SNK Samurai Shodown the reboot is finally coming to PC, albeit an Epic Games Store exclusive. Arrived at the same time as the Samurai Shodown Collection NeoGeo, which celebrates the legacy of the fighting game series, the latest title stands as a new start for the series. The reality, however, is that Samurai Shodown ties very tightly to its arcade roots, even when we expect more from a modern fighting game.
the Samurai Shodown series has been around for over 25 years, although it has never had the same recognition as Street fightr or Mortal combat. But it still stands out for its unique style, both aesthetically and in gameplay.
The way of the warrior
On the surface, Samurai ShodownThe mechanics seem normal for the course. You have your light, medium, and heavy attack, plus a kick. What really does Samurai Shodown different is cause damage. As it should be in a game with deadly weapons, every hit counts. A heavy attack is slow, easy to interrupt, and deals massive damage. The blows seem heavy and satisfying enough to land. Because a well-timed basic attack can turn the tide of battle, fights focus on footwork and spacing, using dashes and quick attacks to set up your heavy strikes – or incite your opponent to blow theirs away, leaving them open.
This precise fighting style is a fun change of pace from the combo-centric approach of most fighting games. The guns feel really dangerous, instead of being essentially LARP style foam paddles (looking at you, Soul Calibur). There is gore (optional) which adds to the visceral feeling of battles. It’s no Mortal combat, but strong punches can see your opponents gushing blood. It is even possible to split your enemy in half. These standard attacks are no joke.
The special moves are mostly based on similar and relatively straightforward inputs, and are geared more towards giving your character unique options than being high damage. Parries, dodges, and counters can all be mastered for a higher level of play. It’s also possible to launch attacks that disarm your opponent, crippling their offensive power until they can pick up their weapon. You also have a rage meter that can be used for a boost or to fuel a super-move.
Fights in Samurai Shodown are exciting and feel very high stakes. In keeping with the inspiration of samurai pop culture, it can all be done in just a few cuts, but two skilled opponents can make a tense fight last while questioning their weaknesses.
The floating world
Samurai Shodown‘S commitment to its Sakoku period aesthetic gives the game a style like no other. Its colorful, dreamlike backgrounds are reminiscent of historic Japanese paintings, and the exaggerated figures are drawn with thick black lines for a comic book feel.
Samurai Shodown has style in spades, although it doesn’t always fit perfectly. In particular, the outlines of the characters can move strangely. Some combat stages, like the galleon, feel like they’re in a different game. Globally, Samurai Shodown looks cool and is worn with a theatrical touch. Lots of little details show up – the animal animations during load times or the way the scene selection is presented like a deck of playing cards.
Seven samurai and then a few
There is a samurai for everyone, including the staunch “shoto” swordsman Haohmaru and his rival Genjuro. Then you have Yoshitora, a lover and fighter who wears seven swords, each with the name of a friend. There’s also Ukyo, a sickly but determined Iaidō master, and the dual-wielding Jubei.
These aren’t all katanas, however. Many unconventional fighters round out the list. The longtime heroine of the Nakoruru series can cling to her eagle companion to launch special films. Hopping and growling kabuki actor Kyoshiro is a deadly fighter despite his clownish demeanor, and there are a few ninjas, ranging from conventional to bizarre (the mighty earthquake, a giant murderer who probably doesn’t do a lot of sneaking around) .
Almost all of the characters from the original Samurai Shodown is present (where are you, Gen-An?), with the best of sequels and some interesting newbies. My personal favorite, Darli Dagger, is an alcohol-drinking Islander who wields a huge jagged saw blade with devastating effect. The base game features 16 characters, 8 of which are available as DLC (so far). The game’s final boss, in the age-old lore of SNK, is horribly unfair and unplayable. Overall a good mix of cool weapons and colorful personalities, although it’s a shame the game’s story mode doesn’t do as much with the latter.
Sliced a little thin
Samurai ShodownThe fighting fundamentals are excellent. I feel like I’m playing a great arcade game. What it isn’t, however, is a particularly good single player game. The game’s story mode is a rudimentary combat sequence, with a few exhibition slides about some evil wave in 18th-century Japan and a battle with a rival that prompts a special line of dialogue. The is a story here, but it doesn’t get much attention.
It sounds like a bummer compared to the robust story modes in AAA fighting games today. Other than storytelling, there’s no way to experience unconventional matches, collect items or customizations for your fighters, or anything like that.
Instead of, Samurai Shodown sticks to a few old-fashioned single-player modes like time trial or endurance. Ghost mode pits you against AI trained on the behavior of other players. The online game offers casual and ranked matches, with the option to enter a higher rank of your choice if you think you’re strong enough.
Compared to the epic story mode of Mortal Kombat 11 or fun variations on the fighting game formula like Soul Calibur VI‘s Balance of Soul + character creation, and Samurai ShodownThe back to basics’ s philosophy just feels, well, basic. I feel weird criticizing a fighting game because it’s only about one-on-one fighting, but maybe I’m lacking a real samurai spirit.
Samurai Shodown maybe minimalist, but it puts the fun in the fundamentals and the SNK weapons fighter always offers something unique. But it would be nice to have a little more to play with.
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