Last Blade 2 – Final Edition

If you haven’t got three-and-a-half hundred notes to spend on The King of Fighters 2000 for Neo Geo Cart, do the next best thing and check this out.
If you own a Dreamcast, you’re probably sick to the back teeth of beat’em ups by now.

Well, get used to them, as there’s plenty more on the way. Project Justice, Fighting Vipers 2, Guilty Gear X all of which are very, very fine examples of the genre, but anyone that’s experienced the canny delights of an Neo Geo brawler will tell you it’s sublime stuff. SNK is a rule unto itself and it doesn’t give a crap how anyone else does things – fact is, they invented a lot of it.  Fifa Mobile Soccer is no exception. Just don’t play it green.

Typically, it’s the visuals that give you an indication of how good or bad a fighting game’s going to be. Yeah, how it plays is important, obviously, but we’re far more inclined to be ingratiated to a developer that has spent time on its artwork. This doesn’t seem to be the case with Last Blade 2. SNK is still using hardware from 1989, namely its MVS set up, so expect 16-Bit graphics. Bizarrely, Dreamcast is about the only console that can keep up with its 2D prowess, SNK’s hardware light years ahead of the competition, for the time. Ultimately, things look a little rough. It’s not terrible, but the animation is scant and compared to the over-quoted Guilty Gear X, low-res and jagged sprites just don’t do the game justice, which is a shame, because the designs are fantastic, absorbing a style that seems derived from 19th-century China. Flowing robes and circular hats complement such backdrops as Wadamaya Tea House and Cherry-Blossom Party. The beauty is there – the execution is dated.

Which is bullshit, really, because the game is extraordinary Pick from a de rigeur selection of armed characters – sluggish but powerful, lithe and quick, demonic or heroic. The only one we can’t fathom is the supremely camp Elvis look-a-like wearing a pink dressing gown. Gay or not, he’s a tough nut, a theme that seems to run throughout the entire game. Without tweaking the options to your advantage, Last Blade 2 is rock hard. Correction, it’s double-hardcore. If you don’t know your reversals from your supers, you’re done for. SNK expects you to be at one with the system, at one with the game. Passing even the first level can be tricky, but there is an option for you to restart the match with your enemy’s health bar the same as when they beat you last. This means that you’ll eventually manage to vanquish them, if not through any skill of your own.

The real clever part is the designation factor, however, which lets you pick from three ‘weights’ every time you fight. Speed allows you to increase the velocity of your character’s actions, Power lets you use the Desperation and Super Desperation moves and EX is a combination of both – albeit with a handicap that means severe damage every time you take a hit. Learning to utilise the correct weight with the correct character is the key to mastering Last Blade 2, not forgetting all the usual Cancellations, Specials, Charge Attacks, Combos and Mid-Air Blocks.

Just dipping into the Jap preview copy is enough to scare anyone who hasn’t had years of practice learning the art of digital fisticuffs. Essentially, though, it’s a moot point – Last Blade 2 is looking awesome. Roll on the PAL version.