Power Stone Reborn - Lastfight Review

I’m going to be a really cheeky boy here and stretch the definition of Dreamcast game ever so slightly to encompass modern games inspired by classic Dreamcast titles. Yep, I’m taking the piss a bit now, you’re not wrong...but hear me out!

Ask anyone to name some of the Dreamcast’s most defining games and the words 'power' and 'stone' are bound to get a mention. Whereas Street Fighter III, Soul Calibur and Marvel vs Capcom 2 were all fantastic Dreamcast fighting games in their own right, their respective series didn’t really have the same strong exclusive tie with Sega’s white disk churning box of magic as the Power Stone games can boast. Years later, Capcom did make the rather inappropriate choice of porting the games to the PSP (of all systems...idiots), but we’ve not heard anything of the 3D party brawler since.
Unfortunately, it seems to have faded away into the mists of time, and with Capcom in their current financial predicament, I don’t think any of us would be wise to expect a new entry anytime soon. To make matters worse, despite being two of the greatest multiplayer brawlers of all time, few companies have ever tried to replicate or take inspiration from them, not with success at least (I’m looking at you Sonic Battle *shudder*). Until now, that is...

Lastfight is the first game from French indie developer Piranaking, and you wouldn't need three guesses where they drew inspiration from. Hell, they don’t even bother trying to hide it; this is a Power Stone clone through and through, but that's far from a bad thing. On the contrary, that is the exact reason you need to play this game.

The basic moves are almost an exact match; imagining you're holding a Dreamcast controller, push A to jump, B to grab and X and Y to launch attacks. Instead of punch and kick, this time one button is assigned to regular attacks while the other unleashes a special attack/string of attacks that need to be charged over time. In addition, the L button now creates a Smash Bros style shield around your opponent that can be easily countered with a grab. Finally, the R button in combination with a direction has your character dash. These new additions don't sound like much, but take my word for it - they change up the gameplay just enough to distinguish Lastfight from its ancestor. For example, I found myself regularly using the dash button to launch surprise and counter attacks or escape from opponents, and the shield came in especially handy when avoiding heavy weapons (such as hammers) before countering.
The tide of battle could change here.
The game offers players a chance to play either one on one or two on two matches, but unfortunately there’s no option for a 4-player battle royal style match at time of release; and if you want to play 3-player then one of your buddies will have to play with an AI teammate.

One on one matches feel very close in style to the original Power Stone; the levels are far more claustrophobic than the sequel’s larger, evolving, item-filled environments and there are only three(...erm, what are they called in this game again? Screw it, they'll always be power stones to me) power stones. A key difference between the way the stones work here is that instead of character specific special forms, there is now one of four random transformations for each match. These transformations vary in strength but all offer a completely different style of play that are satisfying to use once you've grown accustomed to their intricacies.
One of four super forms in action.
The nine environments, some of which feature their own set pieces (such as a jet engine that sucks in players towards its blades, or a fire-spewing Aztec idol that burns unsuspecting players to a crisp),  offer enough differences from one another to all feel quite distinct and memorable. Rather than having treasure chests that give players the same random items across all stages, Lastfight instead has a limited number of stage specific items that re-spawn throughout battle. From the basic boxing ring with boxing gloves pick up, to the mystic tomb with potions that give 'buffs' to players' speed or power, no two stages play the same and this goes a long way towards keeping the game fresh over marathon play sessions.
A few heavy weapons are this stage's unique items.
One shortfall of the game is its lack of online multiplayer, and while the team has said they’d like to implement an online mode at some point in the future depending upon how well the game is received, that’s simply the wrong way to go about it in the year 2016. Without an online mode, a community of supporters is unlikely to come to fruition, leading to the game not getting featured as prominently on media like Twitch or YouTube. Having said that, I and many others have been shitting all over online only multiplayer games for a long time now, so I’m not going to complain or mark down the game for a focus on local play. It's just a shame not to have that option, and it’s something prospective buyers need to consider before making a purchase.

The two on two matches are fantastic with a group of mates though. I can't lie, when I first realised that there was no all-on-all game type I had my reservations, but after sampling the team-based gameplay with three other mates, over a few bevvies of course (that's beers to you traitors of the crown), it seems my fears were completely unfounded. Shouting out orders to each other between intermittent bursts of smack talk was rather exhilarating. Picking the right time to double team a lone opponent or split up to pick up items, again (I know I'm sounding a bit like a broken record) further helped to differentiate the experience from the Power Stone games.
Two on two multiplayer is something you HAVE to try!
The fall of couch multiplayer is one of the biggest tragedies in modern gaming and I’m glad a developer has seen that there's still a market for it, focusing on bringing it back to the current gen, even if it's at the expense of an online mode. There’s absolutely no doubt about it - Power Stone, its sequel and Lastfight were all designed with a couch, six pack of lager and a few mates in mind; and if I had to choose between local and online multiplayer only then I’d certainly go for the former. However - and I'll say this again - the game would have only benefited from having the option of net play at launch, both commercially and in terms of boosting its longevity.

This brings me to another shortcoming of the game; content, or rather lack of it. While the game is an absolute blast to play and does an admirable job of expanding upon Power Stone’s already solid mechanics, I can’t help but feel like there isn’t much to do here: story mode, standard versus, 2-on-2 versus and…nope, that’s your lot. To make matters worse, there are only two playable characters in story mode, both of which follow the same storyline and take perhaps just shy of an hour to finish. There are some virtual stickers to unlock by completing various achievement style challenges in the game, but other than that, there’s…well, nothing.

Soooo...mechanics, check. Gameplay, check. Modes, check. Numerous comparisons to Power Stone in order to push the game's relevance to the Dreamcast, check! Errr, what else does a generic review have to mention again? Oh yeah, graphics and music. In short, both are good. The best way I can describe the visual style is as an even more cartoony-er-er version of Street Fighter IV. It does the job and looks great. I'm no audio connoisseur and my two remaining brain cells have worked hard enough already to bring you this review, so I can't accurately articulate my opinion on the music...but it's good. Take my word for it, or watch a YouTube video.
Be careful of that jet engine!
Finally, the voice acting is entirely in French which makes a nice change to be honest, we need more international games that aren't afraid to show off their roots. Why is it that every single game has to be in either English or Japanese, hey? Hey?!?! Why?!!!!

My conclusion is that yes, the game is fantastic, and a blast to play with friends. While not much more than a clone, it throws in enough tweaks and changes that its own personality and style shine through, delivering an experience similar to the Power Stone games but at the same time different, not necessarily better or worse, just…different. So yes, if you have a group of friends to play locally with over a few beers then I cannot recommend the game enough. I had a reet laugh this weekend with a few buddies and I’m sure we’ll have many more at future game nights, but for Jimmy no mates (yes, I’m talking to you! Loser), the lack of content makes it an incredibly hard sell. In the future, if they ever get multiplayer servers up and running then my opinion might change, but as of now, this game is simply not worth picking up unless you have a bunch of mates to play locally with. 

Every review needs a score, so I'll give Lastfight 7.5 broken GD-Rom drives out of 10.

Lastfight is available on Steam for the price of £10.99 (or £9.89 with the 10% discount offer currently running). Also be sure to visit the official Lastfight website for more information, developer blog and exclusive content.

1 comment:

DCGX said...

A friend of mine made me aware of this game a few weeks ago, but it just didn't entice me compared to Power Stone. That said, Marvel Battlegrounds in Disney Infinity 3.0 is a good Power Stone-like game with Marvel characters. It just gets really expensive if you don't already have the figures.