LAST BLADE 2 / SNK / Arcade
Last Blade 2 is an absolutely gorgeous weapons-based fighter that is almost impossible to learn how to play.
Much like SNK's previous weapons-based title Samurai Shodown, Last Blade is set in 20th-century Japan, specifically the Bakumatsu period. The characters are not exactly historically accurate however, being mostly angsty anime-style teenagers with the occasional goofy comic relief type thrown in. It apparently has an ongoing story, but it does not seem to be developed in-game anywhere, leaving me confused as to exactly what is going on.
Nonetheless, the graphics and animation are absolutely top-flight for the period and still hold up well today. Music is minimalist, with a traditional Japanese style when it appears, but many stages simply take place against ambient wind and water noises. Whether this lends the game an elegant or boring atmosphere is up to you entirely.
The gameplay is fairly similar to that of Samurai Shodown, the one major difference being the "deflect" system used here. Pressing the D button puts your character into a parry mode for a second or two, and if attacked they will automatically counter and leave the opponent open for a second to a retributional strike.
It's really a very well-made fighter and an absolute feast for the eyes. The trouble with it is that unless you have another person around of the same skill level to practice with, it is nearly impossible to learn. At about the fourth match the computer suddenly goes into "Master Mode" and becomes nearly impossible to defeat without knowledge of the game's more powerful moves and combos. And these combos are nearly requisite, as regular hits really don't do jack (unlike in Samurai Shodown, where one could play functionally well without knowing any special moves). Some of the combos are pretty cranked up as well - it's not uncommon to see the computer leap across the screen at the very beginning of a match and hit you in a combo that takes off literally 1/2 of your health bar. With the CPU all over your ass like white on rice constantly, there's just no room to experiment with special moves and finding your own combos.
If you have the time and patience to invest in it, it's really quite a good fighter. It's definitely not a title for casual gamers, however - I think you'll have to already be a fairly hardcore fighting game fan coming in to really enjoy this one.
* Gameplay Video