Posted: October 14, 2014
The Last Remnant is my favorite JRPG of all time, and definitely holds a place of my top 10 games of all time. Here's why.
This game is wholly unique. Usually, when one says "JRPG", you have a good sense of what you're getting into. Cliched characters (whether you like those cliches or not), quirky personalities, a turn-based battle system, a long convoluted story with plenty of twists, and be prepared to roll your eyes or shake your fist at the screen for some character antics or story twists you saw coming from early on. In The Last Remnant, little of this is true. The story is unique, the art style and characters are unique, some of the twists and story archs are surprising, and the battle system is so unlike anything else you've ever played, somewhere between a JRPG and a large scale strategy game with army simulation elements.
This game is known to be quite challenging. I bought the Xbox 360 version on the game's release date, and have beat the game a few times and put a couple hundred hours into it. After completing my first PC playthrough tonight after about 90 hours, I can say for certain the PC version is about 3000% easier. An update was made to the game that made a few changes that made the PC version exponentially easier, though it is still more challenging than the average RPG. So if you happened to try the 360 version and were turned off by its difficulty, I urge you to try the PC version.
The Last Remnant needs to be commended for its ability to have realistic and relatable characters, and multiple characters you care about and will remember forever. In this game, you are able to literally build up a small army to take into battles with you, where enemies and your people are separated into "unions" rather than each person being separate from one another. It is here where the game brings in large-scale strategy type battles, allowing the unions to act as one unit. Strategy fans will delight in the ability to hire soldiers and characters for their army, picking and choosing people based on their unique skill sets and abilities. You are able to hire people you've perhaps done quests with, or people you've never met that happen to have a skill you've never heard of, just because you want to see it in action. You then pick and choose which people to put with whom, how to set up your unions, etc., giving limitless possibilities for your army. Also, your followers will often ask for certain items, ingredients, etc. throughout the game, which they'll use to upgrade their equipment and become even more badass. (And trust me, this game is full of badass characters.) You can also dictate how your soldiers level up, as they ask you from time to time if you want them to delve into a different skill set or art style.
Even if the game had a terrible story and cliched characters, the battle system would keep me crawling back. Battles are by far the best part of this game. While some will say that some boss battles can be "cheap" or "unfair," I'd argue that your characters also unlock plenty of abilities and special moves that are just as if not more cheap or unfair to the enemy (Blackout is ridiculously powerful, for example, and that's a move my unions ended up using frequently). In summary, fights can be nail-biting, because you are constantly reminded that you are fighting enemies that are just as skilled and able as you. Will you still scream at the game in frustration? Sometimes, yes. But I've personally also nearly broken things with excitement when a single decision or a stroke of luck turned the tide of battle. Also, I'll let it be known that I find games that are hard just to BE hard quite annoying and to be little to no fun. This is not a game that is consistently cheap or unfair. It can be extremely challenging, and you'll call BS on a fight from time to time, but with strategy, that same fight on your next try could be immensely rewarding and much simpler.
The Last Remnant is a refreshing game in a genre that is usually predictable. It has a gritty realism that is usually reserved for western RPGs. It also respects its characters. You'll find no little girls with parasols fighting in battle, nor will you have a guy insist on being shirtless while on the battlefield (seriously...whenever I see that, I think about how easy it'd be to take them out). The characters--while they can be quirky and humorous at times--are never walking cliches. Each woman or man has her or his own personality, back story, goals and motivations--and YOU get to decide whether or not to add them to your army and help them grow over time.
This game is a true gem. It is nothing less than a crime that a game of such originality is not mentioned in conversations of JRPGs more often. This is the JRPG that I hold every other JRPG up to--and until we get another game in this universe, I see no other game coming close. I cannot recommend this game enough.