In 2008, Microsoft was trying to collect as many JRPGs onto the Xbox 360 as possible. One of these games was The Last Remnant, a game that came out to a resounding meh. It released on PC the following year with a second meh. However, over time, The Last Remnant has picked up a cult following. While there can be any numbers of reasons behind this, I believe the fact that it was one of the very few JRPGs on Steam for years is what did it. This cult following has done enough to make Square give it a second chance with The Last Remnant Remastered. After getting to play it at New York Comic Con, I'm not quite sure why.
The story follows Rush Sykes, a young man looking for his missing sister. Somehow or another, he manages to wander into a battlefield, take fire from a giant laser cannon and fall into a cave. For the record, Gae Bolg is the name of the cannon. You don't really question these sorts of things in a JRPG okay? They just happen.
So it's already a strange premise, but there's some potential there. Unfortunately, a lot of that potential is sapped away by some seriously iffy voice acting. The ones who get it the worst are the non-human species. All of them just sound like regular people doing weird impressions on what they expect frog-people or giant cat-people to sound like. It's... not great.
Unlike most JRPGs, which focus on small parties of three to five characters battling enemies, The Last Remnant can see potentially twenty-five characters in battle at once. These characters split into groups which all act as one and share an HP bar. You don't give direct orders, but rather general commands to the group, who then carry them out. I think the idea is that you're supposed to be commanding an army rather than a small group of heroes, but the end result is pretty messy.
Each time a unit takes an action, the camera swings around wildly to show you each individual character's attack. Considering it's usually groups of five attacking groups of five, it's pretty difficult to keep track of who is doing what. I watched fights becoming confusing blurs of quick cuts to characters missing other characters while I try to figure out if that's good or not. Sometimes I would be prompted into a quick time event that, if done successfully, would allow one of my characters to score a critical hit or counterattack. The idea is nice, but the timing of these presses feels off. It seems like the game's animation is just a little too fast for how quickly they actually want you to hit the button.
Things improved when there were fewer characters involved and I could keep better track of who was doing what. Now my confusion instead turned towards the assault of status effects my characters constantly seemed to undergo. Nearly every action in the game seemed to have words flying at me and informing me of a new condition. Deadlock! Flank attack! Interference! What does any of this mean and how does it affect combat? Well, the game provided some simple tutorials, but even then I wasn't quite sure. It felt like every time I started to understand it, something new was thrown my way.
Between combat, I could explore dungeons. There are no random encounters, which is a blessing. Instead, enemies are visible on the world map. You can press a button to make Rush attempt to initiate attacks against them, which makes him challenge all enemies in a small radius around him. You can use this to lure multiple enemies into a battle, which is a neat risk/reward system. Otherwise, it's your typical JRPG dungeon crawling experience. Fight a few monsters, find a few treasure chests, and kill a boss.
So what is good? The toe-tapping soundtrack. From the opening moments to the boss fight, I did everything I could to prevent myself from dancing in the middle of the show floor. It's a shame then that The Last Remnant Remastered couldn't just play its music. More than a few times, I noticed songs awkwardly transition into new songs with little rhyme or reason. It was most noticeable when the boss theme just stopped and switched to a totally random song for a few moments before switching back to the boss theme. There is a slight graphical update from the original, but the game still looks like an Xbox 360 game. A nice late-gen Xbox 360 game, but it's still not up to par with today's output.
Look, I understand cons like this aren't really the best place to try a complicated JRPG. The only outcome was being thrown into the deep end of an extremely complicated game. However, in its limited time to impress me, The Last Remnant Remastered didn't really do so. It just left me confused and kind of annoyed. Besides, Infinite Undiscovery was the better weird and mediocre 2008 Square Enix Xbox 360 JRPG. I guess we'll have to wait for that remaster.
The Last Remnant Remastered will launch onto PlayStation 4 on December 6th.