Last Battle

The Last Battle, at first, seems to be the most generic possible RPG.  It was published by Teichiku, and developed by Atelier Double.  The support developer was Powwow. It came out in 1994.  1994 was the same year that a large number of RPGs were published, including Final Fantasy VI.  This means that Last Battle can kind of feel like a game that’s second best compared to the competition.

Illusion of Gaia, Paladin's Quest, and Last battle all start with a school. It's not really a novel beginning.

Plotwise, the game seems to be a basic story of a group of people, possibly the children of heroes, working together to end the first conflict after a long period of peace.  Your hero studies in a mage school, and then heads out one night to the “ceremony” cave to get a gem for an old wizard.  After this, some soldiers attack the town, and the hero heads to the king to deliver a letter.

Last Battle's world map during the day.

Graphically, the game is surprising.  The start of the game could be any number of games, and the in town graphics are fairly generically squat.  There’s a lot of color shifted sprites early on in the game.  For example, the town has a warm “sunset” look to the sprites, and the world map is given a “night” colorway.  The world map, however, has a ridiculously tiny hero sprite.  The battle system resembles something like Beyond the Beyond, and looks pretty complex for a SNES game.  The menu system resembles Shining Force’s little icons.

The same area looks very different at night.

The menu also is a good example of the weird dichotomy in the game.  You have to use the menu to search (via the magnifying glass,) or to talk (via the talking head sprite.)  It’s attractive, and the sprites are pretty self explanatory, but it takes at least eight selections to get equipment equipped.  Still, it’s surprising for the game to have that system.  The battle system is basically an automatic battling system.  You can bring up the menu to pick tactics.  While this kills the “button mashing” tendency of a lot of battle systems, the game does make fights feel a lot more helpless, since you’re mostly waiting for the hero to get around to killing stuff.  The default setting seems to be a “magic and fighting” setting, and works acceptably well.  Unfortunately, the game has a rather old school level of grind from area to area to progress.

The hero casts magic in this fight.

All in all, Last Battle is a game that is interesting.  The actual polish of the various systems isn’t great, but it’s definitely a different experience.  While you are blocked from exploring through a lot of the early game, the areas that you can explore are at least fairly fun.

With the town at sunset in the background, this screenshot shows the menu.

I think novelty can be overrated.  After all, for some people, familiar comfort is half the reason why they play a genre of games.  In the case of Last Battle, the “familiar” elements of the game (a 16 year old kid doing a ceremonial romp in a cave, the magic school, and so on,) aren’t really a selling point for me.  The grindy gameplay, and the old fashioned “use menu to talk” system also isn’t necessarily a feature.  On the other hand, the unusual battle system, the pretty menu, the unusual world map, and different gameplay is a feature.  The auto battle system does remove some of the strategy of turn based combat, but it still has some strategy, and it’s definitely a different way to approach the game.  I think this game is a good example of how the novelty is the selling feature of the game.

A good example of how characters "block" your path in the early parts of the game.

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