I have tried Xenoblade, Pandora Tower and the Last Story! First thoughts.

Nintendo kindly offered gamers to play the big three RPGs that Operation Rainfall wants at the Japan Expo that currently takes place in Paris, France. I just returned from those very booths and want to share my hands-on impressions which are, of course, not representative of the games in a whole :

Xenoblade

Scheduled for September 2nd in Europe, Xenoblade is now fully translated and I had actually the full game at my disposal (not that I had the time to complete it…). The character design is quite good as the heroes look very JRPG like. The girl wields a huge Barett-like sniper rifle, which immediately triggered in my mind the decision to buy day one, and the two other have classy swords. The system is very close to Final Fantasy XII, giving you a great liberty of movement and exploration. The battle system was astonishing as it combines strategy and action in a very good way. The small lines your character is saying during the fight and the detailed animations (for example Carna actioning the bolt-action after an overheat) makes it extremely immersive. Controls are very user friendly : despite not knowing anything about the game, I could battle quite efficiently in like 5 minutes, even with this horrible Nunchuk/Wiimote combo. The graphics look a bit terrible though, especially if you’ve played Final Fantasy XIII, but who cares when the rest is perfect?

Conclusion : Atomic! Top-class character design, intuitive controls and great battles make Xenoblade a must-have. Monolith Software turns everything it develops into gold, and Xenoblade is no exception. This game alone should make JRPG gamers who don’t own a Wii buy one.

Pandora Tower

Let’s make no mystery about it : the demo shown at Japan Expo was awful. A locked door, a giant statue and a game over screen, that was about all I could see of Pandora Tower. The design was too Castlevania-like and there was only one character : difficult to believe it’s an RPG… The only battle had me face 5 or 6 wolf-looking fiends that were clearly too much for the hero. He could apparently grab them with some sort of chain, but the controls were way to fishy for me to pull anything off. Worse, although being a recent game, the graphics really suck, I had the impression it was made for PSone…

Conclusion : Disappointing. While it was only a five-minute demo, nothing can make me speak favorably of Pandora Tower. Graphics are hideous and the controls dodgy. Let’s hope the full game fares better in a whole.

The Last Story

Graphics were cleaner than its counterparts, but the environment shown was somewhat dark. I couldn’t change characters, which really bugged me as the main hero looked boring, but it’s a really worrying point since it was the Japanese full game I was playing. The battle system seemed quite complicated but apparently has a huge part for strategy, which looks promising.

Conclusion : Mixed. The Last Story is the most beautiful of the Big Three, but the general design failed to convince me. The battle system seems pretty deep, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. Consequently, The Last Story falls into the “not sure but promising” category.

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