When I was growing up, Capcom and Midway ruled the 2D button mash-fest genre. But there was another. SNK was there with their Samurai Shodown title, which seemed to be the Betamax to Capcom’s VHS and the HD DVD to Midway’s Blu-ray. They were better known for their King of Fighters title, which was a more natural competitor to the best Capcom and Midway had to offer. Sadly, after the late ’90s, Samurai Shodown was left on the shelf to gather dust and fade from memory. Until now.
Having never really gotten into the genre in any kind of meaningful way, I had no idea how much of a narrative there should be, if any, or what I should be expecting as far as game modes go. Even so, this relaunch feels pretty bare bones. Maybe this is something that will be fleshed out over time.
So I started the game and got myself ready for some random, frantic button mashing mayhem and that’s when I began noticing something pleasantly surprising.
Where Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat are about speed and multiple hits and mega combo’s and impressive take-downs, Samurai Shodown seems to reward a slower, more methodical one on one duel approach. This is really brilliant. Instead of feeling like you’ve grabbed a tiger by the tail, you actually feel like you have control. Yes, you work your opponent, get them to make a mistake, leave an opening and move in for a devastating single strike that reduces their health by 25%.
Before you start thinking that the buy-in to this game is a super high commitment, keep in mind that, when it comes to this kind of gaming, I am as green as aunty Cynthia’s medical marijuana. The biggest adjustment was realising that this isn’t a hack and slash, but requires spending time playing online and checking the forums. There is a lot to learn about the game’s mechanics to keep the most hardcore fighter interested. There are impressive combos and big finishes, but they are not a key feature of the game. It feels like they are there just to keep a certain portion of the community happy.
My concern around this approach to this genre was that without signature moves the characters wouldn’t be as distinct. I was wrong. The controls are all the same for every character, but there is enough difference between fighting styles for you to find your favourite and it’s when you begin exploring the upper limits of your characters abilities that this game gets insanely good. It feels like real-life or a death battle where keeping your cool is the difference between winning and losing.
I never got it right, the button combo’s do get pretty complex, but I have seen players get their timing just right and disarm their opponent or just defend against an attack and then surprise their opponent with a Lightning Blade that ends the fight in a flourish worthy of a James Cameron movie.
As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t any kind of narrative that means anything in this game. You watch for the action, not the storyline, and I guess it’s kind of what the game would have been like in the ’90s.
In my opinion, Samurai Shodown is better than its more balls-out competition because it’s more reliant on thinking and strategy. Again, to compare it, Samurai Shodown is chess. All the others are checkers. That means it’s a completely different offering and has nothing to fear from those titles that can be seen as its more developed competition.
If I had to spend my own money on a fighting game, Samurai Shodown is the only one I would consider.
- Storyline 0%
- Gameplay 0%
- Graphics 0%
- Replay Value 0%
- Sound and Music 0%