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1-Hour Runs is a series of posts I began recently on my blog, Taipow.com. The intent is to discuss a game's merits based solely on the first hour of play.
The idea was born from the fact that I've accumulated more games than I'll ever be able to play in my lifetime. In order to see more of what I already have available to me, I posted my library at backloggery.com and use their random search function to determine what game to choose for each post.
Remember back to the Super Nintendo, when nearly every Japanese role-playing game was a masterpiece in the eyes of gamers? Sure, there were a few follies here and there, but that was a time where only a handful of RPG titles were making it to the States.
After today's first 1-Hour Run I long for the time where the gutter trash of Japan's console library stayed there.
The Last Remnant came out in November 2008 after a year-and-a-half wait from the day they announced it. It was supposed to be the next franchise of Square Enix RPG. They promised a title that would be for the world. What we got was a mess.
Right from the Start Screen, this game is bogged down in menus. They don't waste any time before they shove an options menu in your face that could have been left "optional" or incorporated into the first five minutes of play. Once you decide how you want to control your characters, the cameras, the cursors, the sound, and other non-essentials, you are presented with a cut scene.
Main character Rush, a generic anime cutout, is looking for his sister… heard this one before?
He steps out on a ledge, and there in front of him is a giant battle, between brown army number one, and brown army number two. Oh, did I mention this is Unreal Engine? Yeah, aside from a few characters, this first hour has a lot of brown people.
Cue the loading screen. For every 30 seconds of cut-scene, you are lovingly shown ten seconds of character art and battle "tips." This is pretty unnecessary, but judging by how choppy the frame-rate can be, or how late after you are given control that textures pop-in, my guess is Unreal Engine isn't being used very efficiently.
Then you are thrown into your first battle. And when I say thrown, I mean it. You are not given much idea of what is going on, other than you target and select a command. Normally, this would be fine. Tons of other RPG's start the first battle this way. But there are so many things on screen, both in the battle and as part of your display, that it is hard to decide what is important and trivial.
Turns out, nothing matters. After clicking randomly a few times, you are left with one option: a single choice attack that ends up clearing the screen and continuing the story.
So you're missing your sister, you fell into the middle of a giant battle, then the final attack drops you underground for the rest of your tutorial. You meet a few characters, gain some party members, and head off to town. Nothing new here.
From the way I explained it, you probably think that this happened in no more than 10 minutes. But that's a bit of a misunderstanding because counting all the cut-scenes and loading, just that little bit of expository took half an hour. And then after running around in town, where I bought a lovely shield, I had time to complete one more mission.
Oh, did I mention that this specific town is protected by a 100-story tall sword that fell from the sky and planted itself in the ground, to then be worshiped by the townspeople for generations? Hmm, yeah, that happened.
Then I met back up with Lord David, because what "world RPG" means is really "vanilla flavored," and his cadre of rabbit, frog, and purple dinosaur, and decided that we would work together to find my sister, as long as I help him run errands. So off we went to a cave. I discovered some nasty bandits who kidnapped girls to be sold to slavery, but after their defeat, still didn't find my sister. Damn.
Well, then my hour was up.
All in all, this game is just very bland. I can name countless RPG's that start out with an exciting introduction. This was definitely not one. Based on that hour alone, I still don't really know what the battle system is doing. What I can assume is that it is set up in a way to allow Dynasty Warrior sized battles, but turn based. And yes, you are correct in guessing that with that setup, battles probably balloon in length as more and more enemies are thrown in. This probably also means that the more going on in a battle, the more incomprehensible it gets, and the more taxing on poor little Unreal Engine. That sucker's already trying to do unnatural things like use the color green.
Perhaps someday I'll put this disc in again. Someday when I can't think of anything else to play, and my hunger for achievements are so that I have only games that take over 100-hours left to complete. What??? It takes over 100-hours to complete even the achievements? In one play-through? Yeah, I didn't make it up. A quick search on www.xbox360achievements.org show that if you want to complete the entire list, you've got to give at least four to five days of your life up. I'd rather play 30,000 achievement points worth of children's games and movie tie-ins before that. Heck, I think I've got a copy of Ratatouille sitting around here somewhere.
As stated above, this is a repost of an article from the blog I co-write at Taipow.com. We also record a weekly podcast, called the PoWcast, which goes up usually on Wednesdays. Please check it out, leave a comment, like the facebook page, and so on. We can use all the feedback.