Sunday, 9 March 2014

Last Ranker

From the videos and screenshots I'd seen of Last Ranker I wasn't especially impressed, and I was really only playing it to check it off my my backlog. I expected a dull and clunky if somewhat unique RPG, but what I got was sooo much better. Never before has a slowly dropping number captivated me so much.



Story

As always when it comes to Japanese games, I have to say that I don't understand the language completely and basically get by on what I've picked up from playing imported games since the SNES era, but with help from a guide on GameFaqs I think I got a general idea of what was going on.

Last Ranker follows the story of Zig, who leaves his home village after becoming tired and disillusioned with their way of life and opts to travel to the city and join with an organization called the 'Rankers' that are all about rising in the ranks and training strong fighters. He eventually gets caught up in the plots of the corrupt 'Knights of the Seven', who are the top seven fighters in the city and essentially in control of the government, and later does the whole save the world thing.

I genuinely liked most of the characters in this game, especially the villains. I've always been a sucker for well done evil organizations with gradually strengthing members as you go up the hierarchy, and Last Ranker managed to have them all be at least somewhat interesting and fun to come into conflict with.

The animation quality of the characters was pretty great

Gameplay:

Last Ranker has a pretty unusual battle system when compared to the usual JRPG, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Rather than just have a menu that you navigate to select attack, magic, item, etc, Last Ranker uses a more action/timing based approach, almost similar to Super Mario RPG/Paper Mario.

You can assign abilities to certain buttons such as attack, guard and the like, and in combat you're encouraged to do what you can to time your attacks for when the enemy drops their defenses, guard powerful attacks, use special abilities to interrupt your opponent when they try to do the same, and so forth. All in all it makes for a more engaging and tense system than the norm, and it goes a long way towards making the otherwise bland (there are very few unique monster types) random encounters fun.

The best part of the game, at least for me, is the rank indicator that's always at the top of your screen. This number keeps track of Zig's standing in Last Ranker and steadily goes down as he defeats other Rankers like himself. It became something of an obsession to see this number go down, and each Ranker battle was a pure joy with a few exceptions (enemies that constantly counterattack were really irritating).

One of the many 'boss' encounters, with Zig's current rank at the top left

Summary:

Last Ranker was the first Japanese PSP RPG I picked up when I started binging on single player games recently, and was good enough to get me hooked all the way to thye end and leave me wanting more. Presentation was great and the gameplay was varied enough that it never felt like I was grinding. Audio-wise it was a mixed bag, but there were more good tracks than bad. Definitely grab this one if you're looking for a JRPG that's just a little bit different.

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