I think it must have been written in the stars, last week a never-before-seen prototype of Samurai Shodown 64 was found after 24 years, literally under a collapsed tree with a load of SNK US wares. Then a few days ago a good friend dragged me out of my writing retirement to review the most recent Samurai Shodown title.
Huge thanks to Justice Ste, who’s Twitch can be found at www.twitch.tv/justiceste , for the awesome review. Hit him up, give him a follow and tell them we sent you!
I’ve always kept an eye out on Samurai Shodown as a franchise, I like its slower methodical combat, where one mistake by your opponent can lead to an almost instant end. I was glad to see it getting a new entry back in 2019 after 11 years, and as of March 2021 we have seen it updated for Xbox Series S and X consoles, with a beautiful 120 fps.
Gameplay wise, not much has changed since the franchise first debuted in ‘93. We still find ourselves with a beautifully methodical fighter, based on counters, parry’s with death always a breath away. This as great as it is for fans of the franchise, can be a struggle for newer players to get to grips with, especially if you’re expecting a fast-paced Street Fighter or Tekken like affair. You have 4 primary attack buttons, with 3 weapon-based attacks (light, medium and heavy), and a kick, each character also has a plethora of special moves, which can be deadly if used correctly at the right time, one block from a heavy attack can see a huge window of opportunity for your opponent to reduce your life bar down drastically.
We have the usual roster of game modes, with a faultless story mode which sees you battle a decent variety of the roster, a rival battle towards the end drives the narrative forward, and an obviously frustrating final boss battle. We have some additional modes that deepen the experience, a training/tutorial mode, online modes, Dojo mode where you fight against pre-recorded cpu competitors (as fun as this was, you find most of the ghosts are extremely defensive against you). Time trial, survival, and gauntlet mode round the rest of the game modes out, these are your usual affair.
There’s a good variety of characters, with an initial base of 16 characters, 13 of which are returning from previous titles, personal favourites include Haohmaru, Nakoruru and Otaku favourite Tam Tam. 3 new characters round the roster up with Yashamuru acting as the protagonist of the title. Each has a good variety of moves, with mostly unique weapons per character.
Visually the game excels, characters are beautifully designed with each animation look crisp and clean. Backgrounds follow suit, with big bold scenes with striking, contrasting colour, all suiting the end of the Edo era from which the game is set. Each map also sees a graphical change once a characters Rage mode is activated, looking more stylistic almost comparison to a Tarantino movie scene or a stylish anime flick, and again each character’s finisher has another striking scene to show the importance of the move.
The soundtrack from the game also reflects the era of the game, with nice simple authentic sounds, which fit every character’s unique stage. It fits with the game making it feel the most atmospheric and as authentic as it can be.
I found the only real issues I had with the game were the loading times, even on the Xbox One Series X which I was testing on. The load times felt longer than they should for a fighting game, this was especially bad on a base model Xbox One where a story mode fight took almost a minute to load in. Also, I had real trouble finding an online match, which could have been due to the time I was playing, however searches across all servers, on both casual and ranked mode, this showed the same issues.
In roundup though, I settled quite well with Samurai Shodown, it looks and feels as good as it can be, even for a 2d fighter it feels authentic in a way I’d expect from the same era in Japan. I can see myself giving this more and more time, and with the additional characters coming through soon I imagine there is still quite a lot of life left in the title, and with the updated Series S/X versions just hitting the stores, it has some renewed freshness on the shelves. The future still looks good for Samurai Shodown!