Recently I acquired a handful of Saturn imports, one of which was Sega’s Last Bronx. An early attempt at bringing the weapons-based fighter into the third dimension, Last Bronx is a game that is oft-forgotten by Western audiences. While it lacks the luster and epic scale of its closest genre contemporary, Namco’s Soul Edge, Last Bronx is a technical achievement in its own right, and a solid entry in the Saturn’s vast catalog of fighters.
Originally released to Japanese arcades in 1996, the Saturn port of Last Bronx is quite possibly the best looking 3D fighter on the system. Though the Saturn wasn’t known for being a 3D powerhouse, it was quite capable of producing visually stunning ports of games originally designed for Sega’s Model 2 hardware. Last Bronx appears to run at a constant 60 FPS, and the animation (all of which is motion-captured) is extremely fluid. It almost pains me to say it, but Last Bronx simply does not look like a Sega Saturn game, and I don’t think that anybody would assume that it was without prior knowledge.
Unfortunately, Last Bronx’s gameplay is nowhere near as stellar as its visuals. Though it is a more than competent 3D fighter, it’s ostensibly a simplified “Virtua Fighter with weapons.” While Last Bronx has 9 characters (two of whom are basically clones), their movesets are relatively limited. Additionally, outside of the presence of weapons, Last Bronx has no truly unique gameplay systems to set it apart from the pack. Last Bronx is by no means a shallow fighter, but it unequivocally lacks the depth of its contemporaries.
Notably, every attack in Last Bronx deals big damage. It’s not uncommon for matches to be over after one or two combo strings. Matches move at a brisk pace, and each hit feels like it counts. Unfortunately, this very trait also makes play against the CPU a pretty unrewarding affair – it’s very easy to spam your way to victory.
But then again, the endings are so short, there’s virtually no reward for single-player play to begin with.
The Japanese home version of Last Bronx also features a host of extra features, including an extremely robust training mode, where super-deformed versions of the characters give you a series of “lectures” on high level play. It’s more or less indecipherable without a working knowledge of Japanese, but it’s certainly a novel concept.
Also, these are my three favorite stage names in game history:
While Last Bronx never quite achieves greatness, it’s quite easy to find it out in the wild for an affordable price. I’d recommend that anybody with more than a passing interest in the Saturn give it a shot. If you’re interested, I’d highly recommend Harry Nezumi’s extremely thorough writeup over at Hardcore Gaming 101 – it’s about as comprehensive as it gets.