Eventually, you'll experience some large, impressive-looking battles. They can also be really challenging, so don't expect to rush to a victory, particularly when dozens of unions are involved. On the PC, limits on the number of leaders you can employ on the battlefield have been removed, but financial restrictions and more resilient enemies prevent battles from getting too easy. Individual turns can take a while to complete, but by repairing the frame rate issues that plagued the Xbox 360 version, developer Square Enix has also accelerated the pace of battle. The game will also throw quick-time events called critical triggers at you that require a rapid button or key press; performing it correctly may initiate a counterattack, or will improve your units' position in the turn order. These events, like most of the game, are best experienced with a gamepad in hand. We were able to play successfully with several different gamepads, including an Xbox 360 pad. The keyboard is supported, of course, and that scheme is perfectly functional, if less natural than the alternative. Thankfully, if you aren't a fan of quick-time events, there is an option to have critical triggers resolved automatically.
RPG heroes earn fame in direct proportion to how hard it is to make a cosplay version of their outfit.
The colossal battles are the highlight of the game, not just because they are impressively dramatic, but also because you can see the effects of your union makeup, formations, and in-battle decisions more clearly than in the smaller ones. A morale bar across the top of the screen adjusts during the constant tug of war, based on whether you are attacking an enemy's flank or rear, which status effects are active, and a number of other factors. Location on the battlefield, attack range, and potency of healing items and arts are among the many other dynamics that you'll need to consider as you plan out your turn. This thoughtful preparation makes it all the more heartbreaking when you lose a long, well-planned battle. A significant number of late-game skirmishes take a long time to complete, often stringing several tough encounters together. Considering that formations and union setup can require a bit of trial and error, you might lose a bit of progress the first few times you attempt these colossal battles. Thankfully, the combat is fun and addictive, and a high-speed battle option new to the PC version also alleviates the frustration. But given the length of these lengthy clashes, it's vexing that you are not allowed to save between turns. Otherwise, you can save almost anywhere, and the ability to skip cutscenes should you need to replay a section is also a welcome convenience.
Outside of combat, a little scavenger named Mr. Diggs will excavate various raw materials that you encounter in dungeons. Along with the monster parts that you forage, these items can be used to upgrade your equipment or create new weapons and accessories. There's not much to the process, and you can customize only Rush's equipment; other units take care of things on their own, using the items you let them keep in the postbattle screen to upgrade their stuff, or asking if you'll take them hunting for a particular resource. Considering that characters develop based on the attacks they perform, there is a lot of flexibility--and intangibility--to party progression. As a result, there is a certain amount of replay value here, if only to see how differently battles can play out if you decide to make Rush concentrate solely on mystic arts, or see what happens when the four-armed Torgal focuses on combat skills.
Swords are nice, but sometimes, fists are the best way to get the job done.
The Last Remnant sounds mostly spectacular. The voice acting isn't always excellent, though it's hard to fault the actors when they're forced to deliver some of the game's awkward dialogue and odd bits of slang. Everything else is of top quality, particularly the fantastic symphonic soundtrack. Even after hundreds and hundreds of encounters, the battle music is always rousing, and the triumphant fanfare after every conflict rivals the best of the genre. Every town has its own theme music, and the melodies are terrific in their own right and flawlessly match the city's unique visual design as well.
By fixing the frame rate and other technical issues that encumbered the Xbox 360 version, Square Enix has improved the entire experience, allowing the great story and fun gameplay to sparkle on their own terms. Granted, The Last Remnant could have been tightened up even more, but even with its occasional visual and gameplay foibles, it's a delight from beginning to end.