The Last Remnant Remastered Review -- A JRPG Love-Hate Relationship
Square Enix's The Last Remnant Remastered is a deeply brutal JRPG that is hampered by its confusing design decisions which may drive some players away.
The Last Remnant Remastered
Review copy provided by the publisher
The Last Remnant Remastered is sort of a weird release from Square Enix. There was no hype behind it, there weren’t many fans (as far as I know) clamoring for this 2008 title to be re-released on a modern console and yet here we are. Overall, The Last Remnant Remastered is a fine game, but the lack of any significant changes to its muddled design leaves more to be desired and makes it one of the most inaccessible JRPGs I’ve played in recent memory.
Fortunately, if you found any enjoyment out of the original title, you’ll probably really like this remaster. There are some great quality of life improvements for fans that make the progression of things much less cumbersome. You can now move faster in and outside of battles, meaning everything goes a lot quicker.
As this is a remaster, the game has obviously received some heavy graphical improvements. Overall, it looks pretty awesome. I found the wide variety of characters, cities, and dungeons to be really enjoyable. Of course, some areas don’t hold up to modern standards by any means but The Last Remnant Remastered really does have a great old-school PlayStation 2 era look that’s hard not to like. This carries over to the game’s soundtrack as well. While it’s not necessarily the most memorable, I did enjoy it.
“Overall, The Last Remnant Remastered is a fine game, but the lack of any significant changes to its muddled design leaves more to be desired and makes it one of the most inaccessible JRPGs I’ve played in recent memory.”
You play The Last Remnant Remastered as a young man named Rush Sykes. He’s incredibly annoying at first but does grow throughout the game’s runtime. I still didn’t necessarily find him too compelling but he’s an acceptable protagonist. I often found myself comparing him to Tidus from Final Fantasy X quite a bit, another character I really didn’t like but grew on me over time.
As for the overall narrative, it’s quite interesting, albeit it does start out very muddled and weak. Nothing is explained well at all and that certainly doesn’t stop characters from throwing around terms and names you have no connection to. While the story has some truly compelling moments in its latter half, The Last Remnant Remastered’s design issues begin to show once you’re 10 or 20 hours into the game that might cause many players to lose interest.
I previously mentioned that the development team does a poor job piecing together the story early on, but this also carries over to just about everything else in the game. I went through this apprehensive phase with the game’s combat, to a honeymoon phase, and then quickly back to really just not enjoying it in the slightest. Interestingly enough, that’s not so much the combat itself’s fault, more so the level of difficulty the game gets to at a certain point.
“Combat was different and much more engaging compared to a conventional turn-based system.”
I think The Last Remnant has a really interesting combat system with a lot of potential. Conventional JRPG parties are not present in this game, rather, you’re given these groups called Union’s that are comprised of various units. Furthermore, The Last Remnant Remastered does away with conventional turn-based systems. Instead, you’ll be choosing very vague actions for your units and from there they’ll all execute these actions.
You can mix and match various unit types and combat formations with Unions that’ll net you different buffs in battle. Once you’re in battle targeting will be key, as a morale bar dictates your party’s effectiveness in battles to an extent. This morale bar is changed based on your effectiveness in battle — whether or not you’re flanking enemies, being flanked yourself, taking down enemies, and more. These are some great ideas on paper, and I thoroughly really did enjoy them at times. Combat was different and much more engaging compared to a conventional turn-based system.
I’d say the weakest thing about the combat is the camera. As I previously mentioned, there’s a heavy reliance on your position as you can flank, intercept, and perform various other strategic movements against your enemies. Movements only occur through targeting enemies or using defense actions when they’re available. It was often unclear to me when I would move to attack an enemy and get flanked or intercepted by another. The camera consistently has quick cuts during every action so it’s hard to tell where your units are sometimes without looking at the game’s map between turns. Does any of this sound confusing yet?
This is where the difficulty comes in. There are a good amount of fights in The Last Remnant Remastered that put the classic game journalist Dark Souls comparison to shame. I love challenging games, but what I don’t like is feeling as if I’m only being challenged by The Last Remnant’s mechanics on top of the game’s immensely difficult sections. Because of the combat’s unpredictable nature, I often found my chances were left up to chance as I found myself praying that a unit would get off a specific skill before being attacked.
Another huge issue I had is the way experience is gained, for one, it’s never explained in great detail exactly how this works as conventional leveling is also absent in the game. It’s not really a good thing when a game’s wiki explains these things better than the actual video game itself. As it turns out (or as far as I can tell), units gain experience points based on what actions they perform as well as the makeup of their group. The more magic you use, the more your skills in this area go up, and with combat, it’s the same type of deal.
Then I began reading that you shouldn’t be farming or leveling your combat rank until the late game as enemy levels scale with you. None of this is explained well in-game, and why would it be considering the game itself seems to expect you to fight as enemies are anywhere and everywhere. In my opinion, if you have to exploit a game’s systems to get ahead, it’s definitively bad game design.
“…if you enjoyed The Last Remnant the first time around give this re-release a shot.”
I sound mostly negative here, I’m aware, but I really did find enjoyment in The Last Remnant Remastered. Unfortunately, once the intense spike in difficulty sets in, the game just asks far too much of the player. I can respect if that’s your thing, figuring out complex systems in-game, sharing what you’ve found online with other users, and exchanging different battle strategies. I find those aspects of this game really cool, but they’re not what I wanted to do while reviewing it. When I overcame tough bosses I felt great, but after dealing with some bosses for multiple hours, victory felt like mercy.
All in all, I’d say that if you enjoyed The Last Remnant the first time around give this re-release a shot. And if you’re looking for an old-school deeply challenging JRPG, this title will also be for you. It certainly wasn’t for me, but I can respect what it tries to do. I just wish its unique and sometimes weird design decisions were explained a lot more to the player and for that reason, it comes just a bit short of being a truly good game to me personally.