Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Every Tuesday join Cyril as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week.
It's a week full of swordplay! Up first we look at The Last Blade, one of SNK's very best fighting games. If that's not enough, we're also digging into Prince of Persia on the Game Boy Color. Both of these games are classics, but only one is recommended. Find out what you should buy this week when you tune into another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games!
The Last Blade (SNK)
[ Release: June 7 | Price: 900 Points | Console: Neo Geo | Year: 1998 ]
What Is It?
At E3 this week, Nintendo was quick to remind consumers that the Wii was six years old. This means that for the last six years (approximately 300 weeks) Nintendo has somehow avoided releasing Last Blade for the Virtual Console. In those six years, SNK has uploaded thirty different Neo Geo games, including some of their worst games. And finally, after exhausting all of the biggest hits, we've finally been given the one game most of us have been waiting for: The Last Blade!
At first glance this may look a lot like Samurai Shodown. Admittedly there are similarities and it is fair to say that The Last Blade is a 'spiritual' successor to Samurai Showdown, but it's best to view them as separate entities, otherwise things will get very confusing. The Last Blade is set around the end of the 19th century in Japan, often called the 'Bakumatsu' period, which is better known for the Western invasion of the East and the introduction of guns to a society accustomed to the use of swords for warfare. You know, like in the title 'The Last Blade'. Who said video games weren't educational?
Each character has a choice of two modes, power and speed. Unlike Samurai Showdown's evil/good variations, power and speed modes are all that they pretend to be - one offers better speed and combo opportunities while the other increases the player's power and special move abilities. This is nothing revolutionary, but does offer two distinct fighting styles for the player to experiment with, which obviously increases depth. The characters are amongst the best in SNK's already rich repertoire, the animation and backgrounds are second to none and the gameplay is unique and has unparalleled depth.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The Last Blade is one of SNK's best looking games. Forget The King of Fighters, I would love to see a brand new entry in The Last Blade full of redrawn HD characters and mind blowing animation. But until we get that, we'll have to make do with this fantastic looking Virtual Console release. The gameplay feels good on the Wii's classic controller, though it would have been nice to have an option for online multiplayer. Not only does The Last Blade hold up, but it's easily one of SNK's best games.
Is It Worth The Money?
After fizzling out towards the end of 2011, the Wii Virtual Console has managed to bounce back with a string of good games. The Last Blade gives me hope that SNK isn't done supporting the Virtual Console, because there are still plenty of must-own Neo Geo games that have yet to be ported to any platform (I'm looking at you, WindJammers). Even if the one-on-one fighting genre has grown stale with the releases of The King of Fighters '97 and Super Street Fighter II, you owe it to yourself to check out one of SNK's very best games. Now bring on The Last Blade II with full online support.
Prince of Persia (Ubisoft)
[ Release: June 7 | Price: $4.99 | Console: Game Boy Color | Year: 1998 ]
What Is It?
It's easy to look back at the original Prince of Persia and come away with the wrong message. We focus all of our attention on the incredible rotoscope animation, one of the game's flashier gimmicks. But in spending all of our time marveling at the animation, we often forget to note the game's even more impressive attributes. There's a reason that people still care about this long-running franchise, and, believe it or not, it has very little to do with backyard rotoscoping sessions.
Prince of Persia gives players exactly one hour to locate and rescue his one true love. This requires our hero to battle guards, avoid traps and navigate the labyrinthine dungeons. But there's no time to second guess your actions, because that time limit is always at play. This adds an important layer of urgency, which I would argue is the one thing people take away from Prince of Persia. Regardless of whether you defeat the Sultan or not, you come away from Prince of Persia having experienced something that feels significantly more important. And now you can take up that important mission in this Game Boy Color port.
Does It Still Hold Up?
It's hard to go back to the original Prince of Persia. Although it looks great (featuring some of the most impressive animation I've seen on the Game Boy Color), the control is hard to get used to. One simple button press will send our hero barreling forward, something that becomes increasingly annoying as the platforming puzzles become more challenging. Still, the sense of urgency remains and the game is a lot of fun once you get used to the fidgety controls.
Is It Worth The Money?
Believe it or not, Nintendo could have released four different versions of Prince of Persia on the 3DS Virtual Console. Beyond the Game Boy Color port reviewed here, there's also a Game Gear version, one for the original Game Boy and even an adaptation on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Needless to say, Prince of Persia was everywhere in the 1990s. This Game Boy Color version is solid, even if it is a little hard to play today. The animation holds up and the maze-like stages are fun to revisit. The controls are going to throw a lot of gamers off, so know what you're getting before you spend the money. You're probably better off checking out Prince of Persia Classics, an incredibly faithful remake for the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN that fixes a lot of the control issues.