RELEASE DATE: 07/01/89 – (JP), 1989 – (US), 09/90 – (EU)
Last Battle is the Mega Drive’s first beat-em-up not named Altered Beast and it is ridiculous. Bad guys literally fly off the screen once you hit them. The protagonist can kick away any projectiles launched at him, including knives, axes, and missiles. When the protagonist powers up, he rips his shirt off and remains shirtless until the next chapter. His interactions with supporting characters read like mistranslated text from some ancient myth (Aarzak: “What’s the matter!” Gene: “I want to become a hero!”). Bosses are destroyed with lightning punches too fast for the eye to process. While the brawling itself plays like 8-bit leftovers, Last Battle is too absurd not to appreciate.
You play Aarzak, a slow moving brute with a god complex. Your mission is to destroy Garokk, one of many creatures threatening your homeland (the massive wall of text shown at the beginning of the game explains the surprisingly convoluted plot, but it’s not necessary to enjoy the fisticuffs). To combat Garokk and his minions, Aarzak has a punch, a kick, and a jump kick. The more enemies he defeats, the more Power he acrues via a bar at the bottom of the screen. Once the Power bar fills up to a certain point, Aarzak tears his shirt off. His biceps and glutes are reborn with extra mass, and with additional mass comes!… a slightly stronger punch, kick, and a jump kick. If he really wants to be taken seriously as a god, he’ll have to expand his move list.
Last Battle contains four chapters, with each chapter having about 8-9 mini-stages. Each chapter has a map that’s laid out similarly to the NES classic, Bionic Commando. Once you complete the chapter’s first stage, you can proceed in any direction the game allows; stages do not have to be linearly completed. The majority of stages are like vignettes: short bouts where you fight hordes of kamikaze mystery men amidst Middle Eastern landscapes. There are also arena boss battles, some of which need to be fought before you proceed to the next chapter; villages where you talk to people; and labyrinths that contain deadly traps. While you can progress several different directions after you complete a stage, it’s best to plot out your potential route at the beginning of the chapter. Otherwise, you risk fighting through the same stages over and over and losing precious health.
And your health is precious. You have one life, no continues (there’s a code to continue from your current chapter, but you can look that up on your own). While your health bar is a decent size, your strength is considerable; enemy hits don’t take off that much damage. Each stage has a lot of enemies, though, so don’t fight sloppy just ’cause they’re weaker than you. As you progress, you’ll run into seemingly important characters who will extend your health bar and give you more defense. If you want to get your health bar completely refilled, however, you’ll have to trudge through the labyrinths. Yes, they take forever to walk through, thanks to Aarzak’s all-the-time-in-the-world gait, but they’re also the only place in the game where your health can be restored.
Last Battle is actually a sequel to the Master System’s divisive Black Belt, though you wouldn’t know it to look at them. Both games were originally Hokuto no Ken (“Fist of the North Star”) titles in Japan. While Black Belt received considerable graphical and content changes for its Western release, Last Battle came over mostly intact, save for minor details (palette swaps for bosses) and one significant difference. In Hokuto no Ken, when you hit bad guys, their heads shoot off and blood spurts out their neck; in Last Battle, they go flying backwards when hit. Even though Sega was the first to include blood in their console games, this change doesn’t surprise me. Last Battle was released in 1989, games were mostly clean, and Sega had yet to establish themselves in the marketplace as the “mature” gaming company.
The fighting in Last Battle is clunky, and the spotty hit detection will have you occasionally bounce between enemies like some beefy pinball. Once you learn enemy patterns and accept that Aarzak is now and forever slow, Last Battle blossoms into over-the-top, nonsensical brilliance. There’s no denying that the Mega Drive/Genesis would see better brawlers, but few were this outrageous.
15 replies on “Last Battle (Genesis, 1989)”
I was really looking forward to your review of this one. I’m honestly not sure how I even feel about it. I recognize that it’s kind of bad, but I always find myself coming back to it, and unable to stop playing it. I think it might partially be the weirdness, and the nonsensical translation.
Also, I found this video on YouTube, funny stuff.
I got this for £2.50 in a charity shop complete with manual. I played it for 20 minutes and put it on the shelf thinking I had paid too much. As has already been said though I find that every so often it calls to me to play it again. Each time I think how bad this is and wonder why I am wasting my time and yet there is a bizarre enjoyment to be had out of its badness. I think B- is a bit high mate but that’s just my opinion but honestly it is something of a guilty pleasure. As for early/launch Mega Drive games I think Altered Beast was just marginally better but then again I have nostalgia from that one as I never own Last Battle back in the day.
Altered Beast is a little bit better, but they’re both so bad/good. I’m very glad the beat-em-up genre advanced enough that we got series like Streets of Rage and Final Fight, but I’ll always have a soft spot for these goofy button mashers.
Unfortunately, as you will see, the genre becomes overly saturated by the end of the Mega Drive’s life. A plus point to that however is that the good ones stand out even more.
Also, welcome back Tony! I missed you.
