Upon checking this week’s PlayStation Store update, my memory was stirred by the colorful logo of Last Fight. I had a vague recollection of a French made Power Stone clone previewed on this very site some months ago - and after a brief search, approximately fifteen seconds of video was all the convincing it took for me to part with $15 ($13.50 for PlayStation Plus subscribers through the 27th).
In addition to combining two personal favorites - French comic books and Power Stone - Last Fight’s a legit successor to Capcom’s legacy and all of the good and bad that entails.
First, the good.
• The visuals are pretty, colorful, and fluid. And it all appears to run at a rock solid sixty frames per second. I’m rarely that blown away by indie efforts trying to smoothly mimic Japanese style, but Last Fight impressed me.
• Matches offer precisely the sort of joyful imbalance one expects from an arena brawler. Combat is fast and snappy.
• Mechanically, the game is simple, though not completely mindless. Like Power Stone, it’s less about tiers or frames and more about spacing and movement.
• The cast is decently varied and well realized.
• The soundtrack is a solid collection of 8-bit inspired tunes, which matches the game’s aesthetics surprisingly well.
• While Last Fight hews more closely to the original Power Stone, it does offer the two-on-two and four-player free-for-alls found in Power Stone 2.
• There’s no online multiplayer.
• If you’ve spent any time playing arcade games from the late eighties through the mid-nineties, there’s a fun little easter egg waiting for you.
Second, the bad.
• Despite the attract mode showing each character in both a human and more monstrous or powered up form, this is not how transformations work in Last Fight. Transformations are actually power stone (or whatever the hell they’re called in this game) specific, not character specific. With four universal transformations equating to four different types of power stones. Not only is this generally duller than character specific transformations, but it takes away hugely from the characterization of individual cast members.
• Like the first Power Stone, the story/arcade mode AI is bullshit. In this regard, the developers were perhaps too thorough in emulating Capcom’s party fighter. As CPU opponents have the same tendency to read moves, stonewall, and magically have their combos prioritized over yours.
• There’s a hidden character, and as near as I can tell it’s locked behind a perfect run through story mode. Yeah, that ain’t happening. Developers, seriously, stop doing this crap. Very few games are sufficiently enjoyable - or offer enough in return - to warrant the countless hours required to best the hardest difficulties unscathed. Let the hard for the sake of hard crowd have their higher difficulties, let the rest of us have complete access. I mean, if overcoming a challenge is its own reward, then the e-peen set shouldn’t mind having nothing but personal satisfaction as a reward, right?
• There’s no difficulty slider. Nor is there an option to turn off items or stage hazards. You can’t remap the buttons, either. The few options present are pretty much all sound-related.
• In a page ripped straight from the SNK playbook, story mode is limited to the two main characters - Richard and Duke. Sadly, there’s no standard arcade ladder to tackle with the remaining cast. Instead, you’re limited to single matches or modes like survival.
And finally, the your mileage may vary.
• Despite being a solid collection of tunes, the soundtrack’s still pretty forgettable overall. The music (in addition to the sound effects and announcer) were one of my very favorite things about Power Stone and especially Power Stone 2. It would’ve been nice to hear the same sort of anime-inspired corniness present in Last Fight’s music.
• There aren’t a ton of items and most of them do the same thing - i.e. it’s mostly just crap to throw at opponents. The rest are all stage specific and start to feel a bit tired as matches wear on.
• Cut scenes aren’t voiced, despite some fun pre-match voice overs. This only bugs me because, for whatever reason, I occasionally find HD visuals of the 2D variety a bit hard to take in all at once. Sometimes it’s due to a combination of overly big images and small text, other times it’s small sprites filling a huge screen. Last Fight suffers from the former. Additionally, cutscenes - particularly the ending credits - have a tendency to stutter. It’s less pronounced in pre-match cinematics and doubtless a product of stages loading in the background. During the credits, it happens every time a new name appears on screen. Dem high-def fonts tho.
• Speaking of the the game’s art stylings outside of combat, you’re either gonna love ‘em or hate ‘em. Personally, I enjoy the game’s aesthetic, but I can see how some might find it too garish or sloppy. That being said, it would’ve been nice to see cinematics and the like skew a touch closer to the comic on which Last Fight is based.
• The localization is a bit rough. Considering Last Fight’s inspiration, this may very well be intentional - and it certainly adds to the sense of authenticity. On the other hand, it doesn’t make the story mode and its atrocious AI any less of a slog.
At any rate, I wholeheartedly recommend Last Fight as a stand-in for the Power Stone sequel or remaster Capcom will never give us. (Though if you haven’t already removed those rose-tinted lenses where the latter’s faults are concerned, Last Fight will smack them right off your face.) That recommendation goes double for those who simply want an enjoyable bubblegum fighter to cleanse their palettes between rounds of Street Fighter 5 or Guilty Gear Xrd.
Last Fight is available now for the PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One.