It's a very nice day outside. The birds are chirping, The sun is shining. and it makes me want to go outside and dance...scratch that. The birds outside are roasting away under the hot sun...I'm not going out there to join them. What is a guy to do? Well, For this gamer, sitting down and playing SNK's Last Blade 2 sounds just like the ticket.
After playing the original Last Blade, I didn't think SNK could improve upon a game that is widely considered the pinnacle of 2D weapon-combat fighting games. But Last Blade 2 is so good, you may never play its predacessor again.
The story continues from the previous game, but is complimented by new additions to cast of characters, making the grand total 16 fighters, plus 4 hidden extra characters. These characters, both hero and foe, are once again faced with the opening of Hell's gate, and a new menace has come forth to destroy the humans for their sins. Kaede, now the retainer of the Blue Dragon's power, goes to confront this evil and restore order to the world. Along the way he will discover a deep and dark secret that will make this battle his toughest yet...
Weighing in at a whopping 554 megs, The Last Blade 2 (Also known as Bakumatsu Rouman Dai Ni Maku: Gekka No Kensi in Japan) involves a level of skill and playability that gamers always dream about in their fighters. Like its older brother, Last Blade 2 has some of SNK's most lush, detailed graphics ever. With jaw-dropping backgrounds such as a burning building with a ticking grandfather clock, a crimson sunset, and a cascading waterfall, this game creates a real-world-like atmosphere that really contributes to thrilling, intricate gameplay (much like the first Last Blade did). Every fighter is so finely detailed and animated that it will make you want to play more simply to admire the art. I guess my only gripe about the art (and this is very minor) is that the characters don't have their own backgrounds anymore, whereas in the previous Last Blade each fighter had a personalized stage.
Keeping to tradition, the game retains the Power and Speed options of play, and a new EX level (accessible by code) which combines the aspects of the previous two options. A and B are still your principle slash buttons, with C as kick, and D as deflect (used to counter an incoming attack from your opponent). The deflect move has been reworked since the original Last Blade, and one can now use it in mid-air as well as on the ground. It is an excellent and well-thought-out counterattack function, and adds a whole other element of fun and realism to the game. It's takes a little skill to time your deflect just right, but if you do, you are rewarded well; your opponent's body shudders backwards, and they are left momentarily defenseless - the perfect time to strike with your own attack.
As with its predacessor, this sequel has a dramatic score that accentuates the overall experience of playing the game. SNK really took full advantage of the Neo Geo's sound & music capabilities. The music ranges from invigorating to soothing, and draws you into the game deeper the more you play. Of course, the sound effects are of equal quality, with each characters taunts and the clash of sharp weapons ringing clear with great dramatic emphasis. You can tell the sound effects are top notch when you fight near a waterfall in a forest, and it sounds like you are there in person. It's just another example of how the little details this game make all the difference in the world.
I guess I could go into a long-winded drawn out speech about how much I recommend this title for any fighter fan out there, but playing this game would explain far better than I could. Of course, since SNK U.S.A. is no more, getting this awesome game through normal channels is quite difficult and usually very costly due to it being loved by so many people. The chances of a Dreamcast version are dismal. If you're lucky enough to find an arcade with this game, or you either own a Neo Geo Cart of NeoCD system, Then you should stop reading this review and play and/or buy this game now.
As I finish a game of Last Blade 2, I sit back and think about how a system with hardware like this lasted longer than anything I can think of in the home console system market. With the high prices keeping mass market gamers and serious profits away, how SNK is still able to produce titles of this quality I'll never know. SNK, thanks for ten great years.