Here's something that's not too surprising: I love JRPGs. Shocking, I know. Ever since the first Final Fantasy on the NES sunk its hooks into me, I've always tried to stay up to date with the genre, and that's actually part of the reason I'm more of a Sony guy than a Xbox guy; JRPG's just aren't very popular with the Japanese developers to make for the Xbox for its measly share of the Japan console market.
And yet, the Xbox actually has got a few JRPGs that no one else had, like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and Tales of Vesperia. One of these was The Last Remnant, so when I saw that the game was getting a remaster for the PS4, I had to jump on it. So, a whopping ten years later, is it worth diving into the world of The Last Remnant Remastered? Let's find out together!
You take the role of a young man named Rush Sykes (because, as we all know, it is some sort of JRPG law to have your protagonist be young males). Rush is out looking for his kidnapped sister, Irina, when he sees the army of Athlum fighting monsters nearby and gets inadvertently swept up into the battle when he thinks one of the generals may be his sister. That's our guy!
To better explain the settings for you, it's important to point out that the world in The Last Remnant focuses on "remnants", powerful artifacts that can be bound to individuals granting them powers. For example, the leader of Athlum, David Nassau, has control of the remnant "Gae Bolg" and can summon a gigantic cannon to blast his enemies. If remnants are left alone for too long (unbound), they can cause a collapse and summon monsters (which is what you see in the beginning of the game).
As you can imagine, remnants are extremely powerful and the cause of much political intrigue and wars throughout the history. Rush's parents are scientists who work on understanding remnants further, so he’s subsequently looked after by David as he helps him search for Irina. This sweeps you up into the story of the remnants and the various people who lust after their power.
In the end, there are several things I liked about the story. For example, the whole remnant thing and having powerful people being able to bind them and use their power is pretty cool. I also liked the races present in this game, as they have humans, bulky fish-like people, small reptile people (with huge dangling ears) and four-armed cat people. It really reminds me of Final Fantasy 12 (or Tactics) in a way. However, despite these positive sides, the story here is a slog. The main character is just a bland stereotype and the story itself is rather bland and by the numbers, even with its grand scales. There's just a distinct lack of personal placement, which doesn't help at all (for example, we're expected to care about our sister right away, when the game spends no time developing a backstory or any reason to care about her). It's so bad that by the time the villains appeared, I was actually rooting for them. It turns out to be a fairly standard tale in the end, but man, is it hard to get into.
OK, let's move on! One huge thing that sets The Last Remnant apart from most JRPG games is the battle system. If you are expecting individual levels and lining your party members up to exchange blows, you would be dead wrong. Instead, what the game does is let you put party members into unions (small groups of your soldiers) that gain their stats from the combined party members’ strength and then let you attack enemy unions that way.
This makes the battle system very unique, as you can assign party members to your unions and pick the type of formation you want to use (different formations give you different stat boosts), making the battles themselves more of a tactical affair, as how you engage enemies takes on a military approach (engaged units, flanking, etc). This all goes along with a morale bar in battle for extra damage. While the battle system is unique, once again, it really isn't quite my cup of tea. The main reason is how repetitive it is throughout the entire game. Part of that comes from how you battle: when you target an enemy, you spend points to perform a type of attack (magic, abilities, normal attack, etc.), but you don't actually get to tell your units what to do. For example, my small reptile dude (Pagus) is a beast of a mage, but I never get to tell him what spell to use, just to "use a spell". Plus, for the majority of the battles out in the world (grinding), you just send your unions at the enemy with the strongest attack options you have access to. Just... very repetitive.
This is compounded by the fact that you don't really level up in this game. Instead, it takes a cue from the Saga series and your characters will randomly gain stats after battle, which includes leveling up their abilities (although the game does let you choose which abilities to level every now and again, and I have no idea what triggers this). This fact further makes the game play unique, and honestly, it works well (personally, I got plenty of stat increases throughout the game), but it again makes the game that much more impersonal. There's no real hands-on micro management here to dig into and enjoy, which leads to a smaller sense of becoming stronger and makes the gameplay feel that much more repetitive.
Being a remaster, the graphics are definitely something people will be paying attention to. Thankfully, Square Enix themselves put out a graphical comparison video which highlights the changes and it's easy to see that this is the best looking version of the game without a question (the new engine gives big obvious boosts to lighting and draw distance, for example). And honestly, it’s quite solid. Granted, there are obvious signs of age here, such as the ground in battles (and in some of the explorable areas) being quite last gen, but overall, things look great. In particular, I like the character designs thoughout the game. I mentioned the various races earlier, but you also will recruit dozens of individual party members as you progress and I enjoyed most of their designs.
Another thing I enjoy (and, quite honestly, probably one of the highlights of this game for me) is the audio. This soundtrack is not just solid, but quite good! The game has a full orchestra behind it with a variety of tunes for each area you are in, as well as multiple battle tunes that change based on your morale gauge (which is quite neat). Still, there are a lot of tracks ranging from slow-paced melodies to awesome battle tracks with fast-paced rhythms and memorable guitar-riffs. The voice-acting is solid as well, although Rush is still very much delegated to "annoying young male protagonist who is trying too hard" to me. The cast around him holds their own, however, and the audio overall is very enjoyable.
Being a JRPG, you will definitely log your hours into the game. The main story is a bit of a slog (like I mentioned earlier), but it’s rather lengthy and there are dozens of side quests to do as well. Despite finding the battle system repetitive, one of my favorite things to do was find and recruit new party members, many of which required completing certain side quests first (and then often paying exorbitant prices for their service later). Messing around with how you equip and level up Rush, and how you form and utilize your unions, are the heights of replayability, though. Sure, there's a New Game+ here, but unless you just happened to miss a lot of the side quests (or really want to get all of the trophies), I'm not sure why you'd go through the game twice. That said, it's pretty easy to miss some things in the first go, so if you do happen to pick the game up, I'd recommend some sort of missables or side quests guide.
In the end (as you can probably tell), The Last Remnant isn't really my cup of tea. I just can't get into the story here and the gameplay isn't exciting enough to hold my interest. I blame the dull characters and the repetitive hands-off approach to the battle system, respectively. There's a lot of individual things I like, but the game drops the ball on the most important parts of JRPG in my opinion, namely the story and the gameplay. I honestly can't recommend the game to anyone other than the most hardcore JRPG fanatics who are looking for their next fix. I suppose there is a reason it took ten years to get this game on PlayStation after all.
It's good to meet you! I'm better known online as "Bkstunt_31" and have been writing Reviews and video game Strategy Guides/Walkthroughs for WAY too many years! Feel free to stop my my Facebook page and say hello! Have fun and keep playing!