Another month has passed, and another NeoGeo fighting series has made its way to SNK's portable powerhouse, the NeoGeo Pocket Color. This time around, the weapon-based fighting series The Last Blade has gotten the portable treatment, and the results are pretty favorable. The portable version of the game manages to keep the game's basic features intact, and it also adds a few new modes and unlockable features to keep the game interesting longer than your average fighting game.
The character roster is varied, with a good deal of hidden characters to unlock. As in the NeoGeo version, you can choose between speed and power variants for each character, which govern a character's supermove. There is also a parry, which lets you reflect attacks and stun your opponent for a brief second so you can strike. The parry button default is back and B, which is a little cumbersome, but you can change the parry to A+B in the options, which is significantly easier to deal with.
Aside from the standard story mode, the game also has a survival mode, a time attack, and a training mode. The survival mode, aside from challenging you to survive, has little side tasks, such as using your parry twice or executing a specific special attack. If you accept the side bet, you'll earn points by completing the task, but you'll lose points if you fail. These points, which are also earned in the game's story mode, are used in a Soul Calibur-like gallery, where you spend your points to open up tidbits of information, such as character stories and endings. Eventually you'll unlock extra modes, including an addictive little home run derby minigame that lets you really rack up points quickly.
Graphically, the game is standard fare for the NeoGeo Pocket Color. The fighters animate fairly well, and the effect during supermoves (a large portrait of your character appearing on the screen) is really nice. The music is well done, and the sound effects are as good as you'd expect from a handheld system.
The Last Blade is a good fighting game, with more options and features than you'd expect from a portable fighter, but if you're new to the system and looking for the best fighting game available, you're still better off with SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium.