The Last Remnant
Spring 2008 - Next Generation Consoles - 1 Player RPG
One thousand years ago humanity came into contact with Remnants. These magical fragments of a bygone era were once used to promote peace across the world. Soon, as the rift grew between those who ruled and those who obeyed, the remnants ceased being instruments of balance, and instead became paths to immeasurable power. Where once there had been peace, only bloodshed remained.
- Released simultaneously in U.S. and Japan
-Two prominent characters each created to appeal to a specific territory. Rush Sykes will appeal to JP gamers, and "The Conqueror" for Western Audiences. Game won't force you to choose which character you play.
- Remnants vary in size and can take the form of machines, beasts, and weapons.
- 4 races revealed: Mitra (humans), Yama (Large fish-like beings), Qsiti (small humanoid lizards), Sovanni (four armed cat like creatures)
- Battle System will not be passive and will include QTEs in certain instances. Fights still take place in a turn based frame work.
- This is the first UE3 game SE will be releasing. Graphics look great so no worries there.
- Directed by Hiroshi Takai
Square Enix knows role playing games. In the video game industry, rarely is a single company so closely tied to the identity of an entire genre. The company is responsible for two of the biggest RPG franchises in the world, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, and people have been playing these series since the 8-Bit era. RPG fans know Square Enix as the name to turn to for grand adventures, unforgettable characters, and jaw-dropping moments remembered for years. Recently, Square Enix has devoted considerable energy to iterating on its past successes, but that doesn't mean the company isn't moving forward. Next year gamers will be treated to "The Last Remnant", an all new title that incorporates all the rich locations and thrilling combat an RPG fan could hope for, along with a handful of unexpected details that will help define the direction of the genre this generation.
In addition to marking the beginning of a new franchise for SE, TLR represents a significant deviation from the way RPGs have traditionally been presented to a North American audience. Since most role playing titles are created by Japanese developers, they are released in Japan first, and then find their way to American gamers after a delay for localization (which took 7 months for FFXII for example). With TLR, this process will change; the game will be released simultaneously in the U.S. and Japan. "From the conceptual stage of this project, we kept a global market in mind, placing a special emphasis on the North American market" says director Hiroshi Takai.
One of the Results of this emphasis is the fact that the game has two prominent characters, each created to appeal to a specific territory. The Japanese audience is most likely to connect with Rush Sykes, an energetic and idealistic 18 year old swordsman. On the other hand, American gamers will probably be more drawn to the dark and mysterious figure only referred to as The Conqueror. Older and battle hardened, The Conqueror is unlike Rush in almost every way. Despite this clear distinction, TLR does not force players to choose one character or the other. While interesting in its attempt to reach out to American gamers with The Conqueror, the game will be exactly the same on both shores, with Rush set up as the primary protagonist.
"Rush is the main character of this game," Takai clarifies. "He was designed with the traditional SE RPG style in mind, but the players' impression of him will likely change once they advance in the game. You can expect a lot of plot twists involving him." Even though Rush drives the tail at first, he has an unknown connection to The Conqueror that slowly draws that character into a more prominent position as the tale unfolds. "The Conqueror is a type of dark hero which is a first for a SE RPG," Takai admits. "As you can see from his costume, tainted red by blood (it was originally white), the cruelty that he holds within will have a great effect on the overall story.
Though the tale eventually expands into these dark corners, players are introduced to the world of TLR in a familiar fasihon. The adventure begins on an isolated island called Eulam where Rush and his sister Irina lead carefree lives. That all changes early on when Irina is kidnapped by a mysterious organization and Rush finds himself in the middle of a world spanning conflict somehow tied to ancient and powerful relics called remnants.
As the game's title would imply, Remnants are a key part of practically every element of the world. What exactly they are however, is difficult to define. Remnants vary in shape and size, and can take the form of machines, bests, and weapons. "Humans first came into contact with remnants about 1000 years ago." For instance, one Remnant, the Valeria Heart, is a sword the size of a small mountain. It is surrounded by the town of Athlum, which was built up around the artifact because of its extraordinary qualities. The Valeria Heart bestows courage upon those around it, and it also is responsible for the plentiful water supply. Like this sword, remnants can have an array of unique powers - some of which are hidden or unknown.
In contrast to the monumental Valeria Heart, we witnessed another Remnant in action with more offensive capabilities. On a sprawling battle field, a group of soldiers set up an enormous cannon that was clearly controlled by a handheld analogue - wielded by an unnamed character. As the young man wearing a mechanical eye patch charged his gun ad pulled the trigger the nearby cannon gathered energy and fired a devastating blast into the fray.
Because of their power and rarity, Remnants are priceless treasures. Not everyone is able to carry one into battle, and must instead rely on more conventional (at least for fantasy RPGs) methods of attack. "Swords and magic are the basic common weapons in the world," Takai states. "However, the remnants are considered as mysterious technology that no one can explain. We currently cannot even disclose if remnants are machines, structures, or living breathing things.
We may not know exactly how to classify Remnants, but we do know that people will go to great lengths to obtain them. The Conqueror for instance, has made it his mission to seize and collect as many as possible, though his intentions are unclear. The primary struggles in the game are fueled by the Remnants and the desire to control them, which often results in massive and bloody conflicts. these clashes are not limited to cutscenes and event sequences; the central combat system in TLR focuses on the player's ability to direct the battles between opposing armies.
