TOKYO--Square Enix games are taking up quite a bit of real estate on the Tokyo Game Show floor this year. The Last Remnant, a new franchise for SE, was available in Japanese for us to play for the very first time. We jumped ahead to a save file to get a feel for the game's battle mechanics. Even though the battles are turn-based, there is a surprising amount of depth to the system so that you can coordinate your battles effectively. In our short play period, we managed to get a feel for how the battle flows, and we are eager to learn more.
Battles are fought with squads or unions that consist of five people. Our squads were already created and were well balanced, but a lot of strategy comes into play when you have to create your own. Depending on what kind of situation you're in, you'll want to ensure that you always have a healer in your party and that some of your weaker characters hang back in the formation so they don't get pummeled in the front lines. We were told that there will be situations in which you'll have to change around the squad depending on what your goal is.
We wandered around a rather barren mountainside and ran headfirst into some giant lizards to initiate a battle. As you get closer to an enemy, a symbol will appear over its head, and if you press the right trigger exactly when you see the exclamation mark, you will gain an advantage in battle. Once the battle starts, you select what you want your squad to do. If you choose to attack, your entire squad will attack one by one. If you choose to heal, only the members in your party who can heal will cast the spell. You can't give individual commands to the squad, but your strategy revolves around creating the most efficient team.
You'll take turns with the enemy and engage them head-on or from the side. You'll see your characters and the enemy rush up to one another and fight. Once in a while, you'll get a prompt to hit a button at the right time to increase damage. If you're familiar with the timing of the ring in Lost Odyssey, it's similar but doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes all four buttons will appear, and you won't know which button you need to press until it lights up and a ring narrows in on it. Sometimes it's just a trigger. This keeps you on your toes and forces you to pay attention instead of selecting your commands and letting the fight work itself out. Once the enemy is defeated, you can apparently harvest body parts to upgrade weapons, or take the whole carcass and sell it. An intact monster will go for a higher price, so you'll have to decide what to do with it.
There is a morale bar at the top of the screen when you begin a battle, and depending on the flow of the fight, the morale will fluctuate like a scale. Morale increases if you're doing well, but if you miss a few attacks and the monster lands a special attack, your squad's morale decreases. The fight gets harder if you have lower morale, but if your morale bar is overpowering the monster's bar, your damage will increase.
We really enjoyed what we got to play so far, even though we didn't get a chance to tinker with squads or see how the story unfolds. The battle mechanics are fun, and there seems to be a lot you can do to customize your own perfect battalion. The Last Remnant is set to be released on the Xbox 360 worldwide on November 20.