Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Last Hope (NG:Dev.Team)

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Under most circumstances, console games are licensed to be released on consoles (meaning the manufacturer sold the right to create a game on its console), however in the case of Last Hope, lead development console Neo Geo was completely out of print.  Furthermore the game has seen much more success as a Dreamcast title, where it was more appropriately tweaked and cost a hell of a lot less than the 128 mb carts (basically a small arcade board) they originally produced the game on.  This is often the case when a developer makes a game for a system long past its prime, we’ve also seen similar unlicensed titles from indie devs like the recent Genesis/Mega Drive release of Pier SolarLast Hope is a surprisingly fun shmup in the vein of R-Type that really captures the feel of a classic 80s arcade game based almost purely on score.  It’s even more significant that it was originally developed on the Neo Geo, a console fully capable of supporting large sprites in busy shmups but few developers created these types of games for.

To even touch the plot at this point is pretty stupid because you know the drill and can probably guess by the title alone: aliens invade and you are the last hope.  What is impressive is that this shmup contains six levels, four difficulties, hand drawn backgrounds (this is a big part of my love for it) and I believe sprite-based ships and enemies.  Furthermore the game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, both the Neo Geo and Dreamcast versions are identical (including identical pixel-to-pixel count in 320×240) and all versions are region free (European players will need to support 60 hz on whatever display device they use).  In short, it is programming a game with love for the console and game in mind, not profit.

Initial print runs for the Neo Geo were extremely limited as the components to make the carts had skyrocketed in cost to a whopping price tag at the time of release of 550 euros (that’s like $750).  Mind you, this isn’t the collector’s price tag on eBay, this is the price if you had purchased it directly from the dev team in 2006.  As a result, only 60 copies were sold and this game is one of the most rare titles available.  It was also released on Neo Geo CD for a much more manageable price, although I don’t know what price that specifically was.  Plagued with long load times (like all Neo Geo CD titles), the only benefit to the game was the bright pink bullets that would later be the format used for the 2009 re-release on Dreamcast.  Play-asia.com and a few other retailers produced and sold the Dreamcast port in 2006 for $40 with a limited print run of 500.  It sold out in 5 days and sells for $300+ online these days – personal note: I received a copy at a retro gaming convention I was covering that year and ended up trading it for the much less valuable re-release.

While it was praised for the technical superiority as a Neo Geo game, and connections to one of the only other Neo Geo shmups Pulstar were constantly made (that I’m not sure I agree with), the game was criticized for having bullets that could hide within the backgrounds and explosions.  This made the title brutally difficult and I don’t think I could pass the third level on the lowest difficulty, my eyes seemingly playing tricks on me as I attempt to dodge a flurry of bullets.  As a response, the bright pink bullets from the Neo Geo CD version and a few extras were worked into the game for a 2009 re-release Last Hope: Pink Bullets Edition.  This made the game much easier but in a fair type of way, which I can now safely say I was eventually able to grind through thanks to infinite respawns instead of checkpoints and purposefully lower difficulty.  This version came in a bright pink plastic case and I traded my original copy for it because I didn’t have the $50 it was selling for and felt the original was too hard for me.  I’ve since come to terms with the value I gave away for an overpriced title (it was supposed to be sold for $25 by retailers).  This great game becomes available from time to time in reprints and I’m happy to announce that another batch is coming this summer for 20 euros (roughly $27) and can be pre-ordered now.

I just love indie development so much that to get my hands on titles like this is a great slice of rare history.  With no region coding and full compatibility with US consoles, this is a cheap shmup by all accounts.

That wraps up Shmuppreciation Month 2012, thanks for joining us and please feel free to check out all of our articles we released on our central hub.  Stay tuned tomorrow where we kick off April with my favorite April Fool’s Day jokes from the past – remember when we were told Sheng Long existed in Street Fighter II?

Written by Fred Rojas

March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Shmuppreciation 2012

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

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