The Last Remnant
When I first heard that Square-Enix was actually bringing a JRPG to the PC, they certainly caught my attention. While I’m not the biggest fan of the genre, I did like the prospect of playing The Last Remnant with a keyboard and mouse due to my preference to those over a controller. Being one of the few games from Japan that actually uses the Unreal Engine allowed Square’s latest high-budget game to be brought over with no trouble. But what good is a great PC port of a sub-par console game anyways?
Yes, there is a story in The Last Remnant. And yes, it’s really stupid. This genre truly hasn’t progressed in the art of story-telling, and the weak exposition doesn’t exactly start things off right. You play as Rush Sykes, a generic teenager looking for his lost sister. He is welcomed to the kingdom of Athlum, where the king, David, decides to help him in his task. Oh yeah, there’s also cat and fish people, the former of which look very similar to the Thundercats, but with four arms. There’s not much else to say other than the title is a reference to “remnants”, ancient artifacts that come in various shapes and forms, and each one is basically assigned to the rulers of the different cities in the game’s world.
The biggest problem with The Last Remnant is perhaps the combat system. While it had some interesting concepts, the execution feels weak and under-developed. A new system utilizing Unions, which are small groups of characters spread out on the battlefield, are the most interesting new idea here, but it doesn’t truly feel like they add any depth to how you play games in the genre, and ultimately they’re there to just keep battles going. While it does allow for huge battles, it also just means you have to manage more characters in an unorganized fashion.
Then there’s the idea of using quick-time events while fighting, which has been done before. However, the randomness and the way the game inconsistently lets you even do it doesn’t compare to the way this concept works in games like Mario & Luigi, etc, where you simply just time your button presses; it has no real purpose in this game since you can let the computer do it for you automatically anyways in the options. There is also a vagueness to how the combat itself works, and there is very little decision-making in the way of what you want your characters to do.
Visually The Last Remnant is a fairly nice looking game, though unfortunately there’s still some pop-in since it uses the UE3. When cranked up to the highest settings at a high resolution, the game becomes very easy on the eyes. The art itself is a mixed affair; some characters looking like one style and others looking like an entirely different person designed them. One thing that is consistent is the environments, which are all boring and without imagination. I was really hoping that by using a different engine that the game would be showing off something less static, but it seems that you can only expect so much from Japanese developers when it comes to using technology to its fullest at this point.
By far the best part about The Last Remnant’s movement to the PC is the control customization. I am quite pleased that I was able to tweak everything to the point where it felt like I was playing an MMO, allowing me to play without too many issues. The camera is a problem, though, and it’s very aggravating when you use the mouse to rotate the camera only to have it bounce away and have you looking in a different direction. This causes problems when exploring narrow areas, where you might be heading in the opposite direction if you don’t pay attention to the mini-map. There is support for standard controllers, but obviously there’s emphasis on using the 360 controller.
Honestly, Last Remnant is just another JRPG with a fresh coat of paint and a few unfinished ideas. The core of the game still revolves around choosing attack in the menu and waiting for your battles to finish. There is no charm, no hook, and no reason to play this game outside of wanting to play a Japanese RPG on your PC with nice graphics. The one upside is that maybe more developers will attempt to port more of the genre to the PC, but hopefully they bring something more worthy to a platform that has a sizeable amount of role-playing games that are creative and memorable.