Dreamcast Reviews L

Last Blade 2, The
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (2001)
Reviewed: 2010/4/15
Rating: Teen (13+)

screenshotI like Last Blade 2, but I think I liked it better the first time around, when it was called Samurai Shodown. I'm being facetious but the games share a lot of traits. Both are scaling 2D fighters that feature Samurai fighters armed with weapons. Last Blade 2 is hardly original, but being an SNK title, you can rest assured the game will kick ass.

There are 16 warriors to select from, each adorned in traditional Japanese garb. The one exception is Mukuro, who is draped with bandages like a freakin' mummy! The controls are pretty basic (weak slash, strong slash, kick, repel), but the instructions reveal a fighting system with tremendous depth. You can chain together some pretty elaborate attack combinations when your sword gauge is fully powered.

The repel move is simple enough in theory (press just before your enemy attacks), but I found it hard to employ in the heat of battle. I also have to call character balance into question in light of my difficulty defeating Amano. This bathrobe-wearing brute is very grabby, and once he gets his big paws on you, major damage is headed your way. My personal character of choice is Zantetsu, who looks like Raiden (of Mortal Kombat fame) and dishes out some devastating kick combinations.

In terms of graphics, Last Blade 2 features fluid animation and some of the more attractive stage designs I've seen. Some boast tremendous depth and detail, like the sunny trail that winds along a river with boats in the far distance. Other stages like the dreary battlefield are surprisingly bland.

The musical score is only average, and some stages forgo music for "natural sounds" such as blowing wind (which sounds horrible) or chirping birds. The voice samples have not been translated in English, but that's probably for the best. Last Blade 2 isn't hard to play, but its appeal to button-mashers will be limited. This is an elegant, sophisticated title for those who take their fighting games seriously. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 185000
1 or 2 players 

Last Hope (Japan)
Grade: F
Publisher: NG Dev (2007)
Reviewed: 2007/6/26

screenshotI happen to be fanatical about the Dreamcast and its 2D shooters, so when I heard there was a brand-new one available, I had to have it. After purchasing Last Hope from Play Asia, I was pleasantly surprised by how it loaded without the help of a special disk. Last Hope plays a heck of a lot like R-Type, offering the same brand of side-scrolling shooting with intricate layered visuals. It's a shame the game is borderline unplayable.

One problem is obvious from the outset: there's too much "stuff" moving on the screen. The photo-realistic backgrounds, floating icons, explosions, raining debris, and layered walls look great, but they tend to clutter up the screen! You can't tell what objects are in the foreground or background! Even worse, enemy projectiles assume a number of shapes, from orange balls to jaggy metal objects. Some of the more irritating foes seem completely impervious to attack, so you'll just need to avoid them.

Your cannon can fire rapidly or charge for a single powerful shot. You'll augment your firepower with missiles and a protective shield that rotates around your ship via the shoulder buttons. Last Hope's difficulty is best described as "impossible", even on so-called "very easy" skill level. There are checkpoints, but they are poorly placed. There should always be one right before a boss, but that's not the case here.

That's a problem, because reaching the first boss is a frustrating ordeal, and the boss himself not only features a web of laser beams, but a gravity device that pulls you every which way. Needless to say, no one on this entire planet has ever seen the second stage. The best part of the game is its relaxing electronic soundtrack, which has an almost ethereal quality to it. But despite its fine presentation, Last Hope's staggering difficulty and general unplayability make it impossible to recommend. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 11600
1 player 

Last Hope: Pink Bullets (Japan)
Grade: C
Publisher: NG Dev (2009)
Reviewed: 2009/10/28

screenshotThe first edition of this side-scrolling shooter showed potential, but confusing visuals, insane difficulty, and poor checkpoint placement rendered Last Hope practically unplayable. The situation has been somewhat rectified by Pink Bullets, which is an enhanced version of the original game. Its gameplay is far more forgiving, the action seems about twice as fast, and plentiful power-ups make it easy to amass firepower.

Enemy projectiles tend to be large and pink (hence the name), making them easier to spot. Don't get the wrong idea though - Last Hope: Pink Bullets is still an intense shooter that will kick your ass from here to next week. There's a lot of activity on the screen at any given time, and the multi-layered scenery tends to hide environmental hazards. Enemies tend to be large and can absorb quite an excessive amount of firepower.

