When I caught wind of its interesting battle system, long before it was released, The Last Remnant was top of my hit list. At a time when I had no source of income, I wouldn't have blinked at spending £50 on it. The day of its release came, and I scraped forty quid together and rushed to the shops, to find out it was selling for just £20 – the same price I paid for Infinite Undiscovery just weeks earlier. I was delighted.
Then I played it, and I wasn't. I spent months looking forward to it, and spent over a year, afterwards, lamenting the wasted £20. I'm not kidding. It took until 2010 for me to give it another chance. More on that later.
I hated the cardboard characters, from David Nassau — the queer, young, Australian, American, British, Dutch and African ruler of Athlum — to Rush Sykes — the cardboard, brash, over-emotional, born-on-an-island, doesn't-see-his-parents-but-loves-his-sister main character.
I hated that textures took whole seconds to pop in, and that when fighting, you could experience lag so bad you were ready to call the Microsoft Support line before it started running again. I hated that the World Map had come from Quackshot, and that they wouldn't even let you fully explore the cities.
What I hated most, however, was that to complete the game, you had to play and level in a way that went against everything the game told you. Linking enemies is bad. Having high morale is bad. Leveling up, is bad, but the game tells you these are the things you should be doing!
To say I was disappointed, then, is to put it mildly.
But then I picked it up again. I'd just finished (and loved) Tales of Vesperia, gotten thoroughly fed up with Edge Maverick's emotional outbursts in the latest Star Ocean, and reached new levels of boredom with Enchanted Arms.
So, I tried it again, and I loved it. I loved it as much as I loved Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey and Tales of Vesperia – my top three 360 rpgs, with which I'd racked up over 300 hours of play time. You want to know why?
It was the side quests.
They take you to new places. New dungeons, and new cities. They introduce you to new people, and craft winding storylines that have as much detail as the main game.
It was also the battles.
Once I'd finally gotten over being told to level wrong, and started leveling properly, the battles were brilliant. Thoroughly enjoyable. I remember repeating Namul/Niram a good five times, tweaking my tactics until 'close' became 'close enough, and never getting close to frustration. I remember plugging away at creatures that kept getting reenforcements, and finally defeating the last of them with about 112 HP between my 25 characters, and I loved it all.
My delight at these things can be attributed to two things I absolutely love in games.
Games that give you something to complete — hence the RPG obsession– and games that give you tactical mechanics to tweak — hence the 471 (and counting) hours I've racked up on one FM09 career.
Take what you will out of this review. I'm not going to compare it to other games, and I'm not going to pretend to be objective.
I hated this game, for a few things that it did wrong, but when I finally give it a second chance, I absolutely bloody loved it.
So I'm ending with a question: Who cares?
Who cares if the textures pop in and the battles lag? Who cares if the voice-acting is questionable and the characters aren't much better? Who cares if you're being told to level the wrong way? When the overall package is so thoroughly brilliant, who cares about any aesthetic detractions?