LAST BLADE 2
written and screenshots by Blaine
Another fighting game?Another SAMURAI fighting game? What's the thinking behind that? You don't see Neversoft making a new skateboarding game when they already make the world's most famous skateboarding game, Tony Hawk Pro Skater. When you own a market, why bother? Why should SNK make another franchise when they already have the great Samurai Shodown franchise with fans who are drooling at the thought of Samurai Shodown 5! The answer I came up with is because this was a game that had to be made. It's brutal and elegant...beautiful. It's a true masterpiece and ranks among the highest nobility of not only the Neo•Geo, not only of fighting games, but of video games in general.
Often called the biggest flaw by it's fans
The balance issue aside, Last Blade 2 has a great feel to it.Varying strength slash moves as well as a kick and counter button, standard block and special move motions will come easily to fighting veterans, the learning curve will be no harder or easier for newbies to the genre.
After choosing a character, the player is presented with a choice of 'supers'.Speed and Power (and the secret EX mode). Speed can best be described as a Custom Combo from Street Fighter 2 Alpha. After performing the move your character flashes blue and charges the opponent, you can then perform devastating combos by pressing buttons in a series, or just causing damage but slapping the buttons randomly. The Power mode allows players to perform a traditional "super", a powerful special move. For most characters Speed is a very good option, but for all characters Power is a reasonably good option. Until you become familiar with a character, I recommend picking Power. EX mode has the benefits of Speed but should only be used by skilled experts as novices who try this hidden mode will be quickly killed.
Gorgeous. The pre-match cinemas are vintage SNK, pure gold.The characters are well drawn with deep palette and plenty of frames of animation. The characters are a very original breed. There are some off-the-wall characters but to their credit they all feel like they could be the star of the game. There are no quirky sidekicks and comic relief characters. Everyone is a killer, plain and simple. There are plenty of eye candy effects with the specials and supers and the spurt of blood from the 'fatalities' feels like an homage to the Lone Wolf In Cub samurai movies. The visual goes from one of pure violence towards a more poetic image of death and finally towards the sublime, a dance of colors and movement that appeal to the beast-nature inside everyone. Think I'm talking out of my ass, just trying to make it sound good? Watch it. Really watch it and see if you disagree. I think you'll be surprised and pleased.
Backgrounds are stylized and match the mood of the game perfectly, the separately animated sprite fields add a wonderful sense of depth and movement and they augment the character graphics in a way that adds flair and imagery with out competing or detracting from the characters themselves.
The Neo•Zoomwas definitely present and I'm pleased to say was the BEST use of that graphic utility I've ever seen. At all times the frame rate was smooth and constant, characters remained in focus and as large as possible as well as being a sort of complex zoom where the screen moves in and out as well as side to side in a way that some games have, but none pull off quite as well as Last Blade 2.
I've always considered Last Blade 2 to be the definitive Neo•Geo game when it came to sound merits.I've never encountered another game with such depth and just well executed audio. First the sound effects are top notch. Every movement no matter how slight has a sound associated with it. You could close your eyes and know exactly what is happening based solely on the sounds. What impressed me most was the blocking sounds. If you strike your opponent, you'll hear a sharp slicing sound...like steel cutting through flesh or cloth. Exactly what you'd expect, of course. Now if they block it...you'll hear something a little different. All characters have different weapons and some produce different sounds when they block, the best example being Hibiki. She has a wooden sheath for her sword and when she blocks the sound is that of metal hitting wood. When Shigen blocks there is the sound of metal hitting metal. Not something most people would notice but that's what truly makes a game excellent...the little things.
The soundtrack is WONDERFUL.Every stage has a well orchestrated and suited soundtrack to go with it. The second stage has almost no sound at all, just the howling wind and rustling leaves. An almost startling absence of music that sells the game concept better than any other single example I could give. It has a feeling of desolation and loneliness...two people ready to kill each other. It chills my blood in a very cool way.
Sadly another example of a good game struck down by bad circumstances.Last Blade 2 still stands in the shadow of it's older brother, the original Last Blade and has suffered the sharp tongue of many a critic. Last Blade 2 has had some of the worst reviews I have ever seen and has unfairly been overlooked for far too long. Although not the best port the world has seen, Last Blade 2 for the Sega Dreamcast is a GREAT pick-up and should be required playing for those who don't own a 'real' copy of the game.
More Reviews of This Game:
by Kazuya_UK/Yamguy - Courtesy of Kazuya's
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