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     " 2D stages just donít do it for me much these days. Somehow putting an elephant in the background does not amaze me like it used to "

      Title: Last Blade 2 by Agetec

      Format: Dreamcast fighting game

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: SNK may have left us, but their games are still around. With some help from Agetec, the distributors, this beat Ďem up game can now grace your Dreamcast. Featuring a collection of Samurai to choose from and whomp on, the game "recreates 1864 Japan". Assuming of course that 1864 Japan contained mystical mutant creatures, and spirits from other dimensionsÖ

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Well, Last Blade 2 is actually a game from 1998, Agetec is just redistributing it now. Even for 1998 though, these graphics are sub-par. Rough, grainy edges abound on fighters and backgrounds alike. While the backgrounds are varied enough, theyíre just not very pretty to look at. The characters all perform well enough, carrying their animations without missed frames, they simply donít look all that great. Youíd think a little updating would be in order. 2 out of 5

      Sound: First off, itís all in Japanese. This does not stop certain characters from being incredibly annoying. The majority of the characters run from mediocre to bad in the voice over category. The sounds of clashing swords and battle are all a little overly synthesized, but donít sound too bad. The music however sounds low quality, even for midi. Again, some updating would have done wonders. 2.5 out of 5

      Game Play: There are some really great gameplay things here. First off, the bad: The game controls clunkily on the Dreamcast. There is no support for the analog, so only the directional pad is useable. Which, while not a horrible thing, makes little sense on the Dreamcast. And donít let your friends know about the magical kick button. With repeated mashing, the kick button will win you 80% of your fights. There are some great features though that will outweigh clunky controls. For one thing, you have the repel button. This button will put off an opponentís attack, giving you a moment to counterattack into his lowered defenses, a great counteractive measure. Next we have the ability to select your character type. Choosing between power, speed, or middle ground, you can customize your character. Choose power and do damage when your opponent blocks, or choose speed and combo like mad. Your choice affects your play style as what your character can do vastly changes dependent on the choice. And of course, we have the ultimate tide turner. When your characterís health gets to a certain point, youíre able to use your super (otherwise only useable when your meter fills) an infinite amount of times. Itís a last ditch, back to the wall sort of thing, but it may mean the battle. These kinds of features ensure that a battle is never over until one of you is lying dead on the floor. 4 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: The stages for this game are relatively varied, although the lack of graphical splendor makes them less than interesting. I know Iíve been spoiled by the DOAs. 2D stages just donít do it for me much these days. Somehow putting an elephant in the background does not amaze me like it used to (although having other game characters cameo in the same level does). Even for 2D though, the stages are fairly small, and with a few exceptions (like the burning ship) uninteresting. 2 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Well fighting games are all about the multiplayer, since no oneís playing for the story. Last Blade 2 has some great multiplayer appeal. Keeping both fighters in it until the end helps keep your victimsÖ err, friends in the game and fighting. The character selection (16 fighters) and choices in character type give enough variety that the two players can keep interested for a while. 4 out of 5

      Replayability: Nothing makes my job easier than when the back of the box gives the answers to review categories. Right there on the package it tells you about the four unlockable characters, and weapon upgrades to find. "The Last Blade 2 offers you countless hours of challenging gameplay!" Itís mostly true. What they fail to mention is how you will all too soon turn to look at the more recent and better games that have been made (even by SNK) since 1998. If you really want to play with your favorite samurai, go buy Capcom vs SNK 2, and pick the S groove. 2 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: As mentioned, itís all in Japanese. The only English you get is your badly translated victory speech. And I mean, really badly translated. One guyís victory line is "Fear not justiceís flame. Your buttís mine, bubblehead." Bubblehead? Anyway, until you get to the last level you have no idea why you are fighting who youíre fighting, or whatís going on. Even when you get to the last level itís not going to make much sense to you. Bad translation and or bad writing (who can tell) muddle the whole thing. Oh well, like I said, itís not like anyoneís playing this thing for the thrilling storyline anyway. 1 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: This game has a slightly higher learning curve than your normal fighting game. Learning the difference between the different character types can take a while. Incorporating the repel button into your defense can take some practice, as the timing on it has to be perfect for it to work. Otherwise, itís simply the usual learning of which special moves a character has. The instructions perform the bare minimum of their required duties. Telling you what the moves are, and where theyíre used. Otherwise, itís up to you to figure out. 3 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: Well this certainly isnít pushing anything on the Dreamcast. I donít think it was pushing anything in 98. At least thereíre no load times to speak of. 2.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:


       I suppose thereís nothing really wrong with this game, itís just outdated. Far better products have come along since this one was made. There are some neat additions to gameplay, but the graphics are less than attractive. All in all, it will entertain for a while and then youíll likely move on to the myriad of better fighting games available today.

      The Good: Infinite supers with low health means it ainít over Ďtill the fat lady sings.

      The Bad: Ugly graphics and less than perfect control

      The Overall Ugly: Great for true SNK diehard fans; everyone else will likely want to leave it for better.

      What it's Worth: A good 15 in the discount rack.

Buy it now from Amazon.com

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