There have been hundreds of iterations on the classic turn-based JRPG battle system over the years. Honestly, I challenge anyone to count. Some of them age with grace, and others show signs of wear. The Last Remnant definitely falls closer to the latter.
Unfortunately, I didn't play The Last Remnant when it originally released after being told it was a mediocre JRPG. Now I can look at the Remaster years later through totally fresh eyes, free of the bias I had as a teenager. And I don't hate The Last Remnant. In fact, I really quite like it, despite some obvious issues.
The story follows Rush, our protagonist, who keeps foolishly rushing into battles. Rush and his sister live quiet lives, but their parents are important scientists working in the city. The parents call for the siblings to come live with them, and of course, evil antagonists get involved and Rush's sister gets kidnapped, because she's special or whatever.
From here Rush embarks on a stereotypically epic quest where he must gather allies, gain strength, upgrade his weapons, take on menial side quests, pretty much everything. This is a JRPG, and goes through the usual JRPG motions.
Rush quickly meets the Marquis of Athlum, David, whom he takes a liking too, a trusts a little bit too quickly. Again, usual JRPG fare, nothing too shocking here.
Tides of war
Where The Last Remnant deviates is in the battle system. You essentially take on a small army, and give them linear instructions for them to act upon. It's odd, because although the options you receive are often straightforward instructions, the positioning of your team and the enemies can greatly affect the outcome of the fight.
So, you can choose the option to attack, but that'll likely make you move closer. Using magic arts can end up the same way too. But, if another formation is in deadlock with an enemy, you get options like 'support allies from a distance.' When your team is low on health, you'll get the options to help, some of which break deadlock in combat, some of which don't.
If you don't know what a deadlock is, don't worry about it too much, the tutorial explains all of that. But that's part of the problem. The way the battles play out isn't immediately clear, and it uses esoteric terms which will be confusing to anyone who skips past the tutorial windows - and who can blame them.
But the battle system works, once you understand, and it's decent enough. I don't want to praise it too much, I've played dozens of battle systems I prefer, but it works. It's fully functional, and obeys a consistent logic, while remaining fairly unique from the games I've played.
Plus, this remaster gives you the option to double the battle speed. Amazing for grinding through levels, but disastrous for the QTEs. QTEs can help you during battle, but if you double the battle speed, you shorten your window to hit them. It's very frustrating - QTEs should always operate at normal speed, even if it requires slowing the battle for a second.
Worlds of bore
Outside of battle, it's a pretty uninspired world. There's no real overworld, just a world map which you can select dungeons or towns from. Towns are segmented and require load screens between each, and honestly, they don't look great. This is a 360 game originally, but arguably looks as good as, or worse than, the PS2's Final Fantasy XII. Again, nothing here is wrong per se, just underwhelming.
On a happier note, I'd heard issues regarding framerate and loading screens plagued the original game, and from my experience, this remaster is much smoother in both regards, and while battles could load a tiny bit faster for my tastes, I never found it annoying or particularly egregious.
Well, this all reads like a list of complaints, but again, I actually quite like The Last Remnant - but I am totally okay with generic JRPGs. I recognise that, outside of a weird battle system, there's nothing that really makes The Last Remnant unique, but everything it does, it does well enough.
The story is trite, but it was just engaging enough to keep me playing. The battles weren't amazing, but the ability to speed up the proceeding made it far more palatable. This game is, for a JRPG fan, entirely inoffensive. And I think that's okay.