The Last Remnant can easily be considered one of the forgotten gems of the Xbox 360 era. Much in the same vein as Resonance of Fate from SEGA which was released around the same time, I think The Last Remnant was a bit ahead of its time, and being riddled with bugs didn’t help it find a proper home on Microsoft’s previous generation of consoles.
We’ve seen a ton of remasters and remakes this generation, and while some have been hit or miss, it’s a perfect opportunity to re-examine some titles that may have gotten lost in the shuffle. The Last Remnant Remastered is a great example of this, because while the personal narrative is a bit on the nose, the political tale of intrigue it weaves alongside of a unique and in-depth combat system is worth revisiting.
At its core, The Last Remnant is the tale of Rush Sykes looking for his kidnapped sister. After a large battle, Rush assists a general of David, the ruler of Athlum, and David agrees to help him find his sister. Things don’t end there for Rush though, and the narrative becomes increasingly convoluted and complex. By agreeing to help Rush, David basically intertwined him in the political intrigue of the story. The story is really good, but it almost feels like a patchwork of other Square-Enix storylines from other games. The political drama feels lifted from Final Fantasy XII, and the intimate, personal journey of Final Fantasy X. The Last Remnant is not for the faint of heart. The journey is long, but people that put in the time will find a lot to enjoy in the narrative.
It’s almost comical though, because the writing for most of the characters is very poor. I feel like this may be due in part to the localization though, because I have a hard time believing some of the dialogue in English localization for The Last Remnant would have ever been approved if it wasn’t a direct translation properly formatted for grammar.
The remaster treatment this title has received is mighty impressive when compared to the original outing though. I popped in my Xbox 360 copy of The Last Remnant just to remind myself what it looked like ten years ago. Everything has been upgraded in some way, with some facets like characters and effects getting more attention than others. Environments, while displaying in higher definition, still look a bit muddied. This is pretty universal though across the journey. Inside and outside locations look pretty close in terms of fidelity, and other than unique environment pillars, they look subpar compared to the character work.
The character and enemy models look great here. Even when large battles take up the entire screen (and then some), characters are detailed and unique. In addition to Rush, David’s four generals each have unique looks to them, while several races inhabit the world that players will be exploring. A lot of the character models are reused with slight variations to exhibit differentiations between characters. This is alleviated with different personalities between characters. The simple-minded NPC’s are completely different from the tactical generals, giving more life to the characters Rush will be interacting with throughout the story.
The Xbox 360 version of The Last Remnant was riddle with bugs and frame-rate issues that have since been alleviated with the PC release of the action RPG. The PC release and the PS4 release are basically identical, while the PC release had some extra graphical options that aren’t seen here. I played The Last Remnant Remastered on a PS4 Pro, and I was honestly surprised to see a complete lack of graphical choices for Pro users. The experience will be universal across all Sony devices, which may have been the motivation behind this.
The biggest draw of The Last Remnant is the combat system though. Something I really appreciated from the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 era of consoles though was the introduction of different types of combat systems, and an interest in trying new things during that era. The Last Remnant’s combat was the most unique from that generation. Players control groups of units, comprised of multiple members. Each unit becomes stronger as more members join or are assigned to it. The battlefield is more tactical than something like the turn based Final Fantasy titles, but aren’t as locked into position like the Disgaea or Fire Emblem franchises. Players position and direct units towards enemy units. Enemy units are also made up of multiple enemies, and function similarly to ally ones.
Each unit shares resources too. HP and AP are shared, so if defeating a unit means all members are down. This makes players think about their actions not just on the battlefield, but when crafting teams as well. Only a certain number of characters can be equipped at first, but this opens up a bit later on. Positioning units while attacking and defending against enemies is important to maintain group strength. Flanking gives an attacking bonus, but player units can be flanked by enemies as well. All of these things affect team morale, which can give significant damage boosts. Pretty much every action during fights can either tip the morale gauge in your favor or the enemies, and thinking about every move is important.
The difficult combat system is hard to understand at first, but the best way to learn and understand is just by doing. I understood the concept and how it worked as a whole initially, but the farther I got in The Last Remnant Remastered, the more the intricacies of the system began to unfold. Learning by doing is the best way to understand everything because players will die a lot, and understanding why you died will help to understand everything a little quicker.
Side quests also help players build up their repertoire of fighters. The side quests themselves felt generally uninteresting, and mostly involved getting transported to a certain area, defeating an enemy, and then calling it a day. However, these side quests help open up some characters that players can then recruit from the guild and insert into their units. There is some unfortunate game design though, as progressing past a certain point locks players out of some side quests. It feels like an archaic design of games past, and I’m genuinely happy that this isn’t something in most games anymore.
While The Last Remnant still feels like an aged game, the quality-of-life improvements Square-Enix gifted it during the PC release is right at home on the console release. Environment design and visuals leave a lot to be desired, and character writing can be plain silly, but The Last Remnant is a diamond in the rough in the JRPG genre. It’ll have a hard time competing for players’ attention from other JRPG’s, but it’s a title with a stellar combat system and strong, intricate story that rewards players’ time and effort.
The Last Remnant Remastered is available now for Playstation 4. This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.