The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny was originally released for the Neo Geo Pocket Color. It is one of the many interesting fighters on the console. Now, with this port for the Nintendo Switch, fighting game fans who might have never even heard of the Neo Geo Pocket can experience this fun title. The game is a hand-held port of the original arcade games. It combines the first 2 games into one, with the second being unlocked. The series is considered a spiritual successor to the Samurai Showdown games, in that they both share weapon-based combat systems. The Pocket Color was only a 2-button game console; despite this, SNK was able to make some surprisingly deep fighting games. The Last Blade is no exception.
The Last Blade: Beyond The Destiny is available on Nintendo Switch for $7.99.
Story – Do Most Fighting Games Really Have A Story?
I honestly have no idea what the plot of this game is. Even after looking it up, I couldn’t tell you what it is about. All I know is it takes place in the Bakumatsu period in Japan, sometime in the 1800s. This is a fighting game, which already aren’t known for having deep plots. Even when they do, you wouldn’t know it from playing the game. It’s also a handheld game from 2000, most of them also weren’t known for their stories. When you mush the two together you get exactly what you’d expect, a story that is basically nonexistent. Well, sort of…
In The Last Blade, like most fighting games, you get little cutscenes at the end of each character’s story mode that give them some kind of ending. Most of these are relatively brief, and unfortunately do little to actually help you understand the plot. Part of this is due to a relatively poor translation. You can also buy scrolls with points you get that tell you characters’ motivations. I found they did little to actually help piece everything together though. But hey, who plays a fighting game for the story anyway?
Gameplay – What you really play a fighting game for
This is where The Last Blade really shines. This is your typical fighting game, where players fight one on one against a computer or human opponent on a 2D plane. Those not as familiar with fighting games may find it to be somewhat difficult, but you can change the difficulty in the settings. SNK really knows how to make a fighting game, even if they’ve only got two buttons to work with. Aside from not having the usual four buttons SNK fighters usually have, everything else is pretty much the same.
You use the d-pad, or analogue stick to move left and right, press or tilt down to crouch as well as to jump by pressing, or tilting up. Holding back blocks, and double clicking the d-pad, or double flicking the analogue stick while moving towards your opponent causes you to dash, or when doing it away from an opponent causes you to do a sort of back step. you also can perform special moves by inputting a string of commands with the d-pad or stick. A common one is the quarter circle, followed by one of the two buttons. I played with the d-pad, so for the rest of the review I’m going to refer to movement inputs as d-pad inputs. Just know you can still use the stick if you want to.
Your attack buttons are A, and B. A is definitely your main attack button in this game. One interesting mechanic in this game is that, depending on how long you hold down the different attack buttons, they do different things. So you do have more than one type of attack. A short tap of the button produces a weaker but quicker attack, and a longer press of the button gives a more powerful one. B is used for a few different things. With B you can perform a couple different kicks that send foes flying.
You can also use the technique called a repel attack. The repel attack is done by pressing the d-pad towards the opponent while pressing B, when timed correctly repels their attack, allowing you to follow up with a counter attack. You can also use the B button to cancel moves into other moves. I’ll admit, I was never able to get good at ether of those techniques. Luckily this port provides a manual that can help remind you of all the controls, and has all of the characters’ moves.
You have a couple different modes to start out with. Story mode, where you choose from nine available characters and play through their story. Survival mode, a mode in which the player fights opponents until defeated. Time attack mode, where you fight opponents until the time runs out. There’s also a training mode, to learn a character’s moves, or practice combos or repels in a stress-free environment. The game also has 2 mini-games that are unlockable: Home run mode, and a shoot ’em up game.
In the main modes, aside from training mode, you receive points which you use to buy scrolls. Buying specific scrolls is how you unlock new characters and the mini-game modes. It’s also where you will find most of the story in the game, which I mentioned earlier. It’s a neat system and adds replayability, but it takes a lot of points to get everything; a lot of the scrolls you want are pretty expensive so to unlock everything takes a long time. If you play well however, you can get more points than if you suck, so it’s a good incentive to get good. Luckily the game is pretty fast-paced, and portable.
Combat is fast, and surprisingly fluid for an 8-bit fighter. Characters feel distinct, even when they have similar inputs for special moves. It’s easy to pick up, but difficult to master. Each move feels good to pull off, and special moves are flashy and fun. When choosing a character you have the option to choose from a power or speed fighting style. Power increases the strength of your moves, and allows you to deal some heavy hitting attacks. Speed mode is for players who like to use quick combos. Fans of fighting games will no doubt be impressed with what SNK was able to do. Stripping down an arcade game’s mechanics and made an incredibly competent fighter.
Multiplayer is interesting in this game. Unfortunately there isn’t any online multiplayer, only couch co-op. Couch co-op is presented in a unique way however. When in handheld mode, you turn the Switch vertically and each player grabs a Joy-con and faces opposite each other. The players then have their own game screen to look at, mimicking the way players would play if they had two Neo Geo pocket colors. Unfortunately playing this way makes it so you have to use the analogue stick. Still, if you’ve got a family member or friend to play with, it’s a neat way to go about it.
Graphics and Audio – A Game That’s Easy On the Eyes and Ears
The graphics in The Last Blade are top notch. Even for an 8-bit game they are wonderful to look at. Character sprites are chunky and expressive. Because of this, movements are easy to read, and characters moves look great. The backgrounds are impressively detailed, and one of the best parts of the game. Sometimes I would just stop to pause the game and look at them.
You have an option to play with or without a graphics filter. The filter adds a bunch of small dots on the screen, with the filter it replicates the look of an actual Neo Geo Pocket Color’s LCD screen. Think of the CRT scanline filter on the Nintendo classics systems or a retro console emulator. Many players will probably opt to play without the filter, but if you play with it on, you may find that it adds more detail to the image. The game was made to be played on a console with a screen similar to the filter, and developers made the graphics with that in mind. Without the filter the colors are brighter though, and some may find they like that.
The Music and sound effects are delightfully 8-bit. The music is pretty catchy, and if you like chip tunes you will probably have no problem with these. The sound effects help give weight to the characters’ moves. It is audio from an 8-bit handheld console however, so some may find it a little grating on the ears. It’s definitely not NES quality, but if you like Gameboy music and sounds, this is right up your alley.
I reviewed The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny for Nintendo Switch, with a key provided by HomeRun PR.