The Neo Geo Pocket classic, The Last Blade has made its way to Nintendo Switch, offering fans an entirely new reason to jump into the 90s classic on modern hardware, but, it comes lacking some much desired features.
+Perfectly re-creates the Neo Geo experience
+Offers tons of unlockable content for replayability purposes
+Gameplay mechanics are not as simple as they will seem at first
+Remains true to its Neo-Geo experiences with two button commands and D-Pad usage
-Command lists can’t be pulled up using the traditional pause button
-Alternative menus using the “-” button are required to increase the zoom
-Slightly more expensive than other arcade ports
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, classic fighting games have always remained nostalgic, offering experiences unlike anything we’ve really had before. They’re unique, they’re fun, at the surface, they seem simple, but are anything other than that.
Games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, The Last Blade, Primal Rage, Bloody Roar and Samurai Shodown remain more nostalgic than one might remember. To put it lightly, The Last Blade is, for what it’s worth, a spiritual successor to Samurai Shodown.
It works rather well as it utilizes the Bakumatsu era of Japan, mid-19th century for those not familiar with Japanese history, as its backdrop. The game, aesthetically speaking, also stays true to the era itself. You’ll see men as well as women dressed in elegantly designed outfits that stand out just right.
The Last Blade captures the glory of the 90s just right
As you would imagine, the game itself utilizes the Neo Geo originality that it had, using 8bit graphics to the fullest. It’s a game that is flighty, fun, and weapon blows feel as if they actually have some weight to them. Each character is vastly different than the other, each with their own combos and powerful attacks that they will unleash as their power and or speed bars are filled over the course of each encounter.
Each round weighs in at two health bars total, giving players a chance to come back and fight against their foes the best they can. It’s also worth noting, that each character’s playstyle is – as stated- quite different from one another. That means you will need to become acquainted with their styles in order to counter them to the best of your ability.
The downside, however, isn’t automatically pointed out. As this does draw from the original Neo Geo Pocket edition of the game, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny does suffer from some minor missteps and troubles that will crop up as you play the game.
While adjusting to fighters, you will end up trying to access the games instruction manual or moves list. Unfortunately, this won’t show up in the traditional sense when you hit the pause button. This is because the game itself, at its time, didn’t seem to have programmed into it. Instead, you willf ind yourself hitting the “-” button to access the actual instruction book, which in turn, will allow you to make adjustments to the game itself.
Accessing the menus is a slight headache, but there’s a ton of accessibility options
Now, with any game that gets ported to the Nintendo Switch, it is worth mentioning that accessibility options are absolutely necessary. This is because features you would normally see by hitting ZL or ZR aren’t there. Instead, they’re all hiddein in this single menu.
You can zoom the game in, change the background, and even go through the actual game’s instruction manual. This, in many ways, keeps proving that the Neo Geo experience life once again and shows that SNK had proven that the handheld Neo Geo Pocket, was no joke.
Kinda like how Persona 4 Golden had proven that the PlayStation Vita is and was the best place to get your hands on some timeless JRPG classics. Now, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, for many reasons, is the hidden gem that the Neo Geo Pocket had to offer and is actually, kind of mindblowing it got another release on the Switch.
This faithful port shows why SNK remains one of the best at creating fighting games
Like every fighting game out there, it is worth discussing the actual experience, which sees players pick one of nine available fighters from the original arcade title. Each character is uniquely designed, in spite of the game’s use of color palettes and detailed pixelated graphics.
Each character is full of their own unique personalities, allowing for each character to feel unique as well as uniquely designed thanks to SNK’s mastery of making fighters in their games that feel unique from one another.
Their backdrops are just as unique from one another as the fighters. This gives each encounter a unique feeling, making the Japanese backdrops something worth looking at when you can. The music, and sound effects, are also as enjoyable as the rest of the game, making it so that you’d almost wish this game had been an all-around remaster versus a faithful port.
Combat has been slightly toned down compared to most fighting games
Unlike most fighting games in this kind of situation, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny has been slightly toned down from other fighting titles. Instead of four buttons, you’ll find that you’ll be using mostly the D-Pad and the face buttons themselves.
It is worth noting that the game itself, doesn’t suffer because of this at all. It still remains deep and requires players to memorize what each of the fighters can do aside from basic attacks. There are combos, there are repels, juggles, hops, and special attacks that players can use. There’s also the game’s EX mode, which honestly, is a much more explosive experience than before.
For those wanting replayability, there are also modes to enjoy including training, a Story Mode, survival mode, and even two-player versus battles. There are also five unlockable characters that you can obtain from The Last Blade 2. There’s even an unlockable set of mini-games including The Homerun Competition and The Great Escape from Hell’s Gate.
While a few issues from the Neo Geo Pocket remain, such as a weak AI, minimal options, and limited button uses, The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny is still an extremely enjoyable title.It still boasts replayability that many ports, such as this do and it gives reason to believe that we could very well see more of The Last Blade if this one does rather well and offers enough for fans to enjoy.
The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: SNK Corporation
Release Date: Available Now
Regardless, this will be a must for those that enjoy a good fighting game, but the price might be a bit steep for a re-release to some. In the end, it’s at least a nice reminder that SNK has always released a solid experience when it comes to fighting games and doesn’t seem to stop doing so in the years to come.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.