It’s been 11 years since the last Samurai Shodown game released. Once a pivotal franchise in the fighting genre, it has since fallen a bit from grace. Samurai Shodown was a different take on the fighting genre, allowing its warriors to fight with weapons and also featured some dismemberment. In the arcades, Samurai Shodown was a force to be reckoned with, but it never really made a big splash in the console market.
With Samurai Shodown, SNK tried to compete in the genre for a long time and succeeded for the most part. But with such a long hiatus, the genre has changed quite a bit, and Samurai Shodown isn’t quite able to keep up. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Shodown embraces its roots as no fighting franchise has. Like most fighting games, there’s a story of impending doom, but the game never really focuses on that impending doom.
Samurai Shodown Is Back And Just How You Remember It
Every returning fighter plays just how you would remember and the three new fighters fit right in. Each character has their own story to tell which is presented in gorgeous art panels. Some are intriguing, but for some reason, each one of the characters is thrust into a story of an impending supernatural threat that derails the character’s individual story to focus on something that has no context.
For those looking to button mash their way to victory will have a very hard time doing so. Samurai Shodown has always been a fighting game based on skill. Using tactical strikes and a combination of special moves can mean the difference between failure and success. Samurai Shodown has always been a slower paced fighter compared to the competition. I had hoped that moving over to the Unreal Engine would speed the combat up a bit but that wasn’t the case. Those looking for a fast-paced fighter won’t find it here.
In a way, it’s great to jump into the game and remember exactly how it plays and how to pull off all the special moves, but on the other hand its a shame to see the franchise not pushing itself to be more competitive in a crowded field of fighters. This is especially true if it wants to compete in esports.
With a game that plays just how it did 11 years ago comes the bad and the good. If you thought some characters were unbalanced before, chances are you’ll feel the same way here as almost nothing was done to address some of the balancing issues.
Samurai Shodown Isn’t For The Button Mashers
This also affects the new fighters as well. One of which, Yashamaru Kurama, uses a Nagamak, a long sword with an extra long hilt. This new character doesn’t come with many special attacks but makes up for it in range and damage, making him one of the most dangerous characters in the game.
A key component to Samurai Shodown is the reliance on dodges and counters. Timing a perfectly executed dodge will leave opponents vulnerable to a counter strike, which leaves them open to be disarmed. This can go a long way giving you a much-needed advantage in combat.
The Rage Gauge returns, which builds up as you take damage. Once full, it allows you to activate the “Rage Explosion.” In this mode, your attack damage is increased and allows you to pull off a super move that will take up the entire Rage Meter. If it connects, you cause massive damage to your opponent.
Once you use your Rage meter, you won’t be able to activate it during the remainder of the match. This also goes for your Ultimate Attack which can only be done once in a match, whether you connect with the attack or not.
Enemy A.I. Will Adapt To Your Playing Style, And It Will Drive You Mad
There are plenty of game modes this time around, from your standard story mode to some more interesting modes. Survival is featured as well as time attack, but the big one to watch out for it is the Ghost Battle.
Utilizing a unique A.I., your opponents learn from your attack patterns and create a ghost replica of that A.I. character, which you can then share online to have others fight. It’s a really cool system. It allows those who don’t want to fight online to fight replicas of other players in a single player situation.
Utilizing the Unreal Engine, Samurai Shodown has been given a makeover. Instead of a fully 3D fighting game like Tekken, Shodown sticks to the 2D fighting plane while utilizing cell-shaded 3D character models. It’s a formula that works quite well. It isn’t exactly a breakout looking title, but it suits the series quite well.
Samurai Shodown isn’t bad in any way. In fact, it brings back a lot of the more simpler times of fighter games, and I truly appreciate that as a fan of the franchise. Samurai Shodown is easily one of the most skill based fighters you’ll ever play. Those looking for a more casual fighting game definitely won’t find it here.
Samurai Shodown releases on June 25, 2019
Review copy kindly provided by publisher