Last Rebellion is the latest NIS published Playstation 3 game to make its way to the states. Like an abusive relationship, NIS and I have had some ups and downs. Sure I suffered through Cross Edge and had to tell my friends I fell down some stairs, but then there were the great times; like Disgaea 3. So is Last Rebellion a metaphorical trip to Paris, or will NIS tell me I’m ugly and crush the cookies I worked at all day under their heel?
The world of Junovald is ruled over by two gods: Meitilia with the power of death and Formival with the power of life. Balance is maintained for a time, but then Formival begins abusing his powers. Suddenly no one is able to rest when they die, and instead they are resurrected as demons. Meitilia grants power to some humans in order to combat Formival. First, there are Blades, who have the power to physically fight the demons, and then there are Sealers, who can magically seal the souls of the defeated demons so that they no longer resurrect. You play as Nine, the greatest Blade in the world, who is summoned away from his training and back to his homeland in order to combat the demons. Through circumstances that I do not want to spoil Nine is killed and a powerful sealer, named Aisha, uses a forbidden magic to bring him back from the brink. Nine and Aisha are then fused souls with a single existence, and you can switch between them at will while exploring, and use both of them during battle.
Dialogue between Nine and Aisha has its humorous points, and the story’s concept is interesting, but I just could not shake the feeling that this was a poorly told story overall. It starts out with an interesting idea and a few laughs, but before long I lost interest in what was going to happen next. There is no sense of meaning in what happens since the back story is not very well set up, and even when you save the kingdom it barely matters because throughout the game I only ever got to talk to three still living people. Saving a kingdom of three people seems like a small feat.
One of Last Rebellion’s best and most unique aspects is the gameplay. Aisha and Nine can each attack every turn. CP is used to attack multiple body parts on the enemy; and put stamps on every point attacked. The order in which you attack each body part is important, and if you find the right order you can start earning bonus points which translate into huge increases in the amount of experience you earn after winning.
MP can be used to cast offensive spells which do damage to every stamped point on every enemy. No matter how many stamps there are spells still cost the same amount; so if you want to do the most damage possible you can stamp every body part before you start casting spells. After you defeat an enemy they will remain on the battle field and resurrect with full health after a few turns. While your enemies lie seemingly dead on the floor you can use Nine to absorb MP from them and then use Aisha to seal them so they can’t come back; and earn yourself some HP in the process. The battle system has next to no strategy involved once you find the correct order to attack in, but it was still an interesting departure from the norms of turn based JRPGs.
Interesting as it may be, the battle system also comes with some pretty large problems beyond the lack of strategy. The first problem is that difficulty jumps up massively as you move from area to area, and I was often surprised at how easily an enemy would kick the crap out of me when I was doing fine just a few minutes before that. Luckily, once you learn how to gain bonus points effectively you can increase the experience from a fight that would have given you 1,000 points to 20,000 points; so grinding does not take long. Another problem is that there is way too much emphasis on finding what spells each monster is weak to. The difference in damage is far too large, and you can do ten times the damage if you find an enemy’s weakness. This puts you at a huge disadvantage when you move forward to fight a new type of enemy since you won’t know its weakness or the order in which to attack it, and due to the massive difficulty jumps it is probably going to make you bleed and cry to your momma while you try to figure it out.
The biggest problem with the gameplay is how it uses the JRPG standard status ailments: stun, sleep, paralyze, and the like. You don’t think about this when you start the game, but even though you take a turn for each of your characters they are linked by a common HP bar, MP bar, CP bar, and they both get any status ailments placed on either of them. This means that if an enemy stuns you then you miss out on the entire turn since you have no other party member. Paralyze is especially exasperating since it can last as many as five turns. You are only able to use items while paralyzed, and the only item I found that could counter paralysis was in short supply since the max you can carry is five, and there are no stores in the game.
Enemies seem to know exactly how cheap this tactic is, and they have no qualms with abusing it over and over again. At one point, I was in a fight against five enemies and every turn one of them would paralyze me. Whenever I used an item to get out of the paralyze another one of them would put me right back in paralyze until I decided that I could not afford to use up any more anti paralysis items on a non-boss fight, and set myself to heal through until they stopped paralyzing me. The battle lasted five minutes. Five minutes of annoyance against weak enemies as I could do nothing but curse and use healing items(which are also in short supply by the way) to keep the fight going . Situations like this happened far too often, and really killed my enjoyment of the battle system.
You probably know this already just by looking at the screenshots, but this is a pretty ugly game. While the main characters' models are alright, the environments are extremely drab and make exploring the landscape less fun than it should be. The developers say they went for an art style that feels like a painting come to life, but for that to be true the painting has to actually move. Whenever there are story segments they use talking heads and refuse to ever show any kind of animation. If something is moving they will just go to black and bring forward another still scene with the movement finished. It is like Folklore’s aversion to animation; but taken to an even greater extreme.
Luckily, the game fairs better when it comes to sound design, but it still isn’t anything to write home about. The music is mostly fitting but can get repetitive. I really liked the song that goes along with the introduction to the game and I wish the rest of the music was that forward and unique, but sadly the bulk of it is boring. Voice acting is a mixed bag with some characters, such as Nine, having strange voices, but I got used to it and started to like it. Unfortunately, you have other side characters with annoyingly soft or cliché voices that are very little fun to hear, and can grate after a few hours.
Last Rebellion only took me 15 hours to play through the main story, and even at a discounted $50 price point this is a huge disappointment for a genre where the average length is closer to 30 hours. There is no 'new game+' feature, but there are a number of optional bosses you can face off against to increase your play time if you find yourself loving the battle system. Overall, it is an incredibly disappointing value when you consider that two hours of my playthrough were taken up with a painfully pointless fetch quest that had me backtracking all over the world.
When it rains it pours. Sadly, only after a couple of weeks from the disappointing White Knight Chronicles; Playstation 3 owners are faced with an even worse JRPG. The graphics are abysmal, the length is short even for a discounted title, and the gameplay has some huge issues of its own. If you really want to try out a JRPG with a new and different battle system then go right ahead, but if you try and go all doom and gloom on NIS and say that “they haven’t made any good games this generation” let me kindly point you in the direction of Disgaea 3. If you don’t own it, know that you are part of the problem and not the solution.