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Last Rebellion
Graphics: 3.4
Gameplay: 4.1
Sound: 3.8
Control: 4
Replay Value: 3.5
Rating: 3.7

As most of you know, I’m a fan of the now-archaic turn-based mechanic we used to find in many role-playing games. Now that it’s almost dead, I search – often in vain – for RPGs that feature my favorite style of combat, which is why I immediately gravitated towards Hit Maker’s Last Rebellion. Based on the information and details, the concept seemed to be excellent: two fighters sharing the same soul; each with a specific skill that is required in order to deal with intimidating foes. But within minutes of starting the game, I knew the developer had fallen well short of the intended goal and the more I played, the more irritated and disappointed I became. In reality, they did very little right with this one and even if you’re pining for turn-based in an era dominated by twitch gamers and ceaseless action, take a pass. If you’re really in need of this old-school style, toss in a classic PlayStation RPG or download one of them off the PSN. That’s your best bet; Last Rebellion would be a colossal waste of cash.

The graphics are basically atrocious for a PlayStation 3 title, especially one that launched in February of 2010, over three years after Sony’s new machine hit the market. NIS has published a game that doesn’t look much better than a PS2 title; the blandness, lack of detail, and abysmal environmental textures all come together in this unappealing, badly drawn sludge. That may sound harsh but when they won’t even bother to create any animation for the cut-scenes (non-interactive scenes are restricted to pictures of the characters and dialogue boxes, ala Disgaea), the lack of effort is obvious. Gameplay visuals are somehow even worse as the dark, muddy look seems to permeate areas that are supposed to be lush and vibrant, and character and enemy designs are about as generic as humanly possible. I suppose some of the special effects for the more advanced abilities in battle are pretty cool, but for the most part, these graphics are just terrible and there are few redeeming qualities.

The sound is only a smidge better, thanks to some okay voice acting and average battle effects. Like many games of this nature, some voices are passable while others are just downright annoying; it’s not an unfamiliar result with JRPGs as of late. The rest is just a mess. There are virtually no effects that accompany your exploring; you can barely hear the character’s movement over terrain (and sometimes, it’s non-existent), and everything sounds muted and poorly implemented. The soundtrack sort of fits when involved in combat but it’s far too repetitive and after several hours of play, I never stumbled across any new music tracks for either exploring or battle. The common theme throughout is one of underwhelming effects; a total lack of crispness and clarity, and a musical composition that is somehow even more generic than the character design. On top of which, nothing even sounds right: a sword slash sounds bizarre and there’s almost no diversity to the blows, in that physical and magic attacks sound very much the same. Just…bad.

You probably know all about the standard turn-based mechanic in RPGs and here, it’s purely turn-based, in that speed isn’t really a factor. The enemies will get a chance to move and you will get a chance to move, which is simple and straightforward and also allows for the unique system involved. See, you will get a certain amount of CP for each turn and you can use one CP for every attack. However, you can string many attacks together and focus each strike on a particular area of a foe. Furthermore, if you can figure out the exact correct procedure; i.e., the right sequence of strikes across all the body parts, you will create combination chains. In other words, when you realize that you must strike the head first, then each of the two arms, then the two legs, and then the chest, you’ll get yourself a Combo. Each enemy will force you to figure out their unique sequence and the good news is, the system will tell you when you struck correctly. So if you see a “Bingo” pop up with the third strike, it will tell you on the next turn that your #3 attack to the abdomen (or wherever) was correct.

It’s a trial-and-error process and it’s basically just luck. You just go after an enemy and see how many strikes you get right, and then in future turns, use what you’ve learned until you’ve figured out the sequential requirement. This is a little ridiculous to begin with because you never have any hint concerning which body part should be targeted and when, but it’s still a decent idea. But it hardly stops there. You control both Nine, a Blade, and Aisha, a Sealer, and they share the same soul and body. This means that only one of them will be facing the enemy at any given time; when you switch to the other, that character will jump into place. Because of this, each character has the same set of statistics; they share the same well of HP, MP and CP, which requires you to distribute your actions accordingly. Now, you first have to “Stamp” a foe with a strike from either Nine or Aisha; once the body part is stamped, it can then be targeted by Magic, so you have to always remember to stamp first before unleashing any powerful spells.

Lastly, Nine can Absorb – an ability that drags in MP from an enemy – and Aisha has the Seal capability, which is the only way to eliminate an enemy. Once a foe falls, it will eventually stand back up unless you Seal them away with Aisha. Now, I knew most of this going in as I had already done the research. I was encouraged by it but when put into practice; it all falls flat on its face. The entire thing is just plain boring. Trying to figure out the right sequence of attacks to get Combo chains is boring (and I typically hate any role-playing mechanic that relies on luck, anyway), performing the same procedure in every battle (target, stamp, cast, seal, repeat) is boring, and the story is intensely boring. And when it’s not boring, it’s frustrating. Fallen enemies in the field can respawn within seconds of being defeated, and you can’t outrun any of them, either. And because you can restore your HP and MP by standing around after combat and waiting around, this directly leads into unwanted encounters. It’s just absurd how fast enemies respawn.

And the combat simply doesn’t work very well. Because you execute in just about the exact same way for both random foes and boss fights, and all you really do is upgrade and use items as you normally would in any RPG, there’s really nothing here that’s even remotely interesting. The story is laughably bad, the writing is equally inferior, the graphics and sound are worse than mediocre, and exploration is mostly a limited endeavor that involves constantly respawning enemies (that only provide you with the same ol’ same ol’ in terms of battle), and in general, there’s a really depressing lack of immersion and intrigue. It’s sort of a neat idea to acquire particular keys that open treasure chests but beyond that, I have trouble finding any positive elements to include in this review. If this is the state of JRPGs right now, and if they’re this far behind in terms of technological advancements, then perhaps we really should abandon the old-school style of role-playing. It’s tough to admit, but it’s hard to view it any other way.

Last Rebellion is a dull, witless, ugly, uninspired adventure with only glimpses of the quality and innovation that could’ve been obtained with a lot more work on the part of the designers. If someone would attempt this very same combat mechanic, I’d love to see the result; they’d just have to balance it out, remove the repetitiveness, and flesh out all the possible options. As is, it’s crucially flawed and nothing else about the game proves appealing in the slightest.

3/30/2010   Ben Dutka