Another annoyance is how you're often forced into tight spaces for extended periods. Your ship is large, but a shield can be used to absorb all enemy fire coming from the front. For that reason it's often more effective to attack your foes head-on instead of weaving around. Weapon power-ups come early and often, including devastating cluster bombs that flare out from above and below your ship.

The colorful, multi-layered backdrops have a cool sci-fi flavor that nicely complements the surreal electronic music. The first stage takes you through a generic space station, but I like how you can see tiny spacemen making repairs in the background. The second stage is more imaginative as you fly over (and into) water with a dramatic red sunset in the background.

Last Hope: Pink Bullets isn't great, but it's a hell of a lot better than the original. High scores are saved automatically - providing you don't use any continues. The game is just average overall, but 2D shooter fans looking for a challenge will dig this. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver
Grade: B-
Publisher: Eidos (2000)
Reviewed: 2000/2/14
Rating: Mature

screenshotSoul Reaver is a massive adventure that introduces several innovative, original concepts. The excellent background story, revealed in an amazing introductory sequence, sets the stage nicely for a dark, twisted tale of vampire revenge. Gameplay involves making your way through ruins and caves, dispatching enemies, and defeating bosses to gain new powers.

In order to destroy vampires, you must either impale them or toss them into sunlight or water. One cool new concept is the spectral plane versus material plane. The spectral plane is a parallel universe with the same basic landscape, but contains ghostly creatures and permits no object interaction. Within this plane you can move through water and perform certain powers such as passing through gates. Switching planes is strategic to accessing certain places or avoiding enemies, and it adds a new dimension to the game (literally!). While changing planes, the world changes before your eyes, and the morphing effect is a sight to behold.

Besides battling creatures, there are occasional puzzles, mainly the lever-pulling/block-moving variety we got sick of in the Tomb Raider series. Another weakness is the lack of a map, and at times it's hard to figure out where to go next. The graphics look terrific, but although they are higher in resolution than the Playstation version, they don't offer any additional detail.

I was disappointed that during cut-scenes, which feature top-notch voice acting, character's mouths do not move when they talk. The creatures in this game are truly scary and well designed, especially the hulking, loathsome bosses. The control is responsive, and you won't need to wrestle with the camera too much. Dramatic sound effects and music complement the hellish atmosphere. Soul Reaver is an adventure with style and originality, and if you haven't already played through the Playstation version, check out Soul Reaver. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Looney Tunes Space Race
Grade: B+

screenshotIf you're frustrated by the lack of good kart games for the Dreamcast, give Looney Tunes Space Race a try. Granted, it's technically a rocket racer, but you get the idea. This light-hearted (and underrated) game stars classic cartoon personalities who glide over elevated freeways in intergalactic locales. The all-star line-up includes Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Wile E. Coyote, Marvin the Martian, and Porky Pig.

These colorful characters retain their distinctive voices and mannerisms, and it's funny to hear them yell at each other during a race. Bugs is the smart-aleck, Yosemite Sam is constantly flying off the handle, and the silent Wile E. Coyote communicates by flashing signs that say things like "Drat". The artistic style should bring a smile to those who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons ("presented in Techno-Color!").

Space Race plays like a typical kart racer with power-ups, weapons, turbo boosts, and ramps. The animation and frame-rate is silky smooth, even in the four-player split-screen mode. It's a little hard to see upcoming turns on the split-screen, but I like how you have the option of adding CPU players into the mix. Unconventional weapons include portable holes, instant storms, disintegrator pistols, and extensible boxing gloves.

Unfortunately, one ill-conceived (and totally cheap) weapon nearly ruins the fun. The "remote control" causes heavy objects like safes, pianos, and pink elephants to be dropped directly on a nearby opponent. Although I'm told it's possible to dodge these, I didn't have much luck doing so. The twelve tracks take place on various planets but none are particularly memorable. Still, the controls are good, the racing is competitive, and ample bonus challenges give the replay value some legs. Looney Tunes Space Race is an irresistible racer that only seems to improve with age. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Shinforce, Sega.com, Racket Boy, Wikipedia, GameSpot, Video Games Museum, Moby Games, Sega Dreamcast.com, The Dreamcast Junkyard