The Last Blade 2, known as Romance of the Bakumatsu Act II: Swordsman of the Moonlight - On the Moon a Flower Blooming, a Petal Falling in Japan, is the second entry to The Last Blade series. It was first released in arcades on November 25, 1998. It has several home console versions, including Neo Geo AES and Neo Geo CD versions, a Dreamcast port, and a Neo Geo Pocket Color conversion entitled The Last Blade - Beyond the Destiny, released in Japan on March 13, 2000. The Neo Geo CD version includes an extra quiz mode, voiced cutscenes, and a gallery section from both titles. Most of these features and the Neo Geo additions were combined for the Dreamcast port titled Last Blade 2: Heart of the Samurai released in 2001. Film of the game was also released on January 1, 1999. It follows Hibiki's reluctant journey as a warrior. Neo Geo CD and Dreamcast had their Exclusive Characters named Musashi Akatsuki.
Long before humanity existed, in a far off time of myth, death was an unknown, equally distant concept, but when death first came to the world, the "Messenger from Afar" was born. With time, the Sealing Rite was held in order to seal Death behind Hell's Gate. At that time, two worlds, one near and one far, were born. Thus the history of life and death began. Half a year has passed since Suzaku's madness, and the underworld is still linked by a great portal. Kagami's great sin is still heard as if ringing from the heavens. Our world has been called upon. Legends of long ago told of the sealing of the boundary between the two worlds. The Sealing Rite would be necessary to hold back the spirits of that far away world
The setting is set one year after the events of the first game. Gameplay elements remain the same as the first title with some minor adjustments. One more mode called "EX" was added to play, which is a combination of "Speed" and "Power". The grim mood of the series was stressed more than its predecessor through various ways: both introductions to the game hint to the end of an age, characters are colored to be slightly darker, and the game's cutscenes are made lengthier to emphasize the importance of the plot. Three new characters were introduced: Hibiki Takane - daughter of a famed sword smith, she is searching for the silver-haired man that requested the last blade her father made. Setsuna - a being believed to be the "Messenger from Afar", he requested a blade to be forged from Hibiki's father. Kojiroh Sanada - Shinsengumi captain of Unit Zero; investigating the Hell's Portal. While the sequel's graphics are well-rendered and the musical score is just as good as -if not better than- the first game, fans are split on the game's newer character imbalance. Characters are no longer equal, set with a greater difference of strengths and weaknesses than before. Some of the previous titles' characters were weakened greatly, requiring much more skill to master (ie: Yuki, Kagami, Kaede) and others can overpower the rest unfairly through pure button-mashing (ie: Mukuro, Setsuna, Okina). The "EX" mode has its share of detractors as well, most panning it as being too rule-breaking or a shallow addition to an already complex game. Regardless of its criticisms, it's still regarded as one of the finest games to have ever graced the Neo Geo in both story scenario and graphics.
Source: Wikipedia, "The Last Blade 2", available under the CC-BY-SA License.