Reviewed in 2010 by Tibe

THE HAUTE COUTURE OF VS FIGHTING

by Tibe

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Standing as a quite unknown SNK franchise, the sublime - and short - The Last Blade series still deserves much praise. Bloody blades' fighting games, these mix with talent deep technical gameplay, charismatic characters and a set of graphics worthy of master paintings. These games could be described as a fabulous cross between Samurai Shodown and The King of Fighters. It's all about ferocious warriors with impressive weapons, amazing violence, blood that spurts... all this taking place in the sublime era of japanese Bakumatsu. A tricky trial in VS fighting genre, featuring delicacy and violence at the same time, for a title emitting a rare classy atmosphere. This cartridge is filled with 554 megas of varied and splendid backgrounds, enhanced by the superb roster of nineteen awesome characters - for the most - well-animated and finely drawn.

All the backgrounds are nice and have no reason to envy LB1...
All the backgrounds are nice and have no reason to envy LB1...

The main choices for the stages are particularly nice and lends itself to epic battles: docks at dusk, marketplace overrun with gawkers, waterfalls in the middle of nature, inside of a burning house... As for the soundtrack, it doesn't fail to match with the graphics: amazing themes, dynamic and catchy, sticking perfectly to the drama that plays, and still marrying perfectly with the samurai theme. The sounds of clashing swords and atmosphere are striking, and the sounds of twilight, dogs howling in the night or the wind in the leaves, are a pure success. The overall presentation of the game was finicky in details: your battles are embellished with small animated introductions for each scene, the character design is quite slick, even the intro sound effects are specific to each stage. A rare attention to details that is pretty pleasant to see and hear. This golden nugget from SNK seems to have been forged by programmers, designers and musicians extremely experienced in their domains and Neo Geo use.

Timing and technique remind a lot about Kof at times.
Timing and technique remind a lot about Kof at times.

The question that still remains unanswered after so many good critics about the realization of The Last Blade 2, is the one about the gameplay. The answer have to be straight and clear: it's fine, precise, rich and devilishly technical, to a point that invariably reminds about KOF. Compared to the reference - namely Samurai Spirits - we can note the smaller hitboxes, requiring more precision, combos that need an even more accurate timing, not to mention the vast array of moves making battles complex and addictive. Dodges, counters, dashes, combinations of blocks/counters with D, counter-hits, etc ... This complexity yet widens with players choosing between Power, Speed or EX mode, which are three different ways to play each character. Plus, TLB2 packs sixteen characters, plus three to unlock (Kaede Before awakening, Kotetsu and Choryu) extending the roster to nineteen warriors total. 

Amano has really nothing to see with Yoshitaka...
Amano has really nothing to see with Yoshitaka...

As mentioned earlier, our heroes can be selected in three different modes, each with their advantages and disadvantages: Power allows stronger hits, a specific "fury" and a powerful blow (B+C), but features few combos. Speed is the first choice for combinations fevers and technicians, clearly the most exciting one! The punches are less powerful and the so the DM, but the attacks are faster and more combos can be performed. EX is a mix of these two modes in which you are more vulnerable, but  benefit all the advantages of Power and Speed, plus a few more things to discover... AES version proposes a nice story mode, a comprehensive versus (with stage select and handicaps), as well as a time attack and a training. The game is not especially easy to finish, and playing offers a great room for improvement that promises hours and hours of frenzied clashes. SNK one more time reaches the peaks in the world of VS fighting, this time with The Last Blade 2: a solid gold hit, a must-have for every Neo Geo owner.


GRAPHICS

98%

These are among what we've seen best on the system. Backgrounds and characters are awesome, colorful and finely drawn: The Last Blade 2 honors the Neo Geo.
ANIMATION 97%
Smoothness and decomposition are near perfect, with zooms, backgrounds full of life, and various other effects.
SOUND 99%
Themes are fitting great, voices and effects are top-notch quality.
REPLAY VALUE 94%
Sixteen fighters + three hidden ones, technical gameplay worth of a Kof, epic story mode, and so much great things to discover!
GAMEPLAY 95%
Quite disturbing for rookies, gameplay is complex but controls are totally flawless. Technical games' fans will fall in love here!

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

96%
A game featuring a fantastic realization and a totally new gameplay, inaugurated with the first Last Blade. SNK at its best.

VALUE FOR MONEY

The game is near impossible to find in US version, while japanese one costs more than 200 euros in general. Expensive for sure, but it's still one of the best VS fighting title on the system: you won't ask your money back!

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