| paleface [sys=NGPC; cat=Fighting; loc=EUR] |
|Wonderfully-presented rehash of Last Blade 1 and Last Blade 2 from the MVS. Uses the smaller sprites of the Samurai Shodown NGPC games rather than the larger, more animated sprites seen in the KOF and MotM titles, but it some ways this suits the quiet, understated style of the game itself.|
Points earned in Story or Survival or Time Attack modes can be used to unlock two initially puzzling mini-games, which in turn earn more points for you, and you can also blow your points on character artwork, story fragments, and even magic blocks that give your character extra powers similar to the card system in Samurai Shodown! 2 (entry 418). For some reason that sort of thing annoys me less here than it does in SS!2.
This was the first and still one of the only NGPC games that I finished completely, and I did it pretty obsessively too, playing through with all the characters and milking things to produce points as efficiently as possible. I wonder a bit now at what inspired me to do all that, but even after a pretty long break from it I find, after an initial negative reaction to the small sprites, relatively stodgey movement and thin music, that once you get the rhythm down the game has a real life and flow to it. The seemingly stilted movement of the characters, with very long pauses after a missed attack, transforms into graceful flowing combos with the right moves and timing, and the once dull pauses between fights form cooling periods of repose and contemplation.
Well, not to get carried away. But the game really does have impressive presentation for a little pocket title, and it really feels like SNK went the extra mile to get all the artwork, menus, extra character animations and backgrounds just right. There is a care and attention to mood and superfluous detail not often found in fighting games, let alone portable ones, not to mention all the unlockable characters and artwork and so forth. And they didn't even make the end boss horribly overpowered, rather surprising for this company.
That points to the game's downside, however: once you get the feeling down, and can even maybe parry a few of the CPU's attacks now and then, the game gets really easy. The AI, seeming to block everything when you start out, proves surprisingly susceptible to certain attacks and strategies. In a way this rewards those who dedicate themselves to learning the game, of course, but still on the hardest difficulty a part-time button-masher such as myself should not be able to nearly single-credit the game on the first try after a break of, for all intents and purposes, several years. It doesn't take long to master and then, once you've got the points and unlocked everything, the game doesn't seem to have much more to offer. Still there's plenty there to make the once-through worth it.