I have been a fan of the arcade classics for some time primarily due to the nostalgia that they represent, so I was excited to dig back into Samurai Shodown after nearly two decades away from the title. Sadly, the game did not hold up in the same way as some of these other classics.
Growing up, I did not have arcades where I lived, but a lot of these classics found their way into ports for many of the consoles. Samurai Shodown was one of those games. Duly noted that some of the components of the games get changed when porting over from the boxed machines to the home console, but Samurai Shodown on the Sega Genesis, for me, was the equal to my love for Super Street Fighter II on the SNES. Although there are some differences between the arcade / NEOGEO version of the game and the final port, it was fun going back in time to play this title. Going back and playing SSF2, the game is still fun (and revered as a classic among many gamers), but I cannot say I feel the same way about this port.
Fighting games have come a long way since the original release of Samurai Shodown in 1993, which makes playing the game feel as outdated as it is. SNK has been a top contender in the fighting genre for decades, and this title was a hit during the heyday. With an interesting view of Japanese culture (some relatively based in fact and other pieces created as part of the game’s lore), the game offered something that other titles at the time did not including a variation on the core fighting system. The combo system, which featured a meter to store power to use better power moves (now a key asset in many fighting games), was something of worthy mention. Despite these innovations, the combat feels cumbersome. Additionally, Samurai Shodown was the first game to use animals to aid in battle, which was core to setting itself apart at the time. Samurai Shodown was also the first game to have one-on-one weapon matches in a fighting game. Although the game brought something new to the table in the 90’s, for the modern-day, playing through the game (not in an arcade setting), feels awkward.
The thing I did always love about this game were the characters. Although Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat had its share of interesting characters, what the heck was Gen-an? I always loved him because he reminded me of Leprechaun version of Freddy Krueger. Also, does Haohmaru not look like a direct descendant of Mitsurugi from Soul Calibur? The character design, along with interesting backdrops like the mob at the shipyard, gave the game a unique flair. Although these aspects of the game were foundational to creating a new space in the fighting genre for gamers, it does not offer much for the modern-day fighting fan who has never played the game before. Even as a veteran of the series, I found myself bored (and frustrated) shortly after playing starting the game. This version does try to spice up the overall game experience by having several modes to choose from. There is the hi-score mode where you will try to make your way to the leaderboard. You also can play the original Japanese or English versions of the game. A variation on each mode is not vast, and not worthy of note. When boiled down, this diversity does not add much to the game.
All in all, I likely won’t ever go back to play Samurai Shodown, but it was a fun look back at a game I had completely forgotten about. Arcade classics serve the primary purpose to relive special experiences of the past on your home console, With a fighting game like this, there is not a lot anchoring someone to come back and play (despite the hi-score mode), so I wouldn’t recommend purchasing the game unless you were an original fan of the series.
So, aside from the bits of nostalgia, Samurai Shodown doesn’t offer a lot to gamers of this generation. The controls are clunky and frustrating, and the only saving grace is the interesting visuals. If you are looking for a classic arcade style fighter, you will know what to expect jumping into the title, but otherwise, this title would be recommended for folks who are already a fan of the series.
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