The Last Blade VS Samurai Spirits IV


By Tibe

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Here's a somewhat unusual duel: here, two games running on the Neo Geo and programmed by SNK are facing each other! On the one hand, we have Samurai Spirits IV, the fourth installment of one of the major sagas from the editor, released in 1996: the title weighs not less than 378 megs, representing the pinnacle of the series, the culmination of four years improvements and changes. On the other hand, The Last Blade is a brand new title that was released in 1997 and was looking like a successor of the Samurai games: we are still dealing with a weapon-based VS fighting game, but it brings brand new characters and game mechanics; and with 474 Mb on the balance, we can expect powerful sensations!


Samurai Spirits IV offers ten fighting arenas, all more sumptuous than the other. The line is fine, the colors bright and the atmosphere transcribed  literally sublime! Here are the cherry blossoms, wood houses, bamboo forests, and other beautiful natural sceneries... So, how could The Last Blade do better than that? Well, it features no less than fourteen backgrounds, four more than its rival, and it's haute couture, s'il vous plaît... The graphics are even more finely drawn than those of SSIV, steeped in the atmosphere of the Bakumatsu, a significantly later era. The choices of locations are excellent (court with liquidambars, commercial port, abandoned house...) but also varied and sometimes evolving. As for the characters, they're slightly smaller than in Samurai IV but they're also more detailed. The various portraits and artwork are remarkable, with a high quality work of both sides: it's only a matter of taste at this  level! TLB wins with a slight advance the battle for graphics.

The Last Blade    99                       97   Samurai Spirits IV


Both games feature powerful and well-managed zooms during the fights. The animation is detailed in the two softs, with a slight advantage on the size of fighters for Samurai and smoother and more decomposed moves for The Last Blade. The latter plays the card of detail, with vivid scenery,  rich with small animated elements, but also some more impressive effects (rain, snow, water ...). Samurai Spirits IV relies on simpler and more visible devices, and provides a great job on blood sprays, visuals on weapons during combat or soil animated with a nice pseudo-3D. In short, our rivals seem to make deuce here, offering high-fly animations, each with its specificities.

The Last Blade    96                       96   Samurai Spirits IV


The Last Blade

Samurai Spirits IV

The Neo Geo packs excellent audio capabilities, and that's not our two competitors that will have me lying. Quality sampling is amazing, obviously, you might say, with such a deluge of megabits. And it's here that the 100 Mb more used for The Last Blade feel: more musical themes, more worked melodies, but also a range of sounds significantly more complete. Its rival has not much to blame, if it is not being as perfectionist as TLB, despite a faultless soundtrack.

The Last Blade    98                       93   Samurai Spirits IV

Replay Value

With a base of twelve fighters + Bosses playable with a simple code, this brings the roster to fourteen for The Last Blade: not too bad for a first game! It's classy and varied, offering warriors with very different strategies and skills. Samurai Spirits IV is no longer on the first attempt, and packs a range of eighteen fighters (seventeen + Zankuro to unlock) just as diverse as those of its rival. The story modes are tied with specific scenarios for each protagonist and a stressful duel against the clock in SSIV with two possible endings. In each game, heroes can be played in two different versions: this is Power or Speed for TLB, Slash or Bust for SSIV. Without going into details, the two modes of play in Last Blade allow either a more combo-based gaming (Speed), either a more straight-forward approach with powerful blows and a Super Desperation Move (Power). Samurai on its side, features two opposite samurai ways, good and evil: the characters have a significantly different variety of moves and specials in each mode. Let's do the count: twenty-eight possibilities for The Last Blade, against thirty-six in Samurai Spirits IV: this is a victory for Haohmaru!

The Last Blade    92                       96   Samurai Spirits IV


Both competitors pack an impressive ranges of moves (at least twenty basic attacks and three to six specials per warrior), with Desperation and Hidden Desperation Moves. Combos abound in one and the other with a system 'à la Kof' for Last Blade, and a very special pattern for SSIV, very intuitive once assimilated. This one also includes 'fatalities', or the ability to finish the opponent with a special attack, performed the same way with all fighters. Of course, our rivals also leave the possibility to finish the fight with superb slicings. This fourth installment of Samurai Spirits still focuses on tactics and timing, and for once integrates this new combo system that greatly enriches the gameplay. We reach the ultimate development in the series. The Last Blade is more looking like The King of Fighters, with its gameplay based on tempo, combos and pure technique. It's safe to say that fighting game fans will be delighted to fight on one side or the other, and maybe even both. SSIV takes a short win in this chapter.

The Last Blade    95                       98   Samurai Spirits IV


If Samurai Spirits IV wins this duel, it is thanks to the experience acquired with its predecessors! The game features a gameplay refined to the extreme, keeping and magnifying the basics of the saga. The Last Blade starts from nothing and realizes a great performance: it offers a fluid, complete and perfectly crafted combat system, and a roster more than decent: the roster, here's another point on which its rival takes over, with four more fighters. Only the realization of TLB dominates its rival's one, with more finesse, as well auditory as visual, and a greater variety of graphics and musical themes. A very, very tight duel, in which each rival exits head held high!


The Last Blade



Samurai Spirits IV


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