JPWPI 2010 – Special Feature – The Last Remant

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher Square Enix/Eidos
Platform: PC/360
Price: PC version not for sale

(2018-09 Update: The PC version was pulled from steam in advance of a PS4 remaster.  I suspect they’ll also release a remastered PC version, but there’s no confirmation of that at this time.)

This is a short special feature I’m inflicting on y’all. Deal.

The Last Remnant (henceforth TLR) is along with Infinite Undiscovery, part of Square Enix’s ill-fated new property initiative of 2007/8. What it comes down to is they took some of their developers who weren’t working on their A-list franchises, and let them go wild. What we got were underrated – and somewhat flawed – games that got a fairly lukewarm reception.

TLR is at the same time a very odd and very typical JRPG. Our protagonist of the goofy name, Rush Sykes, is not androgynous as SE protagonists have been of late, yet he is a teenager, as happens often. He’s essentially a peasant, who gets caught up in things much beyond him of noble and world-spanning focus… until we find out it’s been his destiny all along. TLR is full of that. The writing is usually decent, with some truly wince-causing moments and some truly awesome ones. Like most Square games of late, the world is beautifully rendered, with one major flaw I’ll get into later.

What makes TLR shine is the battle system. Instead of building a team of 3-6 and battling like that, you build squads of teammates (called Unions) who battle as one. For example, at one point you are able to build up to 3 teams, with a total of 9 people. In my case, that means I either went with 3 teams of 3, or a team of 5 and a team of 4. More teams allow you more flexibility, larger ones allow you to take more hits. In each turn you give a sort of general strategy command, but the specific actions are decided by your characters. This can be a mixed blessing, especially when you’re trying to get one of your Unions to fire off a special attack against a specific enemy, and they won’t give you the option.

As you battle, you don’t gain experience points, instead attributes grow very slowly from battle to battle. In one, a character might get another point of HP. In the next, he or she might get a point of Strength. Where you really level is in your Battle Rank, which is a group-wide listing of level. Your characters will gain new abilities and rank up in their profession as your Battle Rank rises. BR rises as you fight, and if you go after larger groups, it will rise faster. If your BR rises too quickly, you’ll find yourself a bit weak for the critters the game generates for you.

Anyway, let’s talk about why I’m doing a special on this. Probably the main criticism for TLR on the 360 was the graphics engine. Being an Unreal Engine 3 game, SE ran into some technical faults in the engine they never really managed to correct. UE3 being a PC engine first, there was popular belief that the game would look better on a PC. So, let’s look at the PC version, shall we?

First off, UE3 still sucks (this is the flaw I mentioned above). The real problem is that UE3 spawns objects with the worst textures first, then layers the better ones on top. For your average FPS, where small and repeating textures are the norm, this isn’t a big problem. For your average SE game, where the entire world is chock full of rich and unique textures, with extremely limited repetition, this makes for a noticeable delay before the good textures pop in, even on a high-end PC.

Secondly, the PC version has more content. It really seems to be a case of the developers having a few more months to add on a bunch of minor content that doesn’t really add any one major item to the game, but is a bunch of small details that sum up to a major improvement.

Finally, the PC game is in some ways harder, and in others easier. This really shows up in the bosses – on the 360 version of the game, a boss may have 40k hit points, On PC, it will have as much as 10-15x that. On the other hand, while on the 360 the boss gets extra attacks every turn, on the PC it happens every other turn. It balances out to make the PC version’s challenging fights more of a matter of attrition rather than the quick-wipe situation of the 360.

TLR is a long game. There’s easily 60 hours of gameplay in it, more if you’re like me and tend to go exploring and grinding for no reason other than sheer bloody mindedness. The graphics, artwork, and sounds are all wonderful, and it’s kind of entertaining how each ‘leader type’ unit (as opposed to the regular troops, which I never used) each have their own dialogue tidbits unique to each. Every character you use in this game is a person, with behaviors and background developed.

I highly recommend the Last Remnant to all comers. It’s a great game that was unfairly panned in it’s 360 release, and the PC version is a hell of a lot of fun.

1) The JPublic Fun Rating: A rating of how much fun I had. Consider it equivalent to your standard game score. 4.5 out of 5

2) The JPublic Irritation Rating: A measure of how much I wanted to throw the game out the window at my most frustrated. Not really an issue until you get to the above 4.0 rating, but a warning. 2 out of 5

3) The JPublic Value Point: A level at which I’d say it’s a must buy, because at that price it’s a great investment. $30.00