Round one, FIGHT!
With the track record that was nearly in-sync with Capcom, in terms of fighting games in the past, SNK was a juggernaut to behold. It churned several a fisticuff, from the iconic Fatal Fury to masterpiece The Last Blade, oozing talent between itself through its own Neo Geo console line and its multi-game MVS system. Before we even paid attention to Soul Blaze, or Bushido Blade, or even Toshinden, there was another unrealistic weapons-based fighter that started it all – Samurai Shodown.
A series that was a cut above
This weapon-based fighter harnesses its story in Japan with members of its cast vying for bragging rights or shutting down of an ancient evil possessing a single soul. Combatants ranged from a wandering ronin and titular tree demolisher – Haohmaru, a ninja, and even get this – a Warden. Ubisoft also had a cross-over event with its own medieval fighter, For Honor. Not sure how he got there, but his gameplay was enjoyable to look at. Each character sporting better than in other outings had by them in their respected games. Generously, the game gives away the first season to lucky players.
Samurai Shodown takes place about a year before the first entry, yet the roster itself spans through the epic series. Some from previous titles and a few new combatants to sheath their swords for this. Visually, the shading itself resembles a bit more of a painting motif that the very game strives for. The backgrounds are either new or callbacks to classics such as Galford’s ship stage being something pretty close to being lifted inspiration from his original entry. Fully voiced victory screens was an added bonus, similar to KOF14’s treatment of combos. The aesthetic stays true to its own, drawing inspiration from the land of the Rising Sun in both musical score and UI. The visuals are nearly as lively as their 2D origins. Many points call back other aspects of Shodown’s previous entries. Even the intro is the original, remade in beautiful 3D glory.
The game’s mechanics seem to be intact and almost striking a chord with the rest of the franchise. Each blow deadlier than the last, the game’s roster aims to settle scores with more of a keep away than combo frenzy as other titles incorporate. It’s no one-hit-kills until the character goes into a Rage Explosion, allowing a massive blow, darkened screen, and a swift charge, with the opponent left to spray blood from their insides. Just Defend – a split second guard from SNK, has been brought into this title, also, allowing more defensive options. The modes include even a century worth of fighters to go against in Iron Man with Story and other modes still present.
Some misses in the game’s sword swings
The ghost mode does feel more repetitive as opponents are doing their absolute best to imitate Kriss Kross impressions. Movements are random and sometimes don’t even put much damage on you or even intentionally land on you. Framerate has seen a boost and loading has been reduced with the latest smart delivery update, but still a bit of a drag during Iron Man 100 challengers mode. This could mean that the mode itself may be difficult to undertake in one sitting through design and limitations alone. Matchmaking is decent in the network mode, but some wait times were noticeable.
Samurai Shodown has returned to the home console in another 3D attempt that eclipses its 64-bit encounter. While this entry shines brighter than some of its predecessors and its ease of use curve can turn the tides in battles. On the other edge of the sword, Shodown’s more innovative features seem to be its heel. Shodown is definitely one to pick up for the classical statue and you don’t need to cut down cherry blossom trees in order to enjoy it.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 25/06/2019
No. of Players: 1-10
Developer: SNK CORPORATION
Publisher: SNK CORPORATION
Download link: Microsoft Store