Fast action, comic book inspired visuals, and a plethora of unique characters creates the vibrant world of Lastfight, an indie brawler from the French three-man team of Piranaking.
Based in the panels of French comic book Lastman, it’s one of the few games that is able to blend the already-existing world of its source material with its own independent identity of a fun fighting game that will feel reminiscent to any arena-fighter fan.
Lastfight takes obvious inspiration from the Sega Dreamcast classic Power Stone in both its design and its structure. Employing a similar arena style, one to four players can jump in and duke it out ’til their fist’s delight (or button’s delight in this case) in eight different 3D locations. The camera is positioned at the map’s corner, slowly following the action when needed. Like its inspirations, the locked perspective in a 3D environment allows for frantic and often chaotic battles that mix in throwable objects, map-specific hazards, and collectable power-ups. Surprisingly, the chaos is never lost as the map size is small enough to keep the craziness contained. While fitting enough to make one-on-one matches work, the small map size is truly meant for four players of either computer-controlled or human-inhabited characters. It’s a guaranteed recipe for dizzying amounts of on-screen mayhem.
Lastfight‘s mechanics are relatively simple without much difference between its ten-character roster. A controller is recommended due to its console-inherited design, but not necessary if playing alone against AI. Players use either a main attack, a special move, or a grab to inflict damage on their enemy while they can also dash out of danger or block to prevent it. There are no counters or escapes that can be made if caught in another player’s combo, aside from a well timed block which can simultaneously give you extra health and energy if done correctly. The only real variety in play is the game’s three different types of special moves, which are designated to certain character groups.
EX attacks are stronger than normal attacks, but they require energy to use which is gained from hitting other players. Rage allows certain character’s attacks to become stronger with more energy. Other characters have the ability to charge their attacks over time to create more damage. The variety is there, but ultimately is a superficial way to differentiate characters during play. All in all, matches normally feel as though everyone is playing with the same tool-set, aside from a few more powerful standouts. It can become mundane if played for extensive hours at a time.
Lastfight houses a story mode, which can only be played by one person, that follows an arcade-like ladder which places you against every playable character in the game. It however only allows you to play as one of its two leading characters: Richard Aldana, an undefeated star of Lastman’s fictitious martial arts tournament, or his partner Duke Diamonds. It gives the game a buddy-cope feel as the two are inseparable for the story’s duration. It’s unfortunate that the plot is one of its biggest detractions.
As Aldana’s girlfriend is captured by a mysterious foe, the duo set off to rescue the damsel in distress. An admittedly regressive premise is only set back further when the game forces you to fight alone, despite the fact that you are constantly accompanied by your partner. The game uses AI combatants in both its story and versus modes, which makes this omission of an AI buddy or co-op option puzzling, even more so when the game tries to explain why your friend is always somehow missing from fights. An in-game excuse like “I had sand in my eyes” is just one of the preposterous reasons it conjures up your partner’s absence, making it feel even worse than if they had said nothing at all. It’s a depressing note for the game that otherwise is a brilliantly fun time, as its single player mode has the potential to recreate games like Fatal Fury.
While the comic book source has a wide variety of interesting characters, Lastfight only pulls from a fraction of its cast. The two leading protagonists from its story feel like the game’s attempt at establishing its own Ken and Ryu or Scorpion and Sub-Zero. While they are mostly uninteresting, the rest of the game’s cast is filled with character. Crackjaw, for instance, is a fish-like humanoid brute that can stun enemies into floating bubbles of water. Coldkane is a wall-street banker who lights his own cigars with other already lit cigars. Spice is a Poison Ivy-esque seductress with the ability to summon large vines and venus-fly traps. It’s characters like these that give the game its personality, thriving off of its wacky cast and even wackier move-sets.
Yet since not many of the characters play differently from one another, the fights in the game feel very similar in comparison. Specific maps will offer different objects, such as weapons or chairs to throw, but because of the lack of breadth in its design Lastfight all too often feels like the same battle repeated ad nauseum. While it may not be actively trying to court fans of games like Tekken or Street Fighter, over time it shows that any nostalgic charm wears thin, becoming little more than a trip down memory lane. It’s a seriously dangerous problem, although as the game offers no online multiplayer functions it avoids the potential of player drop-off over time.
However, the implementation of nostalgia is fairly well done. Lastfight‘s cartoon-like aesthetic is simultaneously authentic to its comic book origins as well as feeling like it could have existed on an older, more forgotten machine. That doesn’t mean it looks dated however, as Lastfight expertly uses its stylistic choice in the same vein as games like Team Fortress 2, making it feel almost timeless in the process. Wonderful dashes of color only add to the effect as flaming fists fly, flurries of water splash, and heavily emphasized impacts smash in an already vibrant-looking game.
For only three people to create such a satisfying and artistically pleasing game is wildly impressive. Enough so that for all its problems, it’s still a game that feels welcome in the current fighting game space. While its story mode is gravely lacking and there is little complexity or depth to its systems, it still accomplishes what it sets out to do expertly. A genuine indie successor can be found here for those who are dying to relive their 3D-sprawling fights from Power Stone. In an age where every genre and cult-classic is getting the revision-treatment, Lastfight offers up a unique and nostalgic take on a formula that has been sorely missing this past decade.