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Review #339

Last Rebellion
Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software America
Developer: Hit Maker
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Release Date: 02/24/2010

Despite their name, Hit Maker is not a developer that has produced any real hits. Most reviewers haven’t been kind towards their titles, but I have to admit Blade Dancer wasn’t bad for a $4.99 game, which is what I paid for it when Nippon Ichi put it on sale in the Playstation Store. As well our own Aileen Coe gave a fairly positive review to A Witch’s Tale and we tend to be one of the harsher gaming publications around. I also liked A Witch’s Tale for its innovation and weirdness.

Now here we are with Hit Maker’s fourth game, Last Rebellion. Even before the game was officially out, people were badmouthing it and some were even proclaiming it the worst game of the year, which shows that said publication hadn’t experience the hell that is Walk It Out. The weirdest things I heard was the bitching that the game used static images for dialogue instead of fully rendered CGI. This confused me greatly because MOST RPG’s have gone that route. I grew up in the 8 and 16 bit era so this is pretty standard for me. I mean the old Sega Genesis Shadowrun didn’t have CGI or animated cinematics and it’s still one of the ten best RPG’s ever released. Disgaea didn’t have either of those things and it won our 2003 Game of the Year. So I went into this game assuming that these complainers were only concerned with how a game looks rather than how it actually PLAYED (which is both stupid and sadly how many gaming publications actually look at products these days) or that these were younger people who have probably never played quality RPG’s like The Bard’s Tale, Ultima IV or Shining Force that earned their status as legends through gameplay and story.

So did that turn out to be the case? Was Last Rebellion actually a good game that just happened to be retro in look and feel? Was this a case of judging a budget niche game by Final Fantasy fanboys (the second creepiest scourge in gaming). Or did it turn out that Last Rebellion was indeed a pile of pure unadulterated suck?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Last Rebellion actually has a pretty innovative storyline but it just isn’t told very well. You have two warring gods: Formival, the god of life and Meiktilla, the god of death. Now this is a fairly common and trite plot point in game. What’s interesting here is that the god of life is the bad guy and the god of death is the good girl. You see, Formival has gone nuts and just started letting everyone come back to life. This means the world is now heavily overpopulated and there is more crime, war and strife than ever. The other thing is that these people are coming back to life in their own bodies, which makes them undead and crazy. Whoops. So the god of death has stepped up to be the hero of humanity by creating two classes of people. The first is Blades, which can slay bodies and the second are Sealers who can keep souls from returning to life. This is all pretty interesting so far, right?

Well your main character is Nine, a Blade and the adopted son of the King of the region. Both Nine and the King are assassinated by Alfred, the other adopted son of the King who is actually the son of the original King who was slain by Nine’s stepfather in battle. A bit complicated, but it makes sense. Alfred’s a necromancer that has just been waiting all these years to get revenge on his father’s murderer. He also has a crazy plan to bring some powerful demon thingy into the world to wreak havoc on the world.

Nine is brought back to life by a forbidden spell performed by a Sealer names Aisha. Now the two share one body and only one can be active on the world at one time. The two set off on a quest to seal away a powerful demon and slay Alfred. Again, this is all pretty interesting and quite different from the standard RPG, right?

Well the problem is that the story isn’t told very well beyond the initial concepts. Characterization is all over the place. Nine is a bad ass warrior one second and a whiny punk the next. At times he is clever and at times he is portrayed as an idiot who attacks first and thinks second. These wild personality flip-flops are seen usually in the same scene, so it’s a bit hard to describe any of the characters save for “poorly written.”

The story progresses in a very linear fashion, although you do have room to look around and explore the very large areas in each section of the game. You can also go back to places you’ve already been to collect treasure chests. At the end of the day though, the plot is original, but would have been far more successful if the dialogue and story scenes had been written by someone else. There was a lot of potential here but Last Rebellion just didn’t live up to it. What’s here isn’t awful – it’s just all over the place.

Story Rating: 5.5/10

2. Graphics

Last Rebellion is neither the worst looking PS3 game I’ve had to play nor the worst looking RPG. It looks like a high end PS2 in regards to backgrounds and monster designs. There isn’t a lot of variety to the latter, but they are quite different looking from the usual bad guy fare in a RPG. I really loved the character designs and I was a bit saddened that the coolest looking one, a Lovecraftian-esque bad guy I thought was going to be behind the whole thing was just the first boss in the game. The worst character design was Alfred as he looked like a stupid yutz in a hoodie ala the main character from Prototype.

