The original Samurai Shodown was released by SNK to arcades in 1993. I remember fondly playing it along with many other SNK fighters over the decade. In the last 26 years, the game has spawned a ton of sequels and many of its characters even appear in other SNK games. Samurai Shodown takes place in the unique setting of 18th century Japan where an ancient evil has taken over the region. Fighters from all over the world come together in battle to help the populace, or themselves, in this time of struggle.
Though this version of Samurai Shodown is a reboot, it still uses many of the characters throughout the series’ previous entries. Players can choose from 16 different fighters with more being added in upcoming DLC. Fighters range from the iconic ronin Haohmaru and ninja Galford, to new characters like female carpenter Darli Dagger. Yes that’s right, a carpenter, with a big ass saw blade sword, and she is awesome!
The first major difference I noticed with Samurai Shodown is the amazing graphics compared to previous entries. Obviously there have been many graphical advancements in fighting games over the years, but many developers still stick to the tried and true 2D cartoon-style, side-scrolling template.
This is actually the first game in the Samurai Shodown to use the Unreal Engine, creating 3D textured characters on a 2D background. Similar to Street Fighter V, characters visually show damage as the battle progresses. Something I personally love.
Samurai Shodown is not for button mashers. Most modern fighters obviously require a level of understanding and skill for the various mechanics to be a competitive player, but many also accommodate unskilled or new players to a degree. That’s not to say Samurai Shodown isn’t enjoyable for fighter newbies, but the way the game is designed, it favors precision and perfectly timed button presses.
This becomes very apparent if you manage to make it to the end boss of the story mode. I learned the hard way that Samurai Shodown very quickly removes the kid gloves and will wreck you if you just plan to spam attacks and button mash.
On paper Samurai Shodown seems simple. Players only use four attack buttons; a quick, medium, and heavy weapon attack along with a kick. Special moves are not very complex and fighter veterans will quickly feel at home. Samurai Shodown relies on a risk vs. reward system. While that heavy attack does a ton of damage if it connects, it is slow and leaves you wide open if it is blocked. Timing is key to nearly everything in Samurai Shodown.
There are various abilities to dodge, parry, and even disarm your opponent. This creates an intricate play style relying more on strategy and patience than any fighter in recent memory.
As I said before, graphically, Samurai Shodown is gorgeous. The characters and levels are intricate, but still retain the original animated aesthetic. Audio and sound effects are a perfect homage to the original game and the Japanese intros and voice work brought me right back to 1993.
Samurai Shodown doesn’t over do it with a ton of characters, but that is okay because they all play so differently.
My biggest complaint about Samurai Shodown would have to be the lack of a good story mode. The feature is there, but in this day and age I expect a little more in a single player experience. I do not expect every fighter to have the huge budget and story of say Mortal Kombat 11, but the basic intro, ending, and simple cut-scenes do not do the characters justice.
I want to know more about them and it seems like a loss when considering the Unreal Engine is being used, some great stuff could of been shown. Oh and of course being an SNK game, the final boss of the story mode is extremely difficult, with many characters I was just unable to defeat it and have the sore thumbs to prove it.
There is an interesting feature in Samurai Shodown that I have never seen before; the “Dojo” mode. Here players can go up against a CPU controlled “ghost” that mimics the play style of the human player behind it. Essentially it’s a learning A.I. that will grow as the player does. You can even fight your own ghost. It’s a neat idea, but I didn’t really see much out of it yet, as most times the ghost just seems to hop around and attack at random. Still, it is a neat idea and I hope to see the technology grow.
Samurai Shodown is a fighting game for the connoisseur. The slow pace and use of counter attacks creates something unique in the current state of the genre. It will also tickle your nostalgia fancy if you played the original games. While the lack of solid single player content is disappointing, the online and local battles were some of the most intense and crazy fights I have ever experienced in my 25-plus years playing these types of games.
If you are looking for a great fighting game and something different check out Samurai Shodown.