Review by Bouchart

"Generic, but the terrible writing makes it interesting."

Last Battle is a beat-'em-up that is a bit different than those of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It is entirely single player, and is fairly story driven. Unfortunately the gameplay is a bit bland and repetitive, and the plot makes no sense whatsoever.

You play as Aarzak, a martial arts expert. He can punch, kick and jump, and attack while jumping as well. Most enemies go flying off the side of the screen when you defeat them, which is very funny the fist few times. Every non-boss enemy dies in one hit, but that doesn't make the game easy. Normal enemies do not drop powerups or health, and Aarzak's can only restore his health after defeating bosses or during certain plot events. After defeating a certain number of enemies you enter a powered-up form that attacks more rapidly and has higher defense power, and has a better jump attack. Aarzak can also increase his maximum health or defense at certain plot events. You move from level to level on an overworld map similar to that of Super Mario Bros. 3 and you can revisit levels that were previously completed, which is necessary to complete the game.

There are a number of optional levels. A few of them, such as a boss fight in chapter 3, are almost certain death. Even though there are multiple paths through the game there is an ideal one that avoids a lot of difficult areas and gets a number of important health bar increases and defense increases.

Effectively, you need to carfully move through each level to avoid taking damage wherever possible. Also, Aarzak moves slowly, so the game has a much slower pacing than many games of the genre. You have only one life and no continues, so dying means you need to restart the game over from the beginning, unless you use a cheat code. The early levels in the game get dull, quickly.

The bosses are the game's biggest problem. The ones in chapter 1 and chapter 2 are manageable, but later on in the game they have such varied, unpredictable attacks that defeating them is a matter of luck more than anything else. Jump kicks seem to work well, but there isn't much strategy beyond that. Overall the game could be beaten in about thirty or forty minutes, but it takes a ton of practice to be able to do that.

In Japan, Last Battle was a game based off of the Fist of the North Star series. Apparently Sega did not have the rights to that franchise in America so they edited out all of the references to that series and renamed all of the characters. As a result there is little context for the events of the game. The plot is explained in the manual, and in the introduction screen, but still little makes sense. Apparently Aarzak is off to fight some generic evil somewhere to save the world, and rescue someone named Alyssa. Beyond that it's hard to follow.

The world itself has a number of anachronisms. Axes, scimitars and wooden ships exist alongside rocket launchers, flame throwers and motorcycles. It's unclear what the setting is supposed to be. The architecture makes it appear vaguely Middle Eastern. The water turns into lava in chapter 4 for no explained reason. There are people with common names like Max, Rob and Anne and others with names like Zee-bee, Garokk and of course Aarzak.

Characters are introduced who have no real impact on the events of the game. In one case, in an optional level in chapter 1, a man named Gere is introduced. In an optional level in chapter 2, it is revealed that he died at some point since his introduction. And that's all you learn about Gere. His name is also spelled inconsistently.

The dialogue is hilarious at times, which was probably not intentional. Much is grammatically correct but nonsensical. Here's one a few lines from the end of chapter 3:

Gromm: Hell is ahead!
Aarzak: What sort of place is hell?

The whole game has dialogue like that. Sometimes Aarzak and another character are having two unrelated conversations. Also in a couple of parts of chapter 4, it is unclear whether Aarzak is talking to another character on screen, or to the player. It's accidentally post-modern.

The graphics and sounds are good for their day. The backgrounds are very detailed and colorful, but there are a bit too many pallet shifted enemies for a short game like this. I especially like the music that plays in the long underground levels; it sets the atmosphere very well. However, the sound of doing a kick attack is a bit odd, like the sound of a goose honking.

Overall, it's a decent, playable game. It's difficult and very frustrating, but the sloppily written plot is good for some laughs. It might make more sense to someone familiar with Fist of the North Star, but I could be very wrong about that.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 09/24/12

Game Release: Last Battle (US, 12/31/89)

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