It is true that there aren’t any fully animated cut scenes in the game. Rather, everything is told in classic RPG style where you have various character portraits or still images portraying the scene while text )that is fully voice acted) scrolls across the screen. This is a bit old fashioned, but I have to admit I liked it. It had a nice retro feel to it and this was common even in PS2, Xbox and GameCube titles, so it should be neither a surprise nor a disappointment to see this a generation later. There will always be a place for this style of RPG storytelling and quite honestly, I hope it never goes away.

I really enjoyed the cut scene art. The art is both beautiful and vibrant. I also liked that the further into the game you get the more “loading screen” art you unlock. It’s all very pretty and I loved the range of artists Hit Maker employed for these “unlockables.” There’s just only one problem –very nice static art is easy to do. Sure it’s VERY pretty since the game is in full 1080, but static art is pretty easy to do. I could upload some high resolution screenshots of Kevin Maguire art as the background for my PS3 and it wouldn’t be graphically impressive because it’s STATIC IMAGES. In terms of pure graphics, Last Rebellion probably should have been a PS2 game. If it had, it would definitely be getting higher reviews than it has been and it would certainly score higher in this category, but at the end of the day what we have here is a decent looking game. It’s not graphically impressive, nor it is as ugly as say Untold Kingdoms or even bits of Disgaea 3. it’s just an average looking game with some really gorgeous static artwork.

Graphics Rating: 5.5/10

3. Sound

This is a mixed bad as well. I really adored the soundtrack. There were some really fun and catchy tracks to this game and I was impressed by how original and FUN the music was. This was one area where Last Rebellion actually really shined.

Then there is the voice acting. I have to admit I went into this pretty positive when the opening cinematic (which is just static images and gameplay footage) started up and the game was narrated by the godly Michael McConnohie aka the original Vampire Hunter D voice actor. I also remember him as Leonard Dawson from Golgo 13 and a ton of classic animated characters from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Modern gamers might know him as Seth from Street Fighter IV, Kano from Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe or Astaroth from the Soul Calibur games. He’s also been the narrator for the last few Castlevania games.

Then there is the rest of the voice acting. Yeah, it’s pretty bad. Atonal, flat and unemotional. Nine’s actor is probably the best out of the rest of the cast, but that’s like saying getting the flu is better than getting HIV. Aisha’s actress is so bad, I was wishing for just scrolling text. Other actors like Alfred’s the King, and Jacob are slightly better, but not by much. I applaud the game for being fully voiced acted, especially on a budget price, but this is one of those times where the game would have been better off silent.

So you have a great score and some awful voice acting. In my opinion the two balance each other out, so I’ll call it a thumbs in the middle. You can adjust the audio to turn off the voice acting, and that might be the best call.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

For me, gameplay is the most important piece of a game. I generally dislike turn based RPG’s because the gameplay is so boring. You select an action, the character walks forward, swing a weapon or casts a spell and then returns. You can practically play these games in your sleep. This is why my preferred turn based RPG are games like a href=”http://diehardgamefan.com/2009/10/19/shadow-hearts-sequel-spin-off-start-over-or-stay-dead/”>Shadow Hearts; because they would do something to revitalize the otherwise most boring form of RPG there is. With that said, Last Rebellion has one of the best turn based battle engines in the history of the genre and I absolutely adored it. It made me think/plan/plot as much as a tactical RPG like Shining Force or Ogre Tactics and it sucked me in for the entire game. Had this engine been saddled with a prettier game, or even a better told story, you’d see people extolling this thing as the highly innovative game it is. Now battles can be rather slow due to all the plotting and this is definitely a turn based RPG for the type of gamer who would normally prefer Fire Emblem or Dragon Force, but that’s exactly the type of gamer I am.

When combat starts, both Nine and Aisha get one turn per round. Now one turn doesn’t mean one action. In fact you can go as many times as you want in a round as long as you have Chain Points. One attack = one chain point. You can use one chain point per each of the attackable body parts on a monster. So if a monster has six body parts you can attack, you can attack it six times per character with that turn. When you hit an enemy you leave a stamp. Stamps can be from one to five rounds long. Stamps are focus points for magic. A magic attack only requires a single Chain Point, but you get one hit per stamp. As such, magic can get you a lot of damage in that single Chain Point. This means you have to plans your attacks between Nine and Aisha properly to ensure maximum damage.

However there’s one additional piece to combat that truly makes this engine amazing. The goal is to hit all of the body parts in a specific order. If you hit a piece in the proper order, the screen will say “BINGO” and you’ll get to do critical damage. If you hit several bingos in a row, it will be a combo and net you extra experience points. The catch is that you don’t KNOW the order in which to strike. It’s trial and error until you get the bingo and then it is retained in your characters memory.

