The Last Blade

STORY:  The Last Blade is set in 1863 during the Bakumatsu, the final years of the Tokugawa shogunate where a clash of ideologies were fighting to decide Japan's new society. Long before humanity existed, in a far off time of myth, death was an unknown, equally distant concept, but when death first came to the world, the "Messenger from Afar" was born. With time, the Sealing Rite was held in order to seal Death behind Hell's Gate. At that time, two worlds, one near and one far, were born. Thus the history of life and death began.

Half a year has passed since Suzaku's madness, and the underworld is still linked by a great portal. Kagami's great sin is still heard as if ringing from the heavens. Our world has been called upon. Legends of long ago told of the sealing of the boundary between the two worlds. The Sealing Rite would be necessary to hold back the spirits of that far away world. However, the Sealing Rite brings together the power of the Four Gods and Sealing Maiden, for the first time properly completing the ritual.

To find the Sealing Maiden, Genbu began searching in the center of the world, from which all things begin. At the same time in the underworld, in the depths of darkness, many spirits conspired, plotting to hinder the Sealing Rite. They had but one wish, to be reborn into our world.

Classy selection screen.

Following in the footsteps of SNK's highly acclaimed Samurai Shodown series, The Last Blade presents a brand new cast of samurai-style characters inspired by the Bakumatsu period in ancient Japan. The Last Blade was one of the only 2D weapon based fighting game around at the time of its debut. Although it didn't become as popular as other SNK franchises, the series becames known among NeoGeo fans for its interesting character designs, superb animation & graphics (some of SNK's best to date), and solid gameplay.


Things are about to get ugly.


Besides Last Blade's slick graphics and cool characters, the innovation lies within its unique gameplay. Players can choose between two different "styles" per character: "Speed" and "Power". Speed Mode enables speed combos, chain combos, and desperation moves, while Power Mode increases damage potential but limits combos, requiring more strict inputs, and also gives the character the ability to do a Super Desperation Move.


Gorgeous backgrounds... in case you didn't notice.


Overall, Last Blade's gameplay system includes deep systems for those that put the time in, but is also rather easy to pick up for beginners. For the advanced players, the gameplay engine features a deflecting or parrying system, allowing for quick countering and, not to mention, some pretty epic-looking sword battles. While the first Last Blade is a very solid 2D fighter, I personally don't find it as fun or replayable as other SNK titles. In terms of both characters and gameplay, I think Samurai Shodown installments still have the edge (pun intended).  


Page Updated: December 6th, 2022
Developer(s): SNK
Publisher(s): SNK
Platform(s): Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, PC, Dreamcast, PS1, PS2, PS4
Artwork By: Aki Senno (TONKO)     Character Design / Promo Art
Release Date(s): Dec. 5th, 1997              /   Arcade
Jan. 29th, 1998            /   NeoGeo
Mar. 26th, 1998           /   NeoGeo CD
Feb. 25th, 1999              PlayStation
Jan. 12th, 2006
             PS2 - in NeoGeo Online Collection
June 15th, 2017            PS4 / PSN
Characters Kaede, Moriya Minakata, Yuki, Juzoh Kanzaki, Akari Ichijo, Hyo Amano, Shigen, Zantetsu, Shikyo, Keiichiro Washizuka, Lee Rekka, Genbu no Okina, Musashi Akatsuki, Shinnosuke Kagami
News Links December 2022: SNK Shares 25th Anniversary Last Blade Art

Featured Video:

Related Games: The Last Blade 2, The Last Blade: Beyond The Destiny, Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 4, Soul BladeSoul Calibur, Bushido Blade, The King of Fighters '97, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, Street Fighter III: New Generation, Street Fighter Alpha 3, Golden Axe: The Duel, Asura Blade, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum

Gameplay Engine

 8.5 / 10

Story / Theme

 9.0 / 10

Overall Graphics

 9.0 / 10


 9.0 / 10

Music / Sound Effects

 8.0 / 10


 7.5 / 10

Art Direction

 8.5 / 10


 8.0 / 10

Options / Extras

 7.5 / 10

Intro / Presentation

 8.5 / 10

Replayability / Fun

 6.0 / 10

"Ouch" Factor

 7.0 / 10


 7.5 / 10


 8.1 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version     


Final Words:

Although The Last Blade was a gorgeous and highly technical 2D fighting game... it didn't nearly match the level of popularity of its friendly rival series, Samurai Shodown. Why? I suppose because Samurai Shodown had flashier moves, perhaps more exciting & charismatic characters at the time, and stylish fatalities at the end of bouts. In fact, after playing the Samurai Shodown series for many years... The Last Blade seemed a bit like a more "watered down" version of Samurai Shodown.

Even so, The Last Blade still holds its own as a high quality 2D fighting game from SNK... and was very ahead of its time! The well-animated 2D character sprites, beautifully drawn 2D backgrounds, and calming music really stood out from the crowd in the 1997-1998 fighting genre!

I always though the fighters of Last Blade don't have much "ferocity" as compared to similar fighting game characters at the time. It almost seems like The Last Blade characters don't really want to hurt each other all that much. They all sort of seem more like friends or something (reflected quite vividly in the official box art). Personally, I like to see a bit more bloodthirstiness out of my samurai fighters.

In any case, The Last Blade is one of SNK's hidden gems and was definitely groundbreaking in terms of video game animation and presentation back in 1997. (And that's actually saying a lot, since '97 was an very competitive time in the genre.) The sequel, Last Blade 2, released about 1 year after the first game and was a solid enhancement, adding several great new characters and stages.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen  

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