2D Shooters have been limping out onto the market in Japan in a steady trickle. America hasn't seen any of these games of course, which in the cases of Under Defeat and Radirgy is a real shame. Last Hope aims to get your American Dreamcast (also on Neo Geo AES) drooling for a new game one last time. This non-official release is region free and in English, and only available online. Ok, so you can get it and play it on your American Dreamcast, but should you?
This game has me at odds, as I am on the fence on just about everything it has to offer. The first example of this is the game play; according to the press releases and company statements, Last Hope is "Tactical". I suppose I can sort of see that, the game moves a lot slower than most shooters and the level progression requires a more methodical approach, with more blocking and position the focus over the non-stop blast and dodge affairs I'm used to. I can see how this is unique, and I appreciate that, but moving the little shield satellite to deflect rear approaching enemies I have no way of shooting is actually satisfying.
That's right, the movable satellite. Think R-Type's satellite, only all you can do with it is move it around you to block, which you are probably going to either love or hate. This leads to the game play, as I mentioned before, being largely about blocking incoming shots that are frequently hidden by explosions from the enemies you have shot down that look far too much like their bullets. Hidden bullets and cheap deaths are things that shooter fans have come to be used to from less refined titles, but that doesn't make it any more enjoyable.
The game looks really great and really bad all at the same time. Odd as it sounds it's true, while individual elements look great, I personally didn't think they worked together to make a particularly good looking product. The enemies are varied, interesting, and clean, if not high in polygons. On their own they look fine, but things go bad when they put onto a very 2D background making them look out of place. This is compounded by the fact that some seem to have a border around them, and this really bothered me. It makes the background and gameplay look slapped together and not at all molded into one piece. Which sucks: the backgrounds make good use of parallax scrolling and are well drawn and colored. A little more polish over the AES version (which this is ported from) and it may have been an extremely attractive game.
You can tell that a lot of work went into creating the game's great 16-bit styled soundtrack. Most of the tracks fit the mood perfectly and are definite pleasers. The weapons sound effects are a little underwhelming, but as the developer states, they were going for 16-bit sound. It achieves it very nicely, I can't really complain.
Last Hope isn't the defining shooter on the AES, and it isn't the defining shooter here on the Dreamcast. It is, however, hundreds of dollars cheaper here than on the Neo Geo and improved over that version in terms of difficulty management and visuals. I can't say for sure that this is the last commercial release that you will be able to play on your U.S.A. or European Dreamcast, I can tell you that SEGA's GD-Rom production is ceasing (although this game is on CD-ROM) and beyond another shooter from France on the indie circuit there is nothing on the pipeline. There are two more ports coming from Japan, and that seems to be it. I know many of you Defunct Gamers were here for the Dreamcast's glorious debut. It's up to you if you want to take part in its mediocre death throes. Rest in Peace, little buddy.