Review – Samurai Shodown

Think of the greatest rivalries back from your childhood. Coke versus Pepsi. Tupac versus Biggie. Nickelodeon versus Cartoon Network. Blur versus Oasis. In the realm of Japanese fighting games, the big rivalry was between Capcom and SNK. On one side, you had the ten billion iterations of Street Fighter, plus Darksiders and Rival Schools. On the other side, you had The King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, as well as Samurai Shodown.

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Gene Simmons is going to sue you so hard.

The Samurai Shodown series has always been very different from the fast-paced Street Fighters and King of Fighters that have always captivated the masses a lot more. Those games are more methodical and strategic, as a single combo can slice not only half of your health bar, but some of your limbs as well. I would have never thought SNK would bother releasing a new iteration of one of their more niche fighting franchises, but this is the world we live in. We have a brand new SamSho for PS4 (as well as Xbox One), and it’s a good one.

The first thing you’ll probably notice when first playing Samurai Shodown is how good its presentation is. Samurai Shodown mixes the character models and animations from The King of Fighters XIV and SNK Heroines with cel-shaded textures and a lot of influences taken straight from classic Japanese ukiyo-e art. It manages to make its somewhat simplistic models look gorgeous, since it’s almost impossible to make something look bad with cel-shading textures. The framerate is also rock-solid, which is a plus.

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It wouldn’t be a proper samurai game without an overdramatic finishing move in which you pretend you’re not looking at your opponent.

The gameplay is also great, but I completely understand if people end up disliking it. Samurai Shodown follows the series’ staple style of high-risk, high-reward strategic combat. Punishing special move spammers with ferocious counter attacks that can chop off up to half of their health bar in one single blow. It’s not uncommon to see both players feinting more often than actually attacking, as the slightest mistake can cost you dearly. With that being said, Samurai Shodown tries to balance things out by giving you a rage meter. The more you get attacked, the faster that meter grows, with you being able to dish out some massive blows onto your opposition as a result. It’s a fighting style that’s less about being a combo freak and more about being a strategist. Love it or hate it, it gets the job done.

If there’s one thing I didn’t like about Samurai Shodown, that’s its overall amount of content. It’s nowhere near as infuriating as Street Fighter V at launch, but I feel like SNK could have included more content on the base game. There are only sixteen fighters to choose from, a vast majority being returning characters from past versions of the game. While there is a sizeable amount of single-player modes to choose from, none of them are very fleshed-out. The game’s “story mode” is little else than a classic arcade mode with a few still images and dialogue in between fights. Compared to games like Mortal Kombat 11, Tekken 7, and even SNK’s own King of Fighters XIV, Samurai Shodown feels a bit emptier. This is a game that was tailor made for multiplayer gameplay. I feel like the single-player modes were added solely to avoid another Street Fighter V backlash.

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Feudal Geralt burning a foe to a crisp.

Small amount of content aside, Samurai Shodown is still a decent fighting game that’s well worth your money if you grew up playing SNK games, like I did. It’s a great reboot to a fantastic series that has been criminally overlooked ever since its debut. If you’re a fighting game fan, but haven’t played any other SamSho¬†game before, I’d also recommend picking this game up, but I’d wait for a price drop. There are much better competitors that offer way more bang for your buck out there.

 

Graphics: 8.5

Its blend of cel-shaded textures, ukiyo-e art, and insane violence are pleasing to the eyes. The game also features a rock-solid framerate.

Gameplay: 8.0

Samurai Shodown‘s gameplay is slower-paced and more focused on strategic attacks. Those not used to the series will take a while to understand how it works, but will have fun with the control scheme after this brief transition period.

Sound: 7.5

Samurai Shodown‘s soundtrack is an anomaly. It’s pretty good, but at the same time, it’s very forgettable. The game also features a ton of voice acting, all in Japanese.

Fun Factor: 7.0

The nice setting and great combat mechanics are good in their own right, but the game does suffer from a ridiculously small roster and an overall lack of lasting appeal.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Samurai Shodown is available now on PS4 and Xbox One.

Reviewed on PS4.

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