Before I actually played this game, I had not heard anything about it at all. I thought that it would be just another fighting game, but I was very wrong. This is not only one of the best Neo Geo fighting games, but possibly one of the best 2D fighters on any system.
So what makes this so great then? Well, there are a lot of things that make it so excellent. Game play wise, this is a weapons based beat 'em up in the same vein as Samurai Shodown. You select from one of 12 fighters (or 14 if you have used the boss code, see the FAQ below) and enter an arena and generally beat the hell out of your opponent. The Last Blade also has two fighting styles to choose from for each character. First up is “Speed mode” which allows you to string lots of moves together, which is great for combos, and also allows you to do the “combo special” when your power meter is full and you are low on energy. This basically lets you chain lots of moves together, and also makes you faster, but it only lasts until your power meter drains empty. Secondly there is “Power mode” which makes your moves much more powerful, but unfortunately stops you from doing any real combos and also the combo special. However, in this mode you can use “Super desperation moves” when your power bar is full and you are low on energy. These inflict great damage to your opponent's energy bar! Some characters are best used in Speed mode, but most however, are best used in Power mode (at least in my opinion).
The controls are very tight and everything in this game feels perfect. Three buttons are used for offensive moves; the A + B buttons are for light and hard slash attacks with your weapon, and C is used for kicks. Apart from those, the D button is used to deflect attacks, which then leaves your opponent open to a quick counter attack. This move is quite essential, so you will need to master the timing needed to use it.
For once in a beat ‘em up, there aren't really any characters that are too powerful and dominate the rest. Although some fighters are bigger or slower than others, all fighters are quite evenly balanced, and no matter which one you pick you will have an equal chance of beating your enemy, provided you learn how to play with them properly.
Graphically, I don't think that this game could have been much better on a system like the Neo Geo. Some of the backgrounds are excellent and are very detailed. There are some nice little touches on many of them, like on Yuki's stage for instance; when a fighter is knocked to the floor the snow breaks away, and on Kaede's stage, as you run around the leaves fly up from under your feet. Not only are the backgrounds excellent but the character designs are great too and their animation is some of the best I have ever seen on this machine! There are lots of other nice touches, but I'll let you find out yourself.
Sound effects & Music:
This game is also very nice in the sound department too. Some stages have some quite nice music, although many are quiet and just have ambient noise in the background such as the crowd cheering. I normally wouldn't like this kind of silence but I think it suits The Last Blade perfectly. Everything else is very nice too, with lots of well-done voices and some very good in game sound effects like the blood gushing when you hit someone.
Overall, I personally think that this is one of the best fighting game on the Neo Geo. I know many people will disagree, and they will probably say that The King of Fighters '98 or that [insert game name here] is the best. Although I love many other fighters including KOF '98, there is something about this game that makes it special. I guess that you could say it is very similar to the Samurai Shodown series because they are both weapons based, but I actually prefer this to those games as well. Considering that I have been a big Samurai Shodown fan for years, that is quite an achievement!
Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 8/10 Game play: 9/10 Replay Value: 9/10
NEOGEO is a registered trademark of SNK PLAYMORE CORPORATION.
All intellectual property rights related to NEOGEO products and others belong to SNK PLAYMORE CORPORATION.
Non SNK software titles belong to their respective authors.
This website is tested with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. Best Viewed at 1024x768 or higher. Although it is tested with Firefox and IE, it should work with other browsers without problems - please contact me if you notice any issues!