Samurai Shodown (PC) Review

By Athanasios 17.06.2020

Review for Samurai Shodown on PC

Despite their differences, most fighters are similar. From the latest Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat, or the new iteration of Dead or Alive, Soul Calibur, and Tekken, they all offer the same things in a different package, whether that's 30+ combos, special moves, fast and flashy action, etc. The same applies to SNK Corporation's own franchises, like with its highly popular King of Fighters. Having said that, the Japanese developer once crafted something that was noticeably different. While Samurai Shodown looked like just another 2D fighter, it really wasn't. Less about multi-button inputs and crazy combos, and more about reading your opponents, trying to block or disarm them, and generally playing more tactically, this weapon-based fighter clearly showed that the genre wasn't dry of fresh ideas. After a very long hiatus, this cult gem returns, in its new, upgraded form. After a look at the Switch version, Cubed3 is here to take another look at it, this time on the PC.

One thing must be made perfectly clear. If you want some fireworks in your fighters, Samurai Shodown will disappoint you. It looks good. It really does. Its slightly SFV-esque, over-exaggerated and cartoony design of the available roster is definitely a matter of taste (with the vast majority of characters being imposing, chicken-fed, steroid-powered beasts), but it's all well made. This also nails the Japanese aesthetic everywhere you look (and hear). Yeah, not exactly Kurosawa, but it's cool nonetheless, and is bound to impress Samurai/Nippon nerds - but as a whole, this isn't a flamboyant game, and not a technically impressive one either, as anti-aliasing is non-existent, with character outlines looking a bit too jagged.

Even more importantly, it isn't a "modern" game, in the sense that it's kind of barebones in terms of content. This is essentially the original instalment with a new, 3D coat of paint, with little to no new additions. Take the Story Mode, for instance. Those looking for a MK11-esque epic won't get their fix here, as said mode is basically a generic Arcade mode with a little bit of text thrown in to explain what is going on, why you are fighting, and so on and forth. Other than that, players get the standard Time Trial, Survival, Training, Versus, and Online modes, with some extras thrown in as well.

Screenshot for Samurai Shodown on PC

An innovative idea here is the Dojo mode, which essentially has players fighting ghosts "created" from other players by having the CPU watching over the way they play. Sadly, as exciting that may sound, in practice the Ghost AIs still feel very robotic in the way they act. On the other hand, this gives you the chance to sort of play online matches, but without actually doing so. Without a single doubt, however, this is a title aimed at the pure online experience, which means that those looking for plenty of things to do solo will be disappointed. Careful, though, the online mode isn't for the faint of heart...

Here's the deal about Samurai Shodown: it isn't a button masher. Sure, that applies to pretty much all fighters in a way, as, no matter the game of choice, players need to be aware of what they are doing, and not just hope that they will be lucky. This over here, however, is even more demanding, with a skill ceiling that is unbelievably high. For starters, rather than intricate combos and special moves, the duels heavily revolve around finding openings, blocking hits, disarming the opponent, being mindful of the reach of your moves, and, most importantly playing with the mind of your enemy. Again, that sort of applies to the genre as a whole, but here a single mistake can cost you a quarter of your life bar... or worse.

Screenshot for Samurai Shodown on PC

On one hand this will appeal to casual and mid-tier players, as it's easy to learn the ropes. Doing the right thing in the right moment, however, is another story entirely. Also don't make the mistake of thinking this to be a slow affair due to its more tactical nature. This makes the fast dodging and counter-attacking of a game like Dead or Alive 6 feel like child's play. The reaction times needed in here are wild. This critic usually feels just bad at fighting games - in here he felt like he was 80-years-old, especially when trying to disarm an enemy - but, boy, does it feel good when managing to pull off something like that!

Even the special abilities available need a more careful approach than usual. There is a Rage bar that fills when receiving damage, and one can use it to enter a strengthened mode for a brief time. The tricky part is that you also get the chance to use all the built up energy to do a "super" move of sorts, which is basically a horizontal attack that ends with a neat, stylish animation - just make sure it doesn't miss. Then there's the Super Special Attack (yeah, boring name), which can take way over 50% of the opponent's health, but it's somewhat tricky to pull off, especially for beginners, and quite easy for the one on the receiving end to simply avoid.

Screenshot for Samurai Shodown on PC

The reason why even these don't strip Samurai Shodown away of its tactical nature is that they can only be used once per fight, which means that one needs to make them count. Some would argue that in the current gaming landscape a fighter needs more than that, but no. In the end, lengthy combos and multi-button specials might look great, but managing to slash away half of your enemy's life with a well-placed hit will make you feel really badass. This is a power fantasy, just one that you really need to earn. Of course, this also means that this leans more into the realm of niche fighting games.

If you are looking for an alternative to Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and the like, you won't find it here. If the training needed to become better in a KoF or Tekken discourages you, stay away from this. This is possibly one of the most demanding in the genre, as it is extremely non-button-mashing-friendly, and with death usually being only a few hits away. As mentioned before, this is also very light on content. What joy there is to have here resides in... well, playing. In other words there aren't tons of modes, unlockables, and so on to enjoy here, yet the quality of the fighting itself makes up for it.

Screenshot for Samurai Shodown on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

While disappointing in terms of content, Samurai Shodown's fighting mechanics alone are enough to make this a solid recommendation. As long as you don't care about not having an actual story mode or tons of unlockables, and if you feel brave enough to enter the unforgiving online portion of SNK's niche fighter, be sure to check this out.

Developer

SNK

Publisher

SNK

Genre

Fighting

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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