Yeah, comparing Last Battle to Streets of Rage is like comparing a sundial to a digital watch; the advancements in the genre just a few years later is startling. Then again, I’d say Double Dragon was more advanced than Last Battle and didn’t that come out in 1986?
I’ve only played Last Battle once, many years ago, and that was hopefully my last battle with it. I found it a to be a slog personally, a really repetitive game that seems to have hundreds of samey stages. I’d definately give Altered Beast the nod over Last Battle, it has more personality and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome. Still, roll on Streets of Rage eh?
“Now you have the look of a hero!”
I’m quite surprised by your B- grade. I would say the Genesis port of Altered Beast is, despite its flaws, still objectively a good game, particularly for a launch title. Last Battle, conversely, I would see as objectively a below average game, if not a bad game. The music is barely good enough to matter, the sound effects are typical early Genesis fare, nondescript and just sort of “there”, and while it has decent graphics (large, detailed sprites) and the control is fairly decent, it’s just not that good, or that fun. I remember playing this years ago via a friend’s Genesis, and being impressed with it visually, and then bought it myself years later when I saw it dirt cheap, but it’s honestly not one to go back to, unless you’re looking for a MST3K-style gaming experience where you can enjoy the game for all its overt silliness and marvel or laugh at just how shoddy it really is, and appreciate where the Genesis library grew from there. I think you’ll find that the other major “launch window” action platformer, Mystic Defender, is light years ahead of this game in nearly every category.
“…unless you’re looking for a MST3K-style gaming experience where you can enjoy the game for all its overt silliness and marvel or laugh at just how shoddy it really is.”
Last Battle was a goofy palate cleanser after the incredibly serious and frustrating Thunder Force II.
I guess I have mixed feelings on this game. If you put yourself in the time and place of the Genesis launch, it had these awesome huge sprites. And it was a beat me up game with RPG elements. Like you had to learn the optimum paths to level up. And you could time it so your power meter filled right at the boss so you could fight them powered up. Or try and hit every stage and get more strength. The bosses where fun to fight. They each had there own strategy on where to jump on and attack. The regular stages were pretty much filler. And the labyrinths infuriated me. I beat this back in the day.
Now why I have a fond spot for this game now is that it based on Fist of the North Star. The confusing part is, around the time this came out the movie dropped in video stores. But the movie was a condensed version of the first arc of the TV series. So if you played last battle, you definetly recognized some of the characters from the movie. But then their was confusing stuff like Bart and Lynn being adult characters. Then the last two bosses who were your brothers didn’t make sense because in the movie one brother didn’t look anthing like the second to last boss. And the last boss looked a lot like Rao. And then they had traveling on a ship? And a pirate dude?
Turns out this was based on the second arc of the animated series, Hokuto No Ken 2. It wasn’t until this was fan subbed and I watched it in 2005 or 2006 that I realized this. Then it all made sense. All the characters from the second series where in this game. The second series was never released in the US in any form. It’s set maybe 10 years after the first series. The last two bosses are your brothers from the second series, well your long lost brothers you didn’t know about. The last boss in Last Battle is actually Rao’s older brother and looks extremely like him. It would have made a lot more sense knowing the story ahead of time.
I wish we got exploding heads in our version. For a licensed game this is pretty decent. But since In the US they stripped the license it made the game worse for it. It was not my favorite launch game in the US. But I didn’t hate it. Defenitly an early try at a 16-bit game.
So the story does make sense if you’ve watched the second arc of Hokuto no Ken? I better not watch it then. It’s more fun to think the characters are yelling nonsense at each other.
Oh yea it follows the anime and manga arc pretty closely,
So good to see a decent review of this. Must be one of the worlds most hated games, but fuck me is it awesome. Loved this when i was kid. Had all the great beat-em ups on mega drive like Streets of Rage and Golden Axe and whatever else, but this was always my favourite. Needs an HD remake, like Streets of Rage remake, with body explosions added back in with some new features. Someone make it happen!
Glad to see someone else enjoys Last Battle for what it is! Thanks Pat!
Nice one – it isn’t very often that you stumble across Last Battle without it being summarised as a ‘horrible game best left well alone’ 🙂
I only have the western version and I really like it, it does strike me as a master system/Megadrive crossover type of game but I appreciate this like on the boss screen fights.
Again, not the best but certainly doesn’t deserve the flack that it has been heaped with over the years, I never understood it as it is massively playable unlike those later digitized games where you don’t seem to have the same control over your character.
The parts where you can choose your path remind me of an old arcade favourite of mine Dragon Buster*.
*Dragon Buster is probably the best arcade game that you have possibly never played, it is from 1983/4 and deserves a mention because Clovis the protagonist utilises a ‘life bar’ in the game that is commonplace now and it is believed that Namco were the first company to use this in place of the one hit and dead format which was the normal thing in arcade video games back then.
The problem is in comparing Last Battle to Streets of Rage II. That’s not fair, Last Battle is super early Genesis. And compared to a lot of Master System beat-em-ups, it was a definite improvement.