the RNG that controls my character’s brains will decide to use Caustic rather than a friggen’ basic attack. Another example: I’m about to fight a boss and I have four squads. I know this boss absolutely wrecks me and attacks every time a squad engages it, so I’d like my healer squad to stand to the side and keep the other squads healthy. But since none of my other units are wounded, not only will that not be an option, but my only other option will be “throw yourself to your certain death by attacking this guy”.
There’s no other choice. Sometimes even the option to just “pass” won’t be available.
This is exacerbated by the fact that later in the game (I have no idea how far into the plot I am) this lack of control often means that your best strategy is just “hope your enemy doesn’t use that move”. Most bosses will have at least one AoE attack that absolutely wrecks or one-shots every squad it hits, and since you can’t really control where your allies are positioned (and are in fact frequently forced to send them charging in), it’s entirely possible your 21st attempt to bring them down will be ended prematurely because they decide to use “that” move. I’m looking at you, Merry-Go-Round lll.
I could go on over how much I hate this system but you can’t start a list without having at least three items on it so…
3) Friggen’ sidequests.
Every JRPG has side-quests and it seems to be an edict from the RPG gods that most of them are really annoying. In that respect, The Last Remnant is actually unusually good in that the side quests tend to be fairly tolerable. Other than the standard item-trading one, an escort quest, and some stupid business about fetching a holy chalice, usually when you accept the quest you’re warped straight to the dungeon you need, you go through it until you’ve finished your objective, then you leave without hassle.
The problem, such as it was, is finding the damn things.
There are like eight or so cities at my current point in the game, and while the bartenders at each city’s pup will usually tell you when there are sidequests to do, they don’t usually tell you where to find them. What’s more, since you can’t see who’s got something new to say on the mini-map, you have to hunt for the person with a special “…!” bubble over their faces.
Now, that’s annoying sometimes, but it’s not too bad. No, what’s awful are the companion side-quests, which are special quests you can do for party members to boost their performance and learn more about their stories. To find these bad boys, you have to recruit a special party member: then, they’ll show up somewhere in the city where you recruited them, with a normal “…” above their heads so they blend in pretty well. Then, you have to talk to them. Not just once. Not just twice. Every time you leave for the world map and you come back, you have to talk to them. Gotta do that like 4-5 times before they turn into a “…!”. You then have to do this as many times as it takes for them to either vanish and appear in a bar with a new quest, or for a new NPC to spawn up somewhere else in the story as triggered by indeterminate events in the plot. So to do every quest in the game, you either have to routinely talk to and patrol every city in the game for these spawning NPC’s and party members… or you cheat and use a walkthrough.
So yeah. There’s a lot I hate about this game.
But we’re still a week from Fire Emblem, so.