The Last Remnant: Hands On
10.10.08 - 12:53 AM

The massive XBox 360 exhibition at this year's Tokyo Game Show is easily one of the most popular sites thanks to a wealth of highly anticipated titles kick-starting the system's popularity in Japan. The Last Remnant is one such title, and with two-dozen seats with playable demos available, I got a solid half-hour test drive.

As it is with people, the first thing you notice is looks, and while there are flaws, The Last Remnant does a decent job. The character models are clean and quite detailed. Facial expressions and hair are top notch. It is certainly a more mature looking game than Infinite Undiscovery; rich effect noises and blood splatters in combat make each battle seem like a duel to the death. While the few dungeons and fields I saw were not that special, the scale of battles is impressive since they often include multiple teams of four or five characters that act as a unit based on your orders.

With The Last Remnant each battle feels like a mini-war. Enemies can number in the double digits, and after inputting commands, you can sit back and watch the bedlam. You can order teams to attack, use mystic arts, fighting arts, among other commands. This requires much more long-term planning, as RPG fans more accustomed to micro-managing each character's moves one at a time will have to trust that their overall strategy is sound. The quick-time events in battle where you have to press a button on screen to defeat certain enemies are really hard to time, but they look cool when you get it right. Constantly failing at it and getting subsequently pummeled by the enemy lowers your morale bar. I could not tell exactly how morale affected my team since the demo gave me very high level characters who could not possibly be killed by the enemies available.

The biggest issue I had was with choppy animation and the awkward physics. Occasionally enemy units would approach for 'Side Lock' attacks or from behind, and an enemy would overlap with one of my units, which just looks weird. Right when battles start is when you notice the most jumpy and uneven animation and camera work. It does not help that there are also noticeable load times between battles and world map screens. Maybe Square Enix does not know how to handle the Unreal Engine. Maybe there are just a few kinks to work out. Either way, they are blemishes, and while these issues do not ruin the entire experience, they stand out and annoy you the way blemishes are wont to do.

Hopefully animation and load times are fixed up before release, or at the very least improved for the PS3 version. Even if with those problems, the game looks sharp overall, and looks to offer a promising story with some great characters. I could not get deep enough into the character development mechanic to really comment, but the game controls very intuitively, combat is a blast, and the music was excellent. Come November 20th, we shall see whether or not Square has another long-term franchise on its hands. So far signs point to... maybe.

James Quentin Clark