Bakumatsu Rouman

I bought Last Blade not long after it first came out on the Neo CD, and fell in love at once. It was fate. *grin* It seems that SNK really put effort into absolutely everything in this game, every minute detail, from the fighting system to the character designs to the backgrounds to the ambient noises.. everything! There's nothing in the Last Blade that is less than perfect.. except maybe the load times on the CD version. ^_~ The second game in the series is as beautiful in action as the first, the backgrounds even more intricate, old characters improved upon and new, interesting ones added, and some nice tweaks to the gameplay. The artwork for the characters and select screens (and load screens on the CD) is not quite as good as the first, but still very good. ^_^ All up, both the Last Blade games are of superb quality and definately deserve a place in anyone's collection of fighting games. (Although if you hate load times, do like I did and buy a cart machine instead. ^_~)

Design: I must rave. ^_^ The characters of Last Blade are gorgeous -- great designs, wonderful moves, interesting personalities -- and I don't think they put one dud character in the whole game. Each one is unique, and fascinating, both to play and to follow. Plus, the backgrounds for the stages are simply superb. So much attention to detail! Even the little things, such as the corn swaying in the fields behind, or the clapping of children as they watch; the players' breath fogging in cold air, or leaves kicking up under their feet as they move. The music is beautifully atmospheric; sometimes there's nothing more than a dog howling in the distance, the sound of thunder above the grey sky, or the hollow dripping of water in a deep underground cave, and it always suits the scene perfectly.

Story: as with all fighting games, it's never easy to make a really good, solid story to explain why all these people are fighting each other, but for the most part, I quite like Last Blade's story. There are four guardians, each aligned with a different god, who together protect Hell's Gate, keeping the portal to the underworld from opening and destroying the world. But one of those guardians is sick of how weak and foolish people have become, and decides to open the gate himself and take advantage of the power inside. As you can imagine, the other guardians are not happy about this, and must chase him down to stop this happening; and not only that, there are spiritual people across the world who can feel the balance of the earth's power tilting, and they are hurrying to find out what's wrong and fix it. Three young adopted children are unwittingly thrown into the very core of the fight, with powers even they're not aware of. (Oh, and a drunk womaniser comes looking for fun. I think that covers everyone. ^_~)
In the second game, set sixth months after the first one, the world is still reeling from the actions of the Kagami, the guardian who thought to weild the power of the gods himself. The portal is still linked to our world, and the spirits inside wish to be free, to be born in our world. A Sealing Rite must be carried out, to close the portal again and keep them from entering our world, and most importantly a Sealing Maiden is needed. So the search begins, for the portal must be closed before the spirits can succeed.

Gameplay! What, you expected me to skip that? ^_~ Last Blade has an interesting feature; you have the option of playing your character in two different modes. Speed mode or Power mode. Speed mode allows you to move faster, do more moves in less time, and chain your moves together -- the good old combo idea. However, your moves don't hit as hard. Power mode, on the other hand, allows you to really thump your opponent. You also get to do one of your extra special moves when you're powered up. ^_^ But you don't get any fast combos. Also, in Last Blade 2, there's a mode called EX mode, a combination of Speed and Power; you can move fast, but can still hit hard. However your defensive power is lower, and the bar that allows you to do special moves fills up slower. Different modes suit different characters better, and all the modes make gameplay different, so it's certainly something to spend a lot of time playing around with. (More excuses to play for hours! Yay!)
There's also another neat technic in the Last Blade: Repel mode. Repel mode allows you, if you time it correctly, to not only block your opponent's move, but also to raise his weapon out of the way and stun him for a second, allowing you a perfect opportunity to stab him in the guts. Once you get used to this idea, it can be very effective and can really be quite a lethal way to do in your opponent. (As well as piss him or her off. ^_^)

Get Last Blade! It's bloody fantastic! ^_^

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