Here's an opposition of style but also of generations, in this match between one of SNK's masterpieces, The Last Blade 2, and the second game of the young taïwanese company IGS, The Killing Blade. The official hardware of the firm, the Polygame Master, is clearly a 'modern' variation of the MVS: similar cartridge port, 68,000+Z80 architecture, 2D oriented capabilities... and on the technical aspect, the young PGM exceeds the MVS on a lot of points. The resolution is thinner (448x224 against 320x224), the number of displayable colors higher (32768 against 4096); processors' paces are faster too: 68000 at 20MHz against 12MHz, Z80 at 8,5MHz against 4Mhz. In other words, the duel is far from won for Last Blade 2. The hardware used for TKB is much more recent and its possibilities are vast. The title of SNK offset the relative weakness of the hardware by using a consistent rom size (554Mb against 279Mb,) but above all, with a development team of the highest caliber, including experts VS fighting programmers on the Neo Geo.
Once the games are running, it's difficult to say which one is programmed on the new device... Indeed, the roles are completely inverted! Introductions and artworks of The Last Blade 2 are downright divine, while its competitor is pretty cheap. The line is fine, precise, colors chosen perfectly. The characters exude a tremendous charisma and backgrounds are gorgeous, taking place during the nineteenth century in Japan. The Killing Blade is far from ugly, but the drawings are more coarse, character design sometimes ridiculous (the fighters have absolutely no charisma!) while the stages are of uneven quality. Some are quite successful, but others completely stripped... and all have a common choice for colors rather doubtful, too flashy and not very consistent with the medieval japanese era here represented. Quantity side, the game features twelve stages against ten for SNK's soft. Moreover, they change when the life bar of one of the fighters enters into its second half, like in Samurai Spirits. A detail that will not fullfil the difference with TLB2, which leaves its competitor far, far behind on this chapter.
THE LAST BLADE 2 ................. 98%
THE KILLING BLADE .............. 59%
Here, The Last Blade 2 is widening the gap. While IGS provides only basic entertainment - not to say sloppy - missing decomposition and precision but not speed (phew), SNK performs here a true work of craftsmanship. The game features zooms during the events, when opponents move away or closer. The backgrounds are superbly animated: rivers, waterfalls, wind in the trees, and the unforgettable burning house and its fabulous heating effect. The moves of the fighters are decomposed at will, graceful, stylish... and the various effects, pyrotechnics, blood spurting everywhere or other ones are coming from antoher world compared to its poor competitor.
THE LAST BLADE 2 ................. 97%
THE KILLING BLADE .............. 57%
But, who the hell composed themes for The Killing Blade? Anyone knowing how to use a synthesizer could do better. Poor, insipid, simplistic ... the game's melodies are almost non-existent! Or at least we would have preferred that they don't even exist: it's just crap. Day and night with TLB2, which features a variety of themes divinely orchestrated and sticky, devilishly consistent with the time and the mood of the game. Sabers, projectiles, clashing blades, bodies crashing to the ground, screaming, sounds of slicing... Neo Geo once again offers sumptuous sounds, powerful, transcendent feelings of fighting and making the pugilist atmosphere palpable! The Killing Blade does, however, the bare minimum, with many samples taken from other games, for a set of sound effects totally mediocre.
THE LAST BLADE 2 ................. 99%
THE KILLING BLADE .............. 45%
Let's take a look at the two rosters: twelve characters for TKB, against eighteen (16 +2) for TLB2. And if in addition we consider that in Last Blade 2, each warrior can be played in three different ways (Speed, Power, Ex), it's coming to a few hours to stay glued to the screen. The Killing Blade catches up with the "Tag Battle": we're choosing a team of two fighters that can be interchanged at any time . This gives some spice to the action that needed it... Despite this, SNK's game is far richer and more engaging than its competitor, as well as offering a more pointed challenge.
THE LAST BLADE 2 ................. 94%
THE KILLING BLADE .............. 65%
TKB proves accessible with its simple gameplay, fun and original: we enjoy very quickly by doing almost anything on the controller, and let's say a novice player can perform special moves and combos. The scope for growth does exist, the combos are monstrous (dozens of hits, easily executable) and to achieve the more complex it will be necessary to have some practice. Many special moves, many specials per character, buttons combinations: the range of attacks is very comprehensive, largely based on Samurai Spirits IV. The comparison stops there, as everything else demonstrates a high degree of amateurism: approximative hitboxes, super wide timing, inaccurate impacts... This is very very rough, where SNK has left nothing to chance: The Last Blade 2 is rich, demanding, precise, deep ... The scope for growth is mammoth, the timing required very end, and technical side, it's similar to what has to offer a King of Fighters game, no less.
THE LAST BLADE 2 ................. 95%
THE KILLING BLADE .............. 67%
The verdict is in: Last Blade 2 and Killing Blade are not really playing in the same league! The title of IGS has some qualities, proves fun, accessible, well-conducted... but far from being able to compete with the finesse, style and beauty of SNK's jewel. Technically, the Neo Geo is paying the luxury to crush and humiliate its rival PGM, much more recent! Speaking about gaming qualities of our two softs, here is the coup de grâce for TKB: TLB2 offers more characters, more moves, more varied and much more accurate gameplay... a quality that IGS will only attempt to emulate, but never match.
THE LAST BLADE 2
THE KILLING BLADE