Five minutes into this 2D side-scrolling brawler, half of the achievements had already unlocked. It was at this point we started to worry that it was one of those games – the kind that seemingly only exists to provide an easy 1000G/Platinum service. But then the first boss gave us a pasting, inadvertently revealing that there’s some tact here too. Whew.
When it comes to games of this genre, dozens of retro classics – mostly from the early and mid-’90s – instantly spring to mind. Of these, Last Beat Enchanced resembles two more closely than the rest – the NES iteration of Double Dragon, and Capcom’s celebrated Final Fight. It looks like the former but plays like the latter. The often-forgotten Mighty Final Fight is perhaps a better, all-encompassing, comparison.
It doesn’t quite nail the 8-bit aesthetic though, being reminiscent of the recent NeoGeo Pocket Color re-releases that have turned up on Switch. Chunky outlines do at least help it to stand out.
Presentation elsewhere is a mixed bag – nicely drawn character portraits on splash screens, but a peculiar choice of font on the menus, and we also noticed some punctuation errors within the text.
By featuring a few faces that will be familiar to beat’em up fans – with subtle alterations to avoid pesky lawsuits – it’s clear that this is intended to be a love letter to the genre. It’s a pretty typical affair – eight short stages that each end with a boss battle, lots of weapons to weld, and some bonus stages – including a lane-switching motorbike mini-game – to provide variety. Each location introduces new enemy types and hazards – which the dim-witted AI can be coaxed into.
Two playable characters are available initially, with Din – a bipedal lizard/dinosaur – unlocking halfway. Two additional characters can then be purchased later, requiring a hefty wad of cash – something tricky to acquire on a single playthrough.
The flow of cash is something of a sticking point – permanent “improvements” are available, starting at $8k, but a typical stage only provides around $2k. As such, between starting a new game and seeing it through to the end, you may only be able to afford a single upgrade. Cash is also used to revive yourself, albeit as a last resort. If a stage has only just started, it’s more cost-effective to let the timer run out and retry.
Another modern touch is that it’s possible to return to the map screen and revisit past stages, although, with no ranking feature, the only reason to revisit is to earn extra moolah.
Characters have slightly different stats, with some favouring speed over might. Feisty female Noa uses kicks, while John prefers to use fists. Din, meanwhile, finishes combos with a tail whip. Collision detection is floaty no matter who you play as, to the point that this is hard to recommend to anyone who plays scrolling brawlers with one-credit/no-hit runs in mind – not that it has the means of tracking such feats. On the subject of collision detection, items such as health top-ups occasionally glitched, making them impossible to grab.
Last Beat Enhanced isn’t too tricky to master. Survival mostly relies on hitting enemies the second they reach striking distance, plus making sure you’re never surrounded by enemies on either side and using super moves proficiently. The placing of health pick-ups is well-judged, which in turn makes the difficulty level feel fair – ignoring the times we couldn’t actually pick-up the pick-ups.
While a little light and flimsy, Last Beat Enhanced still manages to entertain. Each stage is different from the last, it’s visually bright and cheery, and the homages amuse – even if some are a little on the nose. Din’s goofy walk cycle is almost guaranteed to brighten your day. Likewise, the game itself puts its best foot forward, only to occasionally stumble. So much for walking a well-worn path, eh?
Available now on all formats, Last Beat Enhanced is developed by Totalconsole and published by 7 Raven Studios.