Last Remnant and Software Extinction

The Last Remnant is available on XBox 360 and Steam – for now.

Yesterday, it was announced that The Last Remnant would be discontinued for PC in a week and some change.

And on a platform that’s so digital-heavy these days (be painfully honest; when was the last time you bought a physical PC game?), that basically means that it’s gone for good, at least from the PC as a platform.

This isn’t even the first time this has happened by a long shot. The delightful pixel-art beat-em-up released to accompany Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was never released in any physical form, and now it’s no longer available at all. Heck, there’s at least one site totally dedicated to tracking down games that can’t be had any more.

For sales/support reasons? Some issue with licensing? Who knows! Point is, no new (legal) players on those games. Ever.

You could theoretically luck out and find it on an older system that it hasn’t been deleted from, but that’s using luck as your main crutch, which is a tricky proposition.

Now, The Last Remnant wasn’t exactly a high point in Square’s head-spinningly wide catalog of RPGs. I recall it having technical issues in its PC port and generally being slow to start, in addition to looking a bit on the desaturated end of Square’s usual fare (granted, these criticisms all apply to Final Fantasy XII, which is a top-five entry in the main series, don’t at me).

A lot going on all at once, and not much contrast outside the UI.

But I do remember The Last Remnant having a lot of high points. The world has some beautiful design and architecture to it, the combat is based around controlling squads of soldiers as units rather the usual JRPG crew of super-people, and the battles have this great sense of ebb and flow to them thanks to the morale bar and how the battle music reacts to it. And while things like its stock story and pacing may have soured it for reviewers, judging by the current reviews on Steam, it’s gone over quite well with its smaller audience.

That’s the way with a lot of games, particularly ones that I like to highlight here on the blog. It’s not quite standing among the greats, but I would adore seeing its style of semi-turn-based squad-focused skirmishes be given a little refinement and a second time out to really shine.

That’s how the mechanics of the pretty-all-right Final Fantasy III turned into something like Final Fantasy V that gets played annually by thousands, after all.

Unfortunately, now all those great little nuggets are basically gone from one platform, and only exist as secondhand retail copies on the other. Boxed PC copies are on the rare side for any game released in the last decade, and there’s no way to buy someone’s digital copy (yet).

Honestly, I think it vanishing on principle is so much worse than the idea that it’s inaccessible as a product. Despite what people might say about samey AAA shooters or seen-one-seen-’em-all sandboxes, video games are in this constant state of flux where developers are throwing new ideas out to see what takes and what doesn’t. Everyone’s looking at each other’s homework, and in the end we can end up with some real cases of a sum being better than its parts.

But with something off the beaten path like The Last Remnant leaving the most heavily-used gaming platform in the world, it suddenly becomes much less likely that we’ll see what a second pass at an JRPG with the same concept would be, especially with it having such an apparently-poor foothold on release that even its Playstation 3 port never materialized, let alone any idea of a sequel.

Heck, unless I jump on it in the next week, I probably won’t ever know what the first pass looked like.

And I think that could be worth making another pass at while I’m still able.

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