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‘Infinite Undiscovery,' ‘Last Remnant' are proof the old game maker still has it

Justin Hoeger
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

INFINITE UNDISCOVERY

3 stars

THE LAST REMNANT

2 ½ stars

Publisher: Square Enix

System: Microsoft Xbox 360

Price: $59.99

Square Enix has lately focused on sequels, spinoffs and remakes of games in its established series, such as "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest." Some of these, such as "Final Fantasy XII" and "Crisis Core," have been quite good, but it has been hard to shake the feeling that the company behind some of the most beloved games of the last 20 years has stagnated.

But summer saw the release of the unique, stylish "The World Ends With You," and now we have two more drops of fresh blood in the company's lineup: "Infinite Undiscovery" and "The Last Remnant." Neither game is great, but both introduce new characters and worlds, and both try to bring something new to role-playing game combat.

"Infinite Undiscovery" is the more familiar of the two. In this game, a powerful group called the Order of Chains is binding the moon to the surface of the world with enormous links of enchanted metal. The chains bring corruption and monsters to the lands they're anchored to, and the small rebel Liberation Force works to break their hold.

The game's reluctant protagonist is Capell, a young flutist who doesn't want to get involved in the struggle. Too bad he happens to look exactly like the Liberation Force's leader, Lord Sigmund - and that he's in prison. He is soon rescued by one of Sigmund's people in a case of mistaken identity.

Quickly drawn into the fight against the Order of Chains, Capell and his companions encounter wandering bands of enemies. The battles are in real time: The player has direct control of Capell and his attacks, and is backed up by his computer-controlled allies, who can be set to follow simple guidelines and who handle themselves pretty well.

Capell can also sync up with members of his party to direct their abilities at specific targets - useful when trying to get the jump on a group of foes for a battle advantage.

"The Last Remnant" is as different from "Infinite Undiscovery" as it is from more traditional RPGs.

Instead of taking direct control over a small group, the game gives players overall command of several groups of fighters called unions as they battle multiple bands of foes.

Unions of characters are commanded as a unit - one group may attack an enemy formation while another could hold back to cast healing spells, and a third might move in to deadlock the enemy group and keep it from moving.

"The Last Remnant" is Square Enix's first game using the Unreal Engine (the same used for "Gears of War"), and it shows. Battles frequently freeze up and slow down to an unacceptable degree.


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