I’m sure many of us of a certain age had a Game Boy or Game Gear when they were kids. Playing through bite-sized classics makes for some great childhood memories. I’m sure there’s quite a few of us who remember dumping hours into Tetris, Pokemon or Super Mario Land way back when. Over in Japan they loved their handhelds as well, including the Neo Geo Pocket Color, or NGPC, an SNK device known for an interesting selection of exclusive titles and high-quality fighting games.
Most of us in the West haven’t had the chance to play one, but by golly SNK wants you to get to know the NGPC, and they’re going to start by introducing you to The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny, a mini-sized version of the classic 1997 Neo Geo Bakumatsu fighter.
The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny is a pretty straightforward title to understand. You’re buying the classic NGPC mino-fighter in a format that’s playable on the Switch. That’s about it, really. There’s a few of the bells and whistles that we’ve come to expect from classic re-releases like this, such as a rewind mode (which feels especially cheaty on a fighting game) and various flavors of border, image zoom and filter, but other than that you’re getting what you would have got back in 2000.
With that in mind, while you probably shouldn’t come in expecting the next great fighting game, Beyond the Destiny is actually a pretty passable rendition of The Last Blade. You’ve only got two buttons, but many of the fighters’ special moves remain intact and it’s still perfectly possible to string together combos. There’s also a surprisingly diverse cast with over ten characters to choose from; keep in mind, of course, that this is from a handheld at a time when the Game Boy Advance was still a year off and fighters had to be trimmed significantly to fit on the Game Boy Color. It’s pretty impressive, all in all.
Likewise, there are a surprising number of modes and minigames to enjoy in this miniscule title. Playing earns you points that can be spent to unlock new characters, endings and minigames; this includes unlocking characters from The Last Blade 2, which is a nice touch. I was actually a little surprised to see Kaede in his unawakened form from the original game and assumed that the blonde-haired form from the second game wasn’t present, but Beyond the Destiny is full of surprises.
Graphically, well…this is a handheld game from 2000, I’m not really sure what you expect! The Switch handles it perfectly well, offering a selection of borders (mostly different flavors of NGPC) and the ability to zoom in the game if you’d prefer. Playing on handheld mode is, of course, the way to go here, but Beyond the Destiny also works perfectly well as a TV game. The multiplayer even remains, though it’s got an interesting split-screen arrangement since the original version ran on two consoles at once via a link cable.
All that said, it’s worth keeping in mind that both the original The Last Blade and its superior sequel are available on the Switch as well. For hardcore fans of the series The Last Blade: Beyond the Destiny is an easy recommendation and a no-brainer for Neo Geo enthusiasts. On the other hand, if you’re new to The Last Blade: first, it’s absolutely a series that’s worth checking out, and second, you’d probably be better off starting with one of the full-fledged fighters that you can currently get on the Switch for a song. Once you’ve fallen in love with The Last Blade as so many of us Neo Geo nuts have, then come back and take a look at its mini version.