This console generation saw only a few Final Fantasy games during its time in the sun but luckily two of them were amazing. Of course, I am not talking about Final Fantasy XIV—decent as it is after its relaunch—or any of the Final Fantasy XIIIs. No, I'm talking about Lost Odyssey and The Last Story.
“Neither of those are Final Fantasy games,” I hear you cry. And while that is technically true, in everything besides the name Lost Odyssey and The Last Story are everything you could want from a Final Fantasy.
On the back end, both Lost Odyssey and The Last Story were made by Mistwalker—a studio founded by the creator of Final Fantasy himself, Hironobu Sakaguchi. Moreover, he wrote the story to both games—and directed The Last Story himself. On the music side, both feature scores by Nobuo Uematsu—who scored Final Fantasy I through Final Fantasy X (as well as XIV). So when it comes to pedigree, Lost Odyssey and The Last Story have far more in common with the classic Final Fantasy games than the recent numbered titles.
When it comes to gameplay, Lost Odyssey plays like a classic turn-based JRPG—but with beautiful HD graphics. However, where it really shines is in the plot. Lost Odyssey is the tale of a group of immortals and their companions on a quest to—as is common with JRPGs—save the world. However, behind that standard plot, the game is a deep exploration of immortality—mainly just how much it would suck to live forever. It is an emotional, serious title that largely stays away from melodrama and instead treats the player like a thinking adult. Simply put, it's an amazing JRPG.
The Last Story, on the other hand, has a plot focused on a small group of people trying to protect not the world—but their own small part of it. It has great villains, interesting and diverse characters, and a world that is a lot of fun to explore. But where it really stands out from many other JRPGs is in its believable love story—a love story that goes far beyond the “admitting they like each other” stage of the relationship which is so often treated as the end of a love story instead of the beginning.
The gameplay in The Last Story is anything but traditional—and I mean that in a good way. It is fast, action-packed, and unlike any JRPG before it. It manages to combine everything from stealth and cover-based combat to FPS shooting into the JRPG formula. It also involves a fair amount of tactical thinking by forcing you to be conscious about not only where your friends and the enemies are but also where their spells land.
In the end, both Lost Odyssey and The Last Story are not only great JRPGs with excellent plots but also have a pedigree that makes them Final Fantasy games in all but name. If you have somehow missed them, dust off your Wii and 360 and give them both a play. If you love the classic Final Fantasy games, you'll be glad you did.
Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes—and the Zeroes—of the last eight years of console video gaming. More details can be found here; follow along with the series here.