When the original Last Blade title was released it took weapons-based fighting in 2D to new heights with its fluid play controls and intense fighting action. Not wanting to rest on its laurels, SNK soon put together a sequel that didn't try to really overhaul anything, but rather stuck to tweaking a few minor aspects of the first title. The result was yet another one-on-one fighting release that continued the tradition of Last Blade without moving too far away from what made the first release so appealing to fighting game fans.
For the most part, The Last Blade 2 feels more like a minor update than a full-blown sequel. Sure, there are a wealth of new areas and some nice new graphical and gameplay twists, but the developers decided not to reinvent the wheel on this one, so don't expect anything radical in terms of changes to gameplay or thematic traits.
The Last Blade 2 doesn't stray too far from the trademark gameplay that made the original release such a hit with fans. The majority of the characters make a return with three new fighters tossed into the mix to spice things up a bit. The POWER and SPEED system returns, but this time an EX mode is introduced to give players a choice of a little bit of both speed and power. Once you see this mode in action you'll see how effective it can be in terms of your approach to the fighting, especially if you choose the right character. Having said that, there are some purists that do feel that this combination does give the game a slightly unbalanced feel at times, and debate continues to rage as to which of the two games offers the best overall experience. This is worth bearing in mind if you're already perfectly happy with the original release.
The re-balancing of many of the characters might end up making a particularly effective character from the original Last Blade release not quite as intimidating, but the smooth play controls and combo system still makes pretty much any character effective if in the right hands. Much of the skill involved in the game carries over from the first release and still places a nice emphasis on multiple hit attacks and using the Repel button at just the right times.
Although the backdrops are new, they just don't seem to have quite the flare of the original Last Blade. There's still plenty of oriental themes to go around, but they just don't seem quite as dynamic. But by contrast, the musical score, while still very Japanese in style, is better than ever. It's easily one of the best fighting game soundtracks the developers at SNK ever put together and does a brilliant job of conveying the theme and regional touches of the areas portrayed throughout the fighting experience.
The endless debate over whether The Last Blade or its sequel is the better fighter continues to this day. Some will tell you that the silky smooth gameplay of the original will always win out, but there are those who feel the additions and higher quality audio in the sequel give it the edge. Regardless of this seemingly endless argument, the truth is that you can't go wrong with either game as the Last Blade series is one of the best fighting franchises available for any system. Suffice it to say, if you enjoyed The Last Blade, you're going to find a lot of entertainment in this sequel - even if you ultimately decide that you prefer the original.