Samurai Shodown Review
Extra Features: Local Multiplayer, Online Multiplayer, Download Content, Leaderboards
Samurai Shodown was one of the more unique SNK fighters back in the early 90s and had an overall good run while the Neo Geo was popular. The series always went all-out with a very unique cast of characters and was well known for its incredible damage output for some of its heavier attacks. Ever since the release of Samurai Shodown Sen, the Samurai Shodown series has been dormant for quite a while. The recent Samurai Shodown serves as a reboot of the main series. The game is literally a love letter to fans of Samurai Shodown (SamSho) since it includes everything we would expect from the classic games in the series along with a nice new facelift.
The game has cast of 16 fighters. The list is comprised of many returning characters from the original SamSho along with characters from sequels. SamSho has always had a roster of characters that ooze personality and all the character in the reboot are no exception. We still have Ukyo that is barely managing to live from the disease that plagues him yet he still fights on to gain the affection of his beloved. The tag team of Galford and Poppy are still just as overly enthusiastic as their first appearance. And then there is the mysterious Hanzo, the super serious Charlotte, the badass Genjuro along with many other returning characters.
This time SamSho has a graphical style that resembles Street Fighter IV. Instead of having comical animations, SamSho stays serious with its overall style unless the wackyness or lightheartedness fits the fighter. The overall style of the reboot is absolutely beautiful. The game has tons of eye candy to enjoy. Special moves fill the air with sword slashing effects and super moves go really wild with a ridiculous sequence of attacks. Classic SamSho games are very memorable to me for their overall sound and the reboot certainly sounds great. We still get the Japanese announcer saying the names of the winning fighters and round numbers. The game has great sound for its overall attacks and the soundtrack is really good. The ending theme is quite catchy!
The overall gameplay of the reboot goes back to the basics of SamSho. Combos are very small and the focus is on landing the perfect strike to get high damage. SamSho is definitely not a game where you can get away with whiffing an attack against an experienced player or they will kill you instantly or hurt you badly as punishment. The reboot seems easier to pick up and play than past games since most attacks require less directional inputs - for instance all super attacks and weapon flipping techniques have the same inputs for the whole cast. The game still uses four attack buttons (three levels of slash attacks and one kick). Heavy attacks are often the most damaging type of attack outside of super moves. Each fighter has a rage gauge that builds up as the fighter takes damage from attacks. Once the gauge is filled, the fighter's attacks will be more powerful and you will gain the option for performing a super attack. The super attack from a filled rage gauge can only be performed one time per full rage charge and it takes around 75% of your opponent's health - landing a super attack at the precise moment can easily be the deciding factor in a fight.
Along with super attacks, you can also forfeit your rage gauge at any time with a rage explosion. Once a rage explosion takes place, you will gain higher damage for a set amount of time as your rage bar diminishes. During that time period, you can perform a weapon flipping technique (much like a super attack) that will hit your opponent for a good amount of damage and send their weapon to one side of the screen. Unlike the super attack, the weapon flipping technique can be performed constantly while the rage gauge is still diminishing. Once your opponent is disarmed, you can guard the dropped weapon and try to keep your opponent from picking up their weapon. A weaponless opponent hits only for low damage and is nearly as the mercy of the fighter with a weapon. Rage explosion is a high risk move however since you lose your rage gauge for the rest of the match.
For single player, SamSho has a Story mode, time trial, survival and gauntlet mode. The story mode is more of an arcade mode when compared to other fighting game's story mode. It has a heavier emphasis on storytelling than past games but it is all rather minuscule. Each fighter has their own intro and ending but the majority of the rest of the story is the same for each character. I feel the story mode gets the job done for what it is - I would rather have a story mode that gives a little background on each character than a boring overdone cutscene driven narrative that many fighters are flocking to lately. The time trial and survival modes are basically what you would expect and the gauntlet puts you in a type of survival mode where you have one chance to go against all fighters in the game.
You have your usual training mode and there is a tutorial that teaches you the basics of the game. The game can be played locally or online with other players. The online mode has both casual and ranked matches. Casual matches put you in a room with other players where you can challenge them to matches. The ranked mode is your standard ranked match. The overall feel of the online felt just as good as other fighters that use the rollback type of netcode. I've heard that the game had problems with its netcode during the first few weeks of release, but I didn't have any problems with my matches. There is also a ghost battle mode where you can fight against another player's AI character. You can either challenge one ghost in a Ghost Match or challenge several ghosts in an Ironman Challenge (100 ghosts in a row).
If you're a fan of Samurai Shodown, you definitely need to check out this game. Even if you've never played a SamSho before, check out this game. It's easily the most unique fighter out on the market at the moment thanks to the emphasis on precision attacks and punishing the opponent for high damage rather than trying for long combos and guesses with mixups. Samurai Shodown is honestly the best game that SNK has given us in recent years. It's very polished and it looks and sounds fantastic!
+ Beautiful visual style that matches Samurai Shodown well
+ Overall gameplay has the same feel as the classic series (mainly SamSho 1 and 2)
+ Amazing soundtrack and overall sound effects
- None of the stages really stand out as being memorable
- The online multiplayer is very simple in both casual and ranked
Final Rating: 86% - Samurai Shodown reboots the classic series beautifully!