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Samurai Shodown Review

It may seem like today’s fighting game market is full of games that want to stand out; however, it’s nothing compared to the early ’90s. While Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were in charge, everyone tried to find a way to distinguish their game. The competition included SNK’s Samurai Shodown, a weapon-based fighting game that emphasized careful movement, significant damage, and rewarding patient, careful reading, and response to your enemy’s attacks – along with some fountains of blood from knocked down opponents for good measure. This is our Samurai Shodown Review.

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Last updated on January 16, 2021 3:27 am

More than 25 years later, history repeats as a new Samurai Shodown pulls its knife and offers many of the similar things that made it great all those years ago – only now it feels even more modern.

Samurai Shodown Review: About

  • Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, Windows, Arcade game
  • Developer: SNK, SNK Corporation, SNK PLAYMORE
  • Publisher: SNK, Athlon Games Inc., Leyou
  • Genres: Fighting game
  • Release Date: June 25, 2019

Official Trailer

Samurai Shodown Review: Gameplay

If you haven’t played the Samurai Shodown before, the first thing you’ll see is the simplicity of the game’s controls. You have 4 attack buttons, each of which has a very different feel when pressed; you feel the weight of the slow, compelling arc of a massive slash, as opposed to the quick blow of a light slash. Combinations of the buttons allow you to perform dodges, slashes and throws, and even a special desperation mode. Special moves vary for each character, but almost all are easy-to-perform semicircle, semicircle, and Dragon Punch style inputs.

Playing with the different characters and seeing their unique movements and skills establishes how good everything feels to master. The various attack weights feel substantial, and even necessary standing, squat and dashing movements are a lot of fun to perform on the screen like blades swinging around in beautiful arcs – not to mention the flashy special moves. Just doing things with your chosen fighter feels inherently enjoyable even if you only understand the grip of their moveset.

Samurai Shodown Review

Pressing buttons thoughtfully may feel good, but you’ll soon find restraint essential. Samurai Shodown was known for its severe damage in its heyday, and if you come out of other fighting games, you will be a little shocked once you see how much life a well placed massive sword attack can cut off. Strong moves hit hard, and if you leave an opening for your opponent to take advantage of, you can quickly notice that your life bar is melting like butter in a skillet under the pressure of their knife. If you try to swing furiously, you will likely be exposed to a very, very painful counter-attack while you are stuck recovering from that heavy sword blow that you just sniffed.

To make up for the severe damage, there are many defensive options you can use. There is good old-fashioned high and low blocking, but there is also a particular “Just Defend” block that you can perform well, as the opponent’s attack is about to hit, making them stun very briefly. There’s also an evasion attack, a universal parry, and multiple ways to disarm your enemies, leaving them weaponless and at a significant disadvantage. You also have forward/backward recovery when you get knocked down, which means you can avoid a lot of pressure when getting up when you get up well.

The significant, flashy attacks and countless defensive options combine to create a game with a much different focus than most other fighting games out there right now. Rather than swapping and combo strings, Samurai Shodown places a strong emphasis on pacing, reading carefully and responding to your opponent, and waiting patiently for the ideal opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerability of your enemy. There aren’t many complex, layered systems here, but it doesn’t matter; This isn’t about long combos or performing multiple super attacks, it’s about figuring out how to kill your opponent most effectively.

The core of the game, as high as it is, is just part of a larger package – one that may be a little disappointing for those looking for a robust single-player experience. The selection is small compared to some other fighters but offers a lot of variety. Fans will appreciate seeing old favorite characters such as wild-haired samurai Haohmaru, determined Ainu warrior girl Nakoruru, and even more questionable choices such as the multi-sword-wielding Yoshitora and ethereal trickster Shiki. The game also introduces new characters to the franchise: the hard-drinking, razor-sharp ship carpenter Darli Dagger, the clumsy but deceptively devious Wu-Ruixiang, and the air-raid-laden Yashamaru.

But while there are plenty of characters, the story mode is pretty weak, giving each character just an intro, ending, and little simplistic cutscenes, along with an end boss who doesn’t seem to have anything to do with much of the cast. There are training modes and glove (fight every character) and survival ( fight some characters in a limited life bar). Still, otherwise, you will have to invite a friend or go online to enjoy what Samurai Shodown has to offer.

Playing online is a cornerstone of modern fighting games, and Samurai Shodown’s online duel can be described as ‘pretty good.’ The net code is based on input delay, so the quality of your online experience will mainly depend on the distance and connection quality of you and your opponent. Ranking mode allows you to switch characters after matches if you compare again, which is a prime consideration. However, lobbies are quite chaotic, so you have to queue manually to play and watch every game.

Samurai Shodown Review

In Dojo mode, you can download a player’s “ghost” data and play against a CPU fighter who mimics their playing style – a new concept. At the time of writing, however, there is not much to grab yet, and it is difficult to measure the accuracy of ghost opponents if you haven’t played them live for a while. You can play against your ghosts, which is an exciting experience, but it is not recommended until you have spent a lot of time with one character and provided the game with enough data.

Samurai Shodown Review: Conclusion

Samurai Shodown is a great reboot. It captures what made the original fun and unique, as well as in a time when high-stakes, high-stakes fighters like this are rare, making the fights feel fresh and familiar. The accessibility and easy-to-understand gameplay mislead a lot of strategic depth that makes for very intense, gory struggles. While the single-player experience is a bit lacking, it doesn’t drag it down significantly at all – Samurai Shodown is a fighting experience worth taking the sword on.

F1 2019 Review

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

More than 25 years later, history repeats as a new Samurai Shodown pulls its knife and offers many of the similar things that made it great all those years ago – only now it feels even more modern.

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