March 4, 2010

Last Rebellion Ain’t So Bad

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 9:53 pm

Last Rebellion
I’d lean toward saying that the art direction is what first attracted me to NIS America’s latest PS3 RPG outing, but it’s more a case of art promotion. The game’s two central characters, Aisha and Nine have had some extremely note-worthy artists give their own take on portraying the pair. Within the game proper, both characters possess a hand-painted edge that cuts them free of the barren and brown landscapes players tread across while leveling up, fighting monsters, and all the other many splendid things one expects to do within an RPG.

As I’ve come to expect from titles NISA publishes, Last Rebellion cuts its own path as if there were no standards for the genre. I respect that resistance to the “me too” illness quite a bit, but my respect for an approach does not inherently make Last Rebellion a good game – that and there’s always the possibility Hitmaker couldn’t afford fancier presentation for the title. The game lacks the CG sequences expected from the genre, offers up monotonously bland landscapes, and serves it cold with voice acting that is every bit a set of freshly painted nails running across a chalkboard.

At times the dialogue seems to hit inadvertent spots of humor, at other times making little sense at all, but more often than not leaving me convinced that when the voice actors asked for motivation, someone simply shrugged at them.

But I can get past those issues so long as the game beneath the dressing, or lack thereof, offers something interesting. So I guess we better talk about the battle system, since that’s all we’ve really got to work with in the attempt to back up the title of this post.

Last Rebellion
The most important fact you need to know here, is that Last Rebellion is a turned-based RPG – I know, I can hear you groaning already, but hear me out. Rather than the typical attack, the game offers attack and stamp. Every enemy encountered has multiple body parts that can be targeted for an attack – arms, legs, horns, eyes, you get the idea. Attacks on these parts will be accompanied by circles that display X1, X2, X-you still get the idea. The number in this X equation tells the player how many turns the attacked appendage is marked / stamped for, which comes into play because magic in Last Rebellion can only affect areas of enemies that have been attacked and remain stamped.

Initially I expected this to result in limb removal, which I was looking forward to, but it all comes out of one HP pot for enemies, who possess weaknesses and strengths scattered throughout their body parts – a puzzle to be solved for each type of enemy encountered.

And then it gets a little interesting.

Last Rebellion
Moves during battle are allotted by command points, so during an attack and stamp, each body part the player targets uses up a point. The maximum success comes from finding the right order to attack body parts within, which scores a BINGO next to the X factor, and having enough command points to carry it out. Multiple BINGO’s lead to greater experience and item drops.

The game offers up a memory function to make it a little easier to solve the patterns, but I still spent the first few hours just trudging the same dull path, determined to find the best attack order for each enemy I was running across. In fact, I’ve spent most of my time with Last Rebellion getting absolutely no where along the main quest, the game isn’t one for really pushing you in the right direction, and somewhere early on I got as casual in my attitude about progression as the game is.

Here’s where it gets a little more interesting.

Last Rebellion
The game is about two gods, one presiding over death, and the other over life. In an odd twist of expectations, it is the God in charge of life that has gone rogue, allowing too much life to emerge, and resulting in the monsters infesting the world. As a result, there are two roles in the game, the Blades who kill these abominations, and the Sealers who seal the soul of defeated enemies to prevent creatures from getting back up again after dying.

Aisha is our Sealer, Nine is our Blade, and within the first ten minutes Nine is dead and the two have to share a body.

During battle the player selects commands for both, and can switch between either while in the over world. Walking around as Nine regenerates magic points, and taking a stroll as Aisha regenerates health – being either of them leaves you tripping over random treasure chests using keys won in battle, and hitting glowing green poles to regenerate command points – which is important, because running out command points sucks.

Here’s where it sounds a little awful.

Last Rebellion
I’ve spent, I-don’t-even-know-how-many-hours traversing one little patch of land, finding buildings with invisible walls around them, and cliffs that could only be climbed by finding warp points. Guarding these are enemies, who trigger battle sequences – so no we’re not dealing with random encounters here by the way.

Interesting note, running from enemies that chase you is futile, they are all Olympic marathon champions.

Should you win the battle, you have maybe half a minute to move before the enemy regenerates back into the over world. So the game keeps pushing you forward with less to work with, because command points are draining away with each battle – leaving one to pray for some quiet corner where health and magic can regenerate to some degree, and maybe a command point stick in the ground is visible on the horizon.

So the game’s got a merciless bitch grinding kind of edge to it, but I keep playing the damn game, completely enamored with the stamping system. But let’s be clear here, I really doubt I will ever see the end of this game, and I’m not sure I really want to get moving through the story. And yet I keep wanting to see how far I can get with each battle, like a sadistic mini-game that makes me believe I can improve the odds if I just figure out the perfect pattern for every enemy.

Maybe because it’s a break from fancier titles that feel like I’m whacking pinatas with dolls, the stripped down naked honesty of Last Rebellion does appeal to me. That still doesn’t make it a good game, so don’t go punching me in the nose about it. But stacked against some other choices on the shelf, Last Rebellion at least manages to offer up a system that is interesting, even if it’s also slow and tedious.

Take it for what it is, punch me in the nose if you absolutely have to. But you should be just as pissed about plenty of other games in the genre that cost the same but use free roaming movement as a cover for not employing half so many good ideas as there are wasted here. The small games I’ve made up for myself within Last Rebellion have been far more engaging of my time – and there’s something worth developing here, even if it needed to swap genres along the way toward improving.

1 Comment »

  1. I kind of wish I had pre-ordered this on Amazon when they had it going for $36.99 but alas it would just be added to my never ending backlog… I guess it will be cheaper someday… :)

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — March 5, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

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