Let’s do an example. Say I have a monster that I can hit in the head, right arm, left arm, chest, right leg and left leg. Let’s then say I hit those parts in that exact order. I get a bingo for the head and chest. Then when my next turn comes up, there will be a number 1 by the head and a number 4 by the chest. That is your reminder that those are the proper places in the chain. Now you will just have to figure out the rest of the order. Things can get pretty complicated with some monsters having ten (or more) body parts to strike. You don’t have to strike them all in one turn, or even in the correct order if you don’t want to. It just means you won’t be maximizing your damage

Another thing to keep in mind is that some body parts have their name in deep red. These are danger areas. If you strike this part of the body out of the correct order, it will incite a berserker rage in the monster and let them do extra damage to you on their turn. Do you take a chance and hit that part, or do you leave it alone until you’ve figured out the rest of the order? It’s up to you.

I loved this system. I can’t stress that enough. When playing Last Rebellion, I have a notebook and a pen to keep track of all the combinations I’ve tried and so that i can figure out the order to strike. I haven’t gotten to use pen and paper since I used to map old SSI Dungeons and Dragons games like Eye of the Beholder. I love this aspect of digital RPG’s and it’s something I didn’t realize how much I sorely missed until now. This my friends, is an engine for old school RPG nuts. People that remember back when these games actually involved ROLE PLAYING and having to use your mind and wits in order to get through a game. I love this. I truly do.

Last Rebellion might truly be a perfect example of a video gaming generational gap. Did you use to love the Wizardry series or write down the solutions for games like The 7th Guest or Maniac Mansion? Then this is for you. Are you the type of gamer that prefers the long cinematic RPG’s that are more interactive movie? Then this probably isn’t for you. Personally, the engine makes this an amazing game and if Hitmaker could get a proper story and some better graphics out of their games to be coupled with this engine, they just might have their first critical success on their hands.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 8/10

5. Replayability

Replay value is the biggest flaw in Last Rebellion. It’s extremely linear, there is nothing special that happens after you beat the game and you can’t even customize your characters. When you level up, it’s with set hit point, magic point and chain point increases, so everything is predetermined. With nothing to explore save the large levels that you have in the game, this really is a one and done title.

Another thing worth noting, nearly all the trophies in the game are story based, meaning you should have nearly all of them by the time you beat the game, which is only a dozen hours long. The others are earned by killing specific creatures and they are pretty easy to obtain. As such, this is one of the easier titles to earn a Platinum Trophy in and it’ll end up being my second, with the first being Bakugan Battle Brawlers.

There really is no replay value to this unless, like myself, you love the engine. Even then, once I Platinum this game, I won’t be coming back for more, as an engine alone isn’t enough to draw me back.

Replayability Rating: 2/10

6. Balance

Last Rebellion is a well balanced game but in a very unique and odd way. The first time you fight a monster will always be your hardest encounter with it. This is because you’ll be spending that battle trying to figure out the correct order to attack your opponent in. Then as you whittle down the body part order, you’ll find repeat battles to be much easier. Once you have the order in fact, you’ll never lose to that monster, even if there are six or seven of them. Yet when you don’t have the order, a battle with a single monster can be death if you keep striking a red body part out of order. This is nicely done and so there was challenge at the start of things when you need it most, but as you grow as a player, things get much easier. This is a game that truly rewards you for thinking. Boss battles are the same. The first few rounds will be your hardest but as you get the correct order of attacks down, it will go a lot easier. Again, this is why I suggest pen and paper by your side.

Now with all this in mind, Last Rebellion is a pretty easy game. Sure there were a few challenges here and there but I actually found say a Yellow Jellos to be harder than the first boss, and they were a rank and file monster in the same area as said boss. You’ll find this to frequently be the case. Bosses aren’t hard –they just take a long time to kill.

That being said, there are two other things worth discussing here. The first is that the game actively prevents you from grinding. I hate munchkin gaming and so I’m glad to see this done here. Once you get too powerful for certain enemies, they stop giving you experience points. This means you’ll just be battling to waste time, so you’ll have to move on to a harder area and earn your XP. I wish more games did this.

Second, at the end of a battle you have to make sure Aisha seals the monster corpses, or they will return to life and you’ll have to fight them all over again. You can purposely let them revive for more combo points that generates into bonus XP, but it’s always better to seal them and get it over with.

My only problem with balance is that enemy encounter points respawn infinitely. So if you kill something, you have to keep moving as a new creature will respawn in that area. This kind of goes against the whole “seal monsters so they don’t come back to life” aspect, and it’s also annoying because you’ll have to backtrack frequently through areas where you can no longer earn XP and have to waste time fighting scrubs for no experience points or rewards. Lame.

