Samurai Shodown Review- A Differently Paced Fighter

Posted July 3, 2019 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developer: SNK Corporation

Publisher: Athlom Games

Release Date: June 25, 2019 (PS4, Xbox One), Arcade (in Japan, summer 2019), tbd: Nintendo Switch, PC, Google Stadia

Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One (coming to other platforms at a future date)

There are plenty of fighting games out there for fans of the genre to choose from, and multiple franchises such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter have stood the test of time. Tight controls and a wide array of combatants are a must, and that’s evident in the best of these games. Most are conducted at a frantic pace, making sure you land hits as quickly as possible in order to dispatch your opponent. Samurai Shodown moves at a different pace, making you take a more measured approach to your combat.

It’s not a bad thing, but if you’re new to the series as I am, it can prove a bit more difficult to get a handle on. Sticking it out proves to be worth it, even if the game feels more dated than its contemporaries.

The twelfth game in the series since it began in 1993 and the first since 2008’s Samurai Shodown Sen, Samurai Shodown takes place between that 1993 original and Samurai Shodown V. This new game is being labeled as a reboot of the series, and its gameplay is accessible to newcomers and should still be appealing to long time fans. It does move at a more measured pace than other recent fighting games, so newcomers may have to use a different mindset when approaching this game.

The game’s story, while serviceable, feels a bit lackluster and dated when compared to more recent games like Mortal Kombat 11 and Soul Calibur VI. It can be progressed through using multiple characters, however, only in between battle comments and the end sequence are specific to each individual character. Other than that, the story is pretty much the same, having you do a couple matches, watch a cut scene, and repeat until you meet the final boss. It’s not very long or meaty, but it works well enough.

Gameplay consists of light, medium, and heavy attacks, along with a kick and a powerful special attack. Sadly, all characters in the sixteen fighter roster seem to share the identical special. While it is stylishly animated and packs a powerful punch, it would have been nice to see more individualized attacks specific to each fighter, thus offering a bit more variety. As it is, the roster is somewhat diverse, ranging from the charmingly clumsy Ruixiang to the lumbering giant Earthquake. Movement itself feels a little stiff, and may be better suited to arcade controls (those with arcade sticks for fighting games may have better success). Attacks themselves don’t have the complicated combo button presses of other fighters, and that simplicity works in the game’s favor.

Defense plays just as big a role as offense in Samurai Shodown, and mastering blocking is key if you want any success against human opponents online. Offline players can set the level for the AI to match their skill level, and you’d be advised to practice a bit (unless you’re a series veteran) before heading online to fight others aside from friends. The online mode has two components- ranked matches, which rank you along with players worldwide, and casual matches, which place you in a room with up to ten players where competition isn’t as fierce. The whole room thing felt odd to me. Where other games simply use matchmaking to throw you into a fight, here you need to join a room and wait your turn. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way of watching the other fighters, making sitting in a room with strangers feel a bit boring or even uncomfortable. Making a room with friends may work better.

While not overflowing with content, there is a fair amount here, with most of it being your standard fare. There’s a practice mode, where you have your tutorial and can undergo training, though its tutorial isn’t always the best at conveying what you need to do. You have the online and the story mode, and the odd Dojo mode where you fight the ghosts of other players. The Battle mode contains your typical Versus, gauntlet, Survival, and Time Trial modes, and while all are decent, there’s nothing new or innovative here. There’s also a database to track stats and a gallery to view movies and artwork you unlock.

Visually, the game looks good, with some nice backgrounds for certain fighters (the one for Nakoruru especially stands out with its woodland creatures milling about and observing your fight). Music is typical for a fighting game, and the voices are in Japanese with English subtitles. The game’s biggest flaw is perhaps the long load times between matches. They’re long enough to make you only want to play in shorter bursts, as extended bouts of game time feel more frustrating as you wait to get into battle. Hopefully a future patch will rectify this. Still, there is fun to be had in those short bursts.

In all, Samurai Shodown is a decent middle of the road fighting game, where it does things competently but really offers much in the way of innovation. Its lackluster story mode pales in comparison to other recent fighters like Mortal Kombat 11 and Soul Calibur VI, but it is serviceable and worth going through with each character. Gameplay is solid but does require a different mindset as it is more methodically paced, and requires a bit more attention than just mindless button mashing. It’s a nice looking game, but long load times make it more fun in short bursts rather than extended periods of gaming. It’s a game that is accessible to newcomers, but should also appeal to long time fans of the series. It has a nice roster of sixteen fighters at launch, with more coming in DLC (as of this writing, the Season 1 Pass is free on both the PS4 and the Xbox One), and the roster is suitably varied. It may feel dated, but Samurai Shodown still has enough to make it worth your time.

8/10 stars

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus