The RPG market is rather unique in that there is a game for almost everyone. If you're a fan of shooters, you can find comfort in games like BioShock or Mass Effect. If you enjoy hardcore difficulty, you have Shiren the Wanderer and Demon's Souls. Those looking for over-the-top action and mind-blowing visuals will seek out Final Fantasy titles, while someone wanting a engrossing character-focused story will play Persona or Dragon Age: Origins. That's not even taking into account all the niche titles, like Eternal Sonata or Enchanted Arms, which have their fair share of followers. Among all these RPGs, with their wide range of appeals, Last Rebellion stands out in a unique way: It isn't a game for anyone.
Last Rebellion is set in a strange medieval world that is the battleground between two gods: Formival, the God of Life, and Meiktilia, the Goddess of Death. The God of Life has dedicated himself to bringing the dead back to life by plaguing the land with an unkillable swarm of monsters known as Belzed. In retaliation, Meiktilia gave to the people the power of Blades, who can kill monsters with inhuman strength, and the power of Sealers, who can prevent the monsters from reviving. Players are put in control of a Blade named Nine Asfel, adopted son of the King of Lorvin and perhaps the strongest Blade in existence. Nine's brother, Alfred, launches a mysterious plot that leaves both the king and Nine Asfel dead. Nine is only saved when a Sealer named Aisha binds herself to him, fusing their souls into one body. Now the duo must work together to find a way to stop Alfred before he unleashes a plan that would undo the scant protection that their kingdom has against the Belzed forces.
To put it bluntly, Last Rebellion's plot is a complete mess. From beginning to end, it veers between boring and incoherent, but it never comes close to being interesting. The main plot is barely there, and nobody, not even the main characters, really seem interested in what they're doing. The supporting cast is almost nonexistent, there is no character development, and there isn't a single twist or surprise to be found. Even this might be forgivable if the characters were likeable, but nobody in the game has a consistent personality. Nine is sometimes a sarcastic jerk, sometimes a grim avenger, sometimes a golden-hearted rogue, sometimes a selfish idiot — and he never settles on one. He doesn't change personalities from scene to scene, but from line to line. At least his schizophrenic behavior comes somewhat close to resembling a character. His partner, Aisha, may as well not exist. She barely reacts to anything except to chide Nine for acting like a doofus. The supporting cast is the blandest nobodies you'll ever meet, and they're only memorable because they introduce plot ideas that never go anywhere or do anything. Perhaps the icing on the cake is the incredibly lackluster and unsatisfying ending that forgets about vital plot points and is over in a matter of moments.
On the surface, Last Rebellion has a pretty neat combat mechanic. It is a basic turn-based RPG combat system, but with a few twists. You technically only have two party members — Aisha and Nine — but since they share the same body, they function almost as one person, so you have one HP bar and one MP bar for both characters. Likewise, both characters will share any status effects inflicted on them, and if either one dies, the game is over. However, despite sharing the same body, both can act separately in combat. You can take actions as both Nine and Aisha, just as you would in a regular party-based game.
Combat gets a bit more complex when you discover how physical and magical combat works. Every enemy is comprised of their various body parts. For example, when you're fighting a troll, you can target its head, either of its arms, its legs, or various other body parts with your physical attacks. The number of attacks you can make is governed by your Charge Points. Each body part you attack costs 1 CP, and if you don't have any CP, you can't perform a physical attack. That is about your only real limitation with physical attacks, though. If you have enough CP, you can attack each and every body part of every enemy on the field, but if you have no CP, you can't attack at all. You regenerate a small amount of CP every round, and as the game progresses, you'll regenerate more and more. Early on, it's nearly impossible to attack every part of every enemy, but later in the game, it becomes all too easy.
It isn't a smart idea to just attack wildly. For one, certain enemy body parts are considered "raging points," and attacking that body part will cause the enemy to get more powerful and counterattack. Instead, every enemy has a certain order in which you should attack its body parts. This order is unknown when you first encounter an enemy, but if you attack the body parts in the correct order, you'll receive a Bingo, and the order will be listed the next time you attack. For maximum effect, you have to attack the body parts in numbered order, from lowest to highest, to activate a combo and build up bonus points. At the end of a battle, you'll receive a percentile bonus to your experience points equal to your bonus points. If you earn 200 bonus points, you'll gain a 200 percent increase to your experience. This can go up to 999 percent, which is a ridiculous increase to your total experience. In addition, a combo will not trigger an enemy's raging point, allowing you to attack more often.
However, attacking enemy body parts does not just deal physical damage. Every time your character deals physical damage to an enemy's body part, he will also "stamp" it, which comes into play when you use a magic spell. The spell can only target a stamped enemy but will hit every enemy on the field, and it'll even hit once for every stamp that an enemy has. Stamp every enemy on the field, and you can unleash a devastating magical spell on the entire group. Magic is very much about elemental strengths and weaknesses in Last Rebellion. Most magic spells are not particularly more effective than a physical attack, but their main advantage is that they use MP instead of CP, making it easier to replenish your CP in a tight spot. If you can discover which elemental spell is an enemy's weakness, you can do ridiculous amounts of damage. Not all the elemental strengths and weaknesses make sense, though, and the only way to figure out what does and doesn't work is through experimentation. Every spell begins at Level 1, but you can spend Aeon Papers to increase the level of the spell, up to Level 5. Aeon Papers can be added or subtracted at any time, allowing you to customize spells on the fly, but the downside is that higher-level spells cost more MP to cast.
The most unusual aspect of combat comes from the fact that you're fighting undead. Reducing an enemy's HP to zero is not enough to kill it. The enemy will die but only remain dead for a brief moment before it gets back up and is more powerful than ever. In order to keep an enemy dead, Aisha must use her Seal skill, which permanently kills enemies and refills your HP. Nine has his own version of the skill called Absorb, which refills MP but causes enemies to revive from death even faster. Time it correctly, and you can have Nine absorb MP from enemies, and then Aisha seal them to recover HP and end the battle. Absorbing and Sealing also take CP, one for every enemy on which you plan to use them. If you kill five enemies with a good attack, you'll need five CP to Seal all of them or 10 to Absorb and then Seal. It's a bit risky to commit everything to an attack because failing to Seal enemies means they'll get back up with full health and greater attack power. This can even happen in some boss fights!
Midway through the game, you also receive a Meiktilia Force meter, which fills up when your characters take damage. When it reaches 100 percent, Meiktilia will appear. She does minor damage to all enemies but instantly reveals the attack order for their limbs. From the moment I got the MF Meter, though, I only got to use it twice. Unless you go out of your way to let enemies beat you up, it fills up ridiculously slowly, at the pace of 1 percent each time you are attacked. Filling it up is a rare situation and not really worth the trouble. It's a nice benefit if it happens, but it only saves you the time of figuring out the attack pattern.
The combat system sounds good on paper, but the execution is rather horrid. Early in the game, it looks like you might have to use some strategy. You begin with a small amount of CP and MP, and trying to keep the meters full requires you to carefully plan your attacks. This quickly becomes a nonissue. All of your stats increase so quickly that it breaks the game. About one-fourth of the way through the game, you have so much CP that it's almost impossible to run out, even if you're doing full attacks on every enemy. Once this occurs, magic becomes pretty useless. You can try to stamp opponents, but why bother? Physical damage does just as much (if not more) to most enemies without having to figure out their elemental weakness, and there's no limitation on it. MP is so plentiful that you just need to beat up any enemies you come across and use Absorb and Seal at the end of combat. You'll never come close to running out of resources.
Thanks to the completely bizarre way that stats increase, Last Rebellion has a reverse difficulty curve. The first few hours of the game are by far the toughest, and the difficulty level plummets like a rock. The early segments of the game are tough because enemies hit hard and have the ability to stun-lock you. Because your status effects hit both characters, a sleeping attack or stunning attack will knock both out of action, and certain enemies can keep you stunned until you die. About a quarter of the way into the game — right around the time that you max out on CP — there is almost nothing that can harm you. You have hit points in the tens of thousands, and enemies are lucky if they can do a fraction of damage to you. You'll also never be in danger of running out of HP. The basic healing spell costs 40 MP for a full heal regardless of how much HP you have, while your MP bar starts reaching into the thousands. The bosses are pathetically easy and aren't satisfying to fight.
Despite this, fights take entirely too long. It's not because they're difficult, but because they are ridiculously slow. You have to wait for Nine and Aisha to go through every single one of their attack animations for every single limb they attack. It doesn't sound like much, but when you're fighting five enemies, that's a lot of limbs. It's especially bad in boss fights, where you're watching the same animation over and over again while you whittle down the large HP pool of the nonthreatening boss. There's no way to speed things up. You can save pre-defined attack orders on enemies once you've encountered them; that saves you a few button presses, but you still can't skip the overly long attack animations. A regular encounter can take five minutes to defeat, and since random encounters respawn almost instantly, you must fight the same enemy over and over in the same area.
On top of that, spells are a complete farce. At best, the game is 12-13 hours long, and during the course of that game, you obtain more spells than in an entire Final Fantasy or Dragon Age title. However, 90 percent of these spells are useless. You'll find tons of spellbooks that contain spells that barely work. Status effect spells are nearly worthless, as are most attack spells. You find the most powerful attack spells early on in many cases, and it isn't really worth your time to figure out an enemy's weakness. There are a number of "utility" spells that sound useful at first but end up being terrible. Invisible and Silent are spells designed to help you escape enemies, but the Run spell is just as effective and speeds up your character as well. There is a Float spell that is used once in the entire game and could have been removed without trouble. The ability to power up your spells is almost useless, as you can just use the most powerful version of a spell. Even early on, when your MP is limited, you regenerate so much MP from Absorb that you'll never use anything lower than Level 5 spells.
Perhaps the lackluster combat could have been forgiven if the dungeon design was interesting, but it is anything but. There isn't a single memorable or interesting area in the game. Most of the dungeons are generic caves or dungeons where you have to walk forward and occasionally step in a teleporter. There is one slightly interesting dungeon where you have to solve a puzzle, although that puzzle amounts to using a guy to walk on the blue squares and using a girl to walk on the red squares. Other dungeons are terribly designed. One forest level is one teleporter after after, except there is a brief path where you get to choose, but the wrong choice means you get to start at the beginning and walk through the teleporters again. By far, the absolute worst dungeon in the game is the Tower of Freya, the last "real" dungeon. It's simply a linear circular path up the tower, and it's filled with weak enemies. The catch is that there are switches you need special items to activate — items that are located in every single previous dungeon in the game — and you had no prior indication that you needed to collect these items. In fact, the item you need to get to collect them isn't available until three-fourths of the way through the game. In order to finish this boring upward slog, you face a mandatory backtrack through every single area.
The dungeons are almost empty. The only thing of note is the way treasure chests work. Enemies randomly drop Gannon Keys, which will open any treasure chest. You can't open chests without them, and you need to spend the key to open one. Red Treasure Chests are one-use chests that contain one-of-a-kind items, such as new magic spells. Blue Treasure Chests are basically stores; they contain an infinite number of a certain item, but you need to repeatedly spend Gannon Keys to get it. The problem here is twofold. For one thing, the treasure chest's design makes no sense. An early dungeon has you find a spell and three or four upgrades to the spell within the space of five minutes. Since there is no reason to use anything but the strongest version of a spell, it means you must spend your keys unlocking a bunch of worthless chests. A few dungeons even have weaker spells than the dungeon before them! To make matters more annoying, Gannon Keys are required to open every chest in the game, even those required to advance the plot. If you don't have the Gannon Keys necessary to open a chest containing a key item needed to continue the story, congratulations! You must grind until you do. Fortunately, enemies tend to drop a lot of Gannon Keys in a batch, so it shouldn't take too long.
The other major gimmick is that you have the ability to switch between Nine and Aisha on the screen. When using Nine, your MP slowly regenerates, while using Aisha causes your HP to regenerate, and you can switch between the two at any time. The flaw here is that there is never a single reason to use Aisha except for the aforementioned puzzle dungeon. A full heal costs 40 MP, which only takes about 40 seconds of playing as Nine to get. A full heal from Aisha's natural HP regeneration may take at least 10 times longer. Since you can use the healing spell from the menu, there is no reason to bother with Aisha's natural regeneration or to switch away from Nine.
There is nowhere to explore in Last Rebellion. There are no towns, and there are perhaps three human beings in the entire world. There's no reason for this. As far as I can tell, the game is supposed to take place in a kingdom filled with people, but the only characters you see aside from the three human beings are a few of identical cloaked NPCs who serve to vaguely point you toward your next goal. The world is a desolate place, but not in any way that makes sense for the story. There are a very small number of side-quests you can do, and none are really found by exploring. Even the potential excitement of finding hidden chests is dulled when you realize that you're going to have to climb the Tower of Freya.
Last Rebellion doesn't even make up for its flaws by being a good-looking game. In many ways, it's one of the worst-looking games on the PS3. At best, the graphics are PS2 quality, and I could name a legion of PS2 RPGs that looked significantly better. The character models are bland and uninteresting, and the main characters only have two animations — attack and magic attack — that you'll see again and again. The enemies are no better. There are only a handful of enemy types, and Last Rebellion resorts to pallet-swapping harder than any game I've ever played. You will not only fight similar enemies throughout the game, but you'll also fight pallet-swapped versions of enemies in the same area as other enemies of that type. The game's cut scenes are atrocious. The character models don't actually move or interact with the world at all. When Aisha and Nine switch bodies, the screen blacks out and then fades back in with the other character. The story is told through still pictures and artwork. Admittedly, some of the artwork is rather nice, but a good amount of the story is actually incoherent because of the lack of artwork. There are a number of times when it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell what just happened. The still picture doesn't change at all, and the characters don't explain what they just did.
The audio aspect of the game is no better. The voice acting is bland and unmemorable, but oddly, it's probably the least annoying aspect of the title. There are only a handful of voice actors, and while none of them are good, none of them are extremely bad either. Some do their very best to read some rather nonsensical lines. It would take a masterful actor to use the nickname "Wannabe Daddy" and have it sound even remotely natural. The music is generic and clichéd, and I'd be hard-pressed to remember a single tune that played during the game. The only song that stands out is the vocal melody that plays during one of the climactic battles, and that is more memorable for how inappropriate it is for the scene.
Last Rebellion is an example of a game that does nothing right. It is the worst RPG on the PlayStation 3, and it may be one of the worst RPGs to come out in the past few years. Every element is lackluster at best and downright awful at worst. The plot ranges from boring to incoherent, and the characters can't maintain their personalities from line to line, let alone scene to scene. The combat system is extremely interesting in theory but ends up being slow and boring in practice. The dungeons are boring and linear, the graphics are poor, and the soundtrack is mediocre. Even if Resonance of Fate, Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening, Sakura Wars and Final Fantasy XIII weren't already out, there would still be no reason to buy Last Rebellion.
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