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    The Last Blade 2

    Game » consists of 12 releases. Released Nov 25, 1998

    The second and final chapter of the 19th-century Bakumatsu-era tale of swords and myths, adding some new warriors and techniques.

    infinitespark's The Last Blade 2 (PlayStation 4) review

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    The Last Blade 2 - 2016 PS4 Version

    The Last Blade 2 isn’t a game that is fondly remembered amongst the memorable library of SNK’s fighting games, but it does have a strong cult following due to what it provides in and around its core fighting gameplay. It’s one of the few fighting games that excels well in multiple aspects: excellent all-around production and presentation, strong emotional undercurrent of uncertainty and despair, and memorable characters and storylines. While I still enjoy a number of fighting games I played in the past few years, few fighting games today equal having such strong credentials outside of providing a satisfying fighting experience. My love of The Last Blade 2 grew as I learned more about the game’s deeper mechanics and characteristics of the three different fighting styles along with the acquired knowledge that a few highly lauded developers worked on this fantastic game.

    The announcement of Code Mystics developing the PSN release of The Last Blade 2 seemed like a no-brainer at the time. The developer already had an excellent track record of handling classic SNK games with their strong emulation and sensible bells and whistles of modes and online functionability. I expected the same top-of-the-line quality treatment they handled on their previous SNK efforts onto this release. While I did see the same line of work reflected throughout this release, the resulting quality of it was far from it. A mixture of questionable design and less-than-stellar performance ruins the game’s re-release to make it look like more like a quick cash grab of a revered classic instead of celebrating the game’s availability on a current gaming platform.

    The biggest glaring issue with the PSN version of The Last Blade 2 is its subpar quality of the emulation work. The crisp pixelated art that stood out to me looked off as if the pixels were squished out to become unsightly blobs on the PlayStation 4 version. Oddly enough, I feel the Vita version does a much better job representing the game’s classic 2D pixel art without the need to fiddle around the video in-game options included in both PSN versions. However, other disturbing items in regards to the emulation work come in form of very soft volume levels, surprising short episodes of slowdown (in particular the beginning of every round against the boss in story mode), and even cases of the game outright CRASHING during story mode. All of the shortcomings in their emulation work makes me wonder if The Last Blade 2 was a tough game to work on, but I still cannot hide my dissatisfaction on the poor quality it was released as.

    On top of the subpar emulation quality, TLB2 PSN also includes numerous questionable game design decisions to compound the problems with this release. An aggravating and confounding design during Story Mode is when you unlock a picture in the gallery, the game automatically pauses during battle to notify that you have unlocked that picture. Another odd design choice in Story Mode is the assignment of the touchpad to continue instead of the usual start button. It’s not a problem for folks who have the touchpad equipped on their controller, but for folks who play on a fightstick which most of those do not have a touchpad available, it’s a painful process on playing controller chairs just to simply resume the story. Lastly, limiting online lobbies to one-on-one is a big disappointment for those hoping to play the game online with a group of folks in a lobby, which is standard fare for most games of the genre nowadays.

    Part of the allure of The Last Blade 2’s re-release is the ability to fight opponents online, as the PSN release is the first official version of the game to feature online multiplayer. Unfortunately, just like many aspects of the release, the online netplay mode is equally as sub-optimal. The main issue with the online portion is simply the large delays against all opponents. The best connection I had was playing with a fellow friend at 50ms of delay, which a few matches surprisingly went fine but most of the matches had bouts of serious lag that made matches hard to play and enjoy. Other online matches I played had delays up to over 150ms, by that measure the game was simply unplayable with that much significant lag to play through. Folks that want a more stable online experience are currently best served looking at alternative means to fill in the competitive need of TLB2.

    I hoped the production values of TLB2 PSN was better so that it can give perspective people who may have heard about the game a better representation on why the game is such highly regarded amongst the SNK fanbase. I reiterate the gorgeous 2D pixelated graphics because everything in the game looks wonderful, in both on how the characters look and the beautiful stages behind it. Few fighting games nowadays make me want to look at the environment at large as much as this game did. The game is backed by a beautiful and sublime soundtrack to emulate a heightening sense of sorrow, rage, and uncertainty, some of it composed by Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari. A lot of fighting games can bring the fight, few of them are able to bring the style with the fight.

    The Last Blade 2’s most underrated element is its story. Each character has their own story of fighting for their own cause amongst the chaos of the open void linking the world to the underworld. All characters face their “adversary” in the stage before the final boss fight, where the adversary would prevent the character from going forth to battle the boss and confront their fate. After defeating the boss, that’s where TLB2’s unorthodox storytelling shines. You have a mixture of somber and hilarious endings depending on the character. A few characters even have alternative endings depending on the player’s action over the course of story mode. The unusual mixture of endings are early works of SWERY65, who has pushed the boundaries of characters and storytelling since then.

    Along with its excellent production, style, and storytelling, TLB2 presented a unique weapons-based combat combined with three different fighting styles that offered different mechanics available that makes each character play slightly different. Even with the variance of characters and styles, the fighting still wound up being surprisingly fast and action-packed, yet not overly wild. I liken a typical TLB2 fight to two fencers throwing quick jabs at each other until one gains momentum or the upper-hand, then the games afterward once the momentum on one was established over the other to see if the one can maintain control or if the other can wrestle it back. The universal and mode-locked mechanics along with the game’s repel button are necessary mechanics to prevent battles from being an all-out swordfighting affair. The repel function is a key defensive tool to immediately stop your opponent’s moment by parrying off their attack and quickly mounting a counterattack from a successful repel. Guard cancel is available when the player has over 50% meter and needs to break off from defending a run of their opponent’s offensive. On the offensive front, overhead/unblockable are tools to break open an opponent’s guard and the combo special/desperation cancel are tools to extend combos to inflict additional damage. The fighting may not be up to everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe the mixture of back-and-forth shuffling with just the right doses of offensive and defensive mechanics makes it an exciting game to fight for folks who are able to give it ample time to engage with.

    The Last Blade 2 was a wonderful game deserved of its classic status and this release should have been a celebration for a classic game to be available and playable on a current gaming platform. It would have been fantastic to see and play a classic through the comforts of modern gaming. Instead, the release is hampered by a myriad of issues with the emulation work, questionable design choices, lackluster online, and a barren amount of modes was enough evidence for me to not recommend anyone to purchase this version of TLB2. Those who truly want to experience TLB2’s excellence are better served enjoying the game available on older platforms or through alternative means.

    Other reviews for The Last Blade 2 (PlayStation 4)

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