We are finally reaching a point where just about every developer is beginning to make games for the next-gen consoles. The PS2 is on the way out so all the RPG companies that were still churning out releases are finally moving on to greener pastures as development costs continue to come down. Hit Maker, a company who has spent most of their time developing handheld titles, has delivered their first console RPG for Sony’s powerhouse machine with Last Rebellion. While it does retain some of the standard RPG mechanics, the innovative combat really sets it apart from the normal routine. Not all is sunshine and balloons in the world of Last Rebellion though as poor pacing, story and length become factors in this first effort from Hit Maker.
The story follows the antics of two characters Nine and Aisha. Aside from the uninspiring names, they both serve a purpose in this unique world. You see the gods are at war. In the land of Junovald death and life are constantly balanced. Once the balance has been broken it is up to Nine and Aisha to clean up the mess by sending all the dead souls known as Belzeds back with their unique powers. Without going into too much detail the story is quite intriguing, and had a chance to really set the game apart from the traditional ‘save the princess’ routine. Unfortunately the corrosive dialogue and poor translation really hurt the experience.
Each cut scene is presented with still images and text boxes, a traditional method of storytelling. I actually really like the visual style of the scenes as they present a really unique pastel artwork. What I don’t enjoy though is the drab presentation they bring with them; couple that with the absolutely terrible dialogue at times and the story loses all of its appeal. RPGs are usually about narrative first, and this is one that seriously drops the ball. A story is only as good as it is represented and Last Rebellion falls flat on its face with characters that never reach their potential, and voice acting that doesn’t do any favors to the poor translation and writing.
Thankfully the other thing that makes RPGs excel is well represented here. The combat mechanic of Last Rebellion is one of the most inimitable experiences I have had in a while. Each enemy has multiple points of attack in the form of their body parts. Hitting them in the correct order also awards you bonus multipliers as well as adding stamps, more on that in a second. The cool thing is that once you discover each unique sequence to attack, it is stored in a sort of bestiary. Each enemy has its own pattern and discovering them all will make combat much more on your side. Each attack you spend costs what are called Chain Points. You get a few at the end of each turn as well as being able to gather them around the world map.
The stamps I mentioned are added whenever you figure out the pattern of your enemies. Once stamped you can employ your magic to attack every stamp of every enemy in battle. Magic is much more effective than physical attacks, and once you get the stamps set I focused more on magic as most enemies had an aversion to one of the spells from either of my characters. Finally once you down an enemy they are actually not out of the fight. Aisha has a special ability that she must perform on all downed enemies or they will actually recover during the fight with full health. Sealing enemies removes them from battle as well as restoring some of your HP in the process. Nine can also use what is called Absorb to steal some MP before Aisha seals them.
The combat is definitely unique, but there are some serious flaws with how it pans out. First battles are instigated on the world map by running into enemies, there are no random battles. This is great except that they almost instantly respawn giving you little time to decide where to move next. I spend over 20 minutes in battle just trying to make it to a save point. Another drawback is that the more time you spend with the game, the easier and easier it gets. It feels like you continue to remove the shackles on your characters, while the enemies really never advance. This makes battles towards the end of the game extremely simple. It also doesn’t help that the entire game can be completed in less than twenty hours, but that is mostly due to eliminating the excessive exploration, which could be good or bad depending on whom you ask.
Last Rebellion comes at a time when it feels unfair to the game. We all know Final Fantasy XIII is set to release in just under two weeks, and with White Knight Chronicles landing on PS3 not long ago, this quirky JRPG feels sandwiched between two slices of iniquitous bread. With such a fun and unique combat mechanic it is a shame too because the game sparkles with potential.
Visually the game suffers from the dreaded PS2 syndrome with some stiff animations and bland environments. On the plus side the enemies are extremely varied and the artwork for loading and cut scenes is really eye-catching. It is a shame that the rest of the game never reaches that level of polish. The sound is a mixed bag with some truly atrocious voice acting. Some of the characters have some of the worst voice work I have heard in a long time. The music on the other hand is actually quite engaging and delivers a nice ambience throughout the short quest.
Last Rebellion is a game that will likely become a niche title down the road, and for good reason. The combat system is definitely something special. If only everything else had come together this game could have easily been a must-own. As it stands only die-hard RPG fans should take the plunge as the extremely short campaign and lackluster visuals really detract from the overall package. Nippon Ichi has delivered another unique title, unfortunately it needed a little more polish to become a classic.
Review copy provided by publisher.