Review: Last Resort (Neo Geo CD)

Last Resort was released in arcades on the Neo Geo hardware in 1992 and later released on the Neo Geo CD in 1994. The title was definitely inspired by one of the best shmups of all time, R-Type, which lead to many rumors that ex Irem workers also worked on this title. Whether that is true or not, I have no idea. So how does this horizontal shooter compare to Irem's classic? Read on.

The protagonist is Last Resort is a cyber jet ship. Like R-Type you almost immediately obtain an orb like companion that gives you additional fire power and acts like a shield. This leads to my first problem with the game. In R-Type, you could dock the orb to the front or back of your ship, or strategically place it where ever you wanted on the screen. The orb in last resort stays by you. But what is weird is how it moves and shoots.

When you press up, your cyber jet moves up, but the orb moves down and fires down. You can "lock" it into place, but it still shoots in the opposite direction of where you are flying. This is absolutely maddening. If I am pressing up, it's because I want to shoot something in that direction, not because I want to shoot down. You do get used to it after a while, but it never feels natural.

As with most shmups, Last Resort gives you additional fire power in the form of enemy seeking rockets, lasers, ring things (also from R-Type), speed powers ups, and the ability to charge-up your orb and fire it at enemies for mega damage. From a weapons perspective, Last Resort doesn't really offer anything new.

Ok, so orb oddities aside, there is a lot to like in Last Resort. First and foremost are the graphics and atmosphere. The first level in particular, features many background layers giving a great sense of depth and detail and really sets the tone for the futuristic game. As the game progresses, the backgrounds do get a little less detailed and less interesting, as if the designers starting running out of ideas. What stays fresh however and the sub and main bosses. They are well detailed, animated, and huge.

The soundtrack is excellent as well, though it doesn't take advantage of the CD medium at all. Still, SNK's Neo Geo hardware has always excelled in the audio department and Last Resort is miles ahead of anything capable on the 16-bit Genesis or Super Nintendo. Each of the 5 levels has its own unique music track that fits the game's futuristic atmosphere well. The sound affects are your standard fare, with nice laser sounds and forceful explosions.

Where Last Resort really excels is the game play. Like most shmups, the name of the game is recognizing and memorizing enemy patterns and placement. The first level is a breeze and the difficulty ramps up from there. Each level has a few unique challenges to it and you really have to use your head and your reflexes to get through.

For example, the second level features a tight cavern lined with turrets on the top and bottom. You can utilize your orb to try and take them all out, or stick to the bottom and take out half the turrets with your cyber jet, or stick to the middle and carefully avoid all of the bullets coming at you. Unlike R-Type, there is more than one way to make your way through the levels and obstacles.

You also have to know which enemies can be beaten with raw fire power, and which enemies need to be taken down with the "charged" orb. Some of the larger enemies need to be taken out with well charged shot, and I like that it matters. In R-Type, you could more or less choose to use a rapid fire approach, or a charged approach.

About half way through level four Last Resort gets insanely hard. You will die, a lot, but the Neo Geo CD version does gives you unlimited continues. I have never had a game ask such ridiculous feats of precision from me before. There are so many things trying to kill you at once, there are limited safe spots for your ship, it starts to get frustrating. Still, no matter how many times I died I kept coming back for more. There is definitely something addictive about this game.

Thankfully, there are a few checkpoints in each level, so you don't have to restart the level when you die. The game never tells you when you reach a checkpoint, but usually the background changes, there is a new wave of enemies, or you beat a sub boss.

There is a 2-player cooperative mode but I was unable to test it. Fans of Last Resort insist this is the best way to play as you don't restart back to a check point when you die, not to mention having double the firepower. I have no doubt this is true.

Because the Neo Geo CD has such a bad reputation regarding loading times, I do like to mention the load time. Like most early Neo Geo titles, Last Resort had a long load when you first boot it up, but after the entire game is in RAM, there is nothing interrupting game play.

Overall, Last Resort is a solid addition to any Neo Geo CD library. The game play, graphics, and sound are all good. I don't particularly care for the way the orb mechanics work, but it can be overcome with enough practice. Neo Geo CD gamers looking for something different for their collection should look no further than Last Resort. For shmup fans, this is a must own.

Graphics 7/10 - Starts off excellent, but tapers off as you progress
Sound 7/10 - Great sound track and decent effects
Game play 6/10 - Odd orb mechanics, insane difficulty in the later levels
Overall 7/10 - Addictive