Overall, this is a nicely balanced title and it’s nice to see a turn based game that actually rewards you for thinking. It is a little too easy for my tastes, and the constant respawning enemies can be annoying, but this is still another area where Last Rebellion more or less succeeds.

Balance Rating: 6/10

7. Originality

In terms of plot kernels and the engine, Last Rebellion is one of the more original titles I’ve played in a while. Everything about this game is so outside the norm that it will probably be outside a lot of gamer’s comfort zone. I really enjoyed all the new ideas that this game brought to the table even if I didn’t think it was executed all that well.

Although Hit Maker doesn’t make critical or mainstream successes, one can at least say they’re always trying new things and putting out games with features, modes and engines that haven’t been done before. I’d rather play something new that might now be all that good than yet another clone of a successful but predictable title.

Even with all the negatives about Last Rebellion in mind, it’s a pretty innovative title, for good and for bad.

Originality Rating: 7/10

8. Addictiveness

I really enjoyed my time with Last Rebellion in spite of its shortcomings. I loved the engine and the almost puzzle game aspect it entailed. I referred to the battle system as “SRPG meets Sudoku” to fellow DHGF’er Chris Bowen.

I realize that for most Turn Based RPG fans, the system is too slow and too complicated. Most SRPG fans won’t like that you can only control a single character at a time instead of a whole army. Most younger gamers will find this too alien to what they are used to playing. Me though? I couldn’t put this thing down as much like the Judgment ring, this is exactly the weird sort of thing I needed to make me truly care about a turn based RPG.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

Well, judging on the initial reviews and opinions of this game, it’s safe to say Last Rebellion is the epitome of a niche title. I like it, but I’m also astute enough to realize I’ll probably be in the minority. The story had potential, but didn’t live up to it. The graphics look like a nice PS2 game rather than a PS3 game and the game is definitely geared towards diehard longtime WESTERN RPG fans, even though it is a JRPG. This kind of means it will be ignored and/or scorned by all. Still, it’s a budget game and for $29.99, you’re getting a short (10-15 hour) RPG that would have been a hit had it been for the PS2 five years ago. Sadly too many people are forgetting this is a budget title and you’re kind of getting what you pay for here. It’ll be a rare game that is satisfied with Last Rebellion, I can’t deny that, but I can also say I enjoyed it and I know that msot of the staff here at Diehard GameFAN actually would too, if only for the battle engine. If you’re unsure, remember it’s already at budget pricing and it’s not going to get much lower. Plus it’s probably a better buy than White Knight Chronicles (another game I enjoyed in spite of its flaws) which costs twice as much.

Appeal Factor: 3/10

10. Miscellaneous

You don’t see a lot of budget RPG’s these days. In fact you rarely see them at all. Off the top of my head I can think of Monster Hunter and Eternal Eyes and that’s about it. For $29.99, you’re getting an engine that is better than what is in most full priced Turn Based RPG’s, but you’re also get low rent voice acting and graphics in addition to a plot that had promise but just couldn’t live up to it. When I factor in that this is half the cost of most PS3 games I have to admit I enjoyed this on a fun to cost ration more than several full price RPGs for the system. That’s really what matters. In the end, it comes down to what you care about most in a game. If you care about the actual engine or gameplay, this is probably the RPG for you. If you care about story, graphics and voice acting, then you should probably look elsewhere.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5.5/10

The Scores
Story: 5.5/10
Graphics: 5.5/10
Sound: 5/10
Control and Gameplay: 8/10
Replayability: 2/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 5.5/10
Total Score: 54.5
FINAL SCORE: 5.5(DECENT GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Although I quite enjoyed my time with Last Rebellion, I also realize that only a very small audience will appreciate what this game does right. The graphics look more like a higher end PS2 game than a PS3 title while both the voice acting and story fail to impress. The two highlights of the game are the excellent soundtrack and the battle engine, which is the most innovative and original turn based system I’ve encountered since the Judgment Ring in Shadow Hearts. The game is neither the worst game of 2010 so far (that’s Walk It Out) nor even the worst RPG of the year (that’s Sands of Destruction). Instead this is a game that will appeal to a nearly extinct sub-genre of RPG fans: the type of gamers who love Wizardry, Ultima, The Bard’s Tale, Eye of the Beholder, Death Knights of Krynn and other PC style RPG’s from the 1980’s where you had pen and paper with you to make notations, graph maps or quickly solve puzzles in order to move ahead in the game. You’ll be doing something similar with the battle engine, so if those aforementioned titles bring a smile to your face than Last Rebellion is a game for you. If you prefer your turn based RPG’s to be things like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, then you’ll want to steer far away from this. Either way , whether you like the game or not, one can’t deny Last Rebellion is one of the more original RPG’s to be released in some time.

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