In traditional Japanese RPGs, turn based fights usually pit players against various kinds of flora and fauna, politely giving and receiving beatings in an orderly fashion. Instead of this back and forth, the emphasis here is on recreating the sensation of a soldier on the battlefield. The cinematic angles are meant to give a more realistic flow to the combat, and it will not be a passive affair where you just select "attack" and watch your party jump over an invisible line separating friend from foe. After you choose an action, you will need to adapt to changing circumstances, which might require you to perform a series of timed button presses in mid-attack. Success in these situations can score you a critical hit, while failure might mean you deal less damage. For those traditionalists that are scared off by real time RPGs, don't worry; the fights still take place in a turn based framework. This isn't a real time hack n' slash like Dynasty Warriors.
Rush plays the role of one soldier among dozens as players group him and his companions into different Unions - small groups of five that can be ordered to perform actions on the battlefield. Though they are unified, the characters in Unions don't sacrifice their individual strengths. Different characters have special attacks and unique abilities, though these may vary depending on the current situation on the battlefield. "The commands can differ depending on the combination of Union members, the target of the battle, and morale. Players must make decisions based on these factors," says Takai.
The morale Takai refers to is another pivotal factor on the battlefield. Represented by a meter on the top of the screen, it fluctuates throughout the battle, resulting in different consequences. "If morale is low, characters will not be able to exert their powers. Players must aim to continuously improve their battle-styel and commands, or they may end up with a very difficult battle," Takai cautions. We saw an example of these shifting tides as two armies met in the middle of a field. Outnumbered, one side was immediately at a morale disadvantage. That changed as soon as a magic user summoned a monstrous flying beast, which sent the opposing army's morale into the gutter. Then Rush came in to save the day by calling forth a lumbering golem onto the field, which once again tipped the scales in his favor. It is easy to imagine that this seemingly simple match of tug of war will become the key to victory, especially considering that up to 70 units will be engaged in combat at once.
The conflicts in TLR aren't limited exclusively to such a grand scope. However, with the potential for massive clashes, there is certainly an effort to avoid throwaway fights and make each encounter matter. "Our main objective was to create a gaming experience in which the players can fully enjoy the battles as opposed to thinking of them as a grind fest," asserts Takai. "The story is definitely scripted to keep players on the edge of their seats, and we have prepared an abundance of short quests. However the main draw of this game will definitely be the battles."
No matter how stunning your battle system or how intriguing your world, the first step to captivating games is by ensuring them they can play your game in the first place. SE has a long and successful history of making console exclusive games, but TLR breaks that pattern. "We made the decision to go multiplatform after researching global ownership rates and overall marketability," says Takai. But there is more to the story than simple numbers: "As game developers, we would like to have as many users play as possible, and we are confident that we can create an RPG with the best specs imaginable at this point in time." While contractual issues prevent SE from specifically confirming which platforms the title will appear on, the issue is hardly puzzling. Since the game is too graphically intensive for the Wii, that only leaves the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.
There is no denying that TLR is an incredibly ambitious title. Whether it's the epic combat, the game's global aspirations, or a multiplatform release, there are a number of challenges to be addressed in the next year of development. Even when faced with these issues, Takai's main concern is ensuring that TLR lives up to its potential in the eyes of RPG fans. "The most difficult challenge is to provide a quality RPG that SE fans have come to expect, while giving it its own unique style," he tells us. "By combining an engrossing story and a ground-breaking battle system, we are seeking to create the ultimate RPG experience." Coming from the company that already dominates the genre, that's definitely saying something.
IT TAKES ALL KINDS
The world of TLR is populated by several kinds of creatures each with distinctive visual characteristics and innate skills. These are the four main races players can expect to encounter both in exploration and combat
MITRA: Not to be confused with the cat-like Mithra race in Final Fantasy XI, Mitra are basically humans as we know them. They are the most numerous of all the races in the world.
YAMA: Large fish-like beings, Yama are incredibly powerful. Because of their strength, special weapons exist for Yama that cannot be wielded by other races.
QSITI: These small humanoids resemble lizards, and are particularly adept with magic. They are energetic and can be found all over towns.
SOVNNI: With four arms and cat-like features, the Sovanni are able to wield multiple weapons and excel in battle. they are also the rarest of the four races.
A few months ago, Square Enix announced that it had licensed Unreal Engine 3 for use in its upcoming titles. It is now clear that The Last Remnant will be the first game we see from the company to utilize this technology. Square Enix RPGs usually excel in the visual department anyway, but according to Takai, there are other benefits to using Unreal. "I think it shows in the screenshots we just released," he laughs. "The time between starting the development and seeing the graphic resource onscreen was so fast, we were able to delve in illustrating and experimenting at a very early stage".
ENJOY THE SHOW
For a title focused on story and epic battles, it should be no surprise that SE is intent on portraying TLRs events in as cinematic as way as possible. Taking charge on this front is real-time movie director Kouzi Kobayashi, the man responsible for the opening, ending, and event movies of Final Fantasy VII and VIII. This experience along with Kobayashi's work on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Final Flight of the Osiris (from the Animatrix) ensures that these sequences will be memorable.