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  1. #1

    Retro|Spective 026: Samurai Shodown

    Taking us back to a version of mostly 18th Century Japan, SNK's weapon based fighting series has long drawn players in with its different take on 2D fighting mechanics that often favoured a more measured approach coupled with distinctly Japanese flavour of visual and audio design...

    Samurai Shodown

    Mainline Entry 01 - Samurai Shodown
    Formats: Arcade, Multiple
    Launched twenty five years ago, the original Shodown game showcased SNK's recently introduced camera zoom mechanic to better allow players to make use of the stage space. It's weapon based gameplay broadly followed the mechanics of most post-SF2 fighters but this less cartoony title reflected its weapons by featuring a heavy dose of often censored blood. The game was mostly well received but it managed to create a niche for itself thanks to its distinct style.

    Mainline Entry 02 - Samurai Shodown II
    Formats: Arcade, Multiple
    Following the very next year came the sequel that, despite the fast turnaround, built everything from scratch. The sequel expanded on the original but also introduced a number of new mechanics such a breaking weapons, POW meters etc and more movement options to utilise as well as an early introduction of parrying moves. Highly thought of, the sequel remained at home on arcade and Neo Geo for years until SNK started porting it to more modern machines.

    Mainline Entry 03 - Samurai Shodown III: Blades of Blood
    Formats: Arcade, Multiple
    The very next year SNK was wasting no time in capitalising on their new franchise. Another year brought a new darker look for the series and the introduction of the Slash and Bust fighting styles. The new game proved a success once again even if the advancement over SS2 wasn't as large as some had hoped it would be.

    Mainline Entry 04 - Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge
    Formats: Arcade, Playstation and Saturn
    Another year, another new entry but by now the advent of the 32-bit era was hitting hard and already SNK's releases were becoming trapped by the past. Whilst the game was positively received it presented the most iterative of the instalments so far and so its impact wasn't as strongly felt outside of franchise fans.

    Spin Off Entry 01 - Samurai Shodown RPG
    Formats: Neo Geo CD, Playstation and Saturn
    The first spin-off release was far from lacking in ambition as it aimed to move the series into the exploding in popularity JRPG area. Selecting from one of six characters, the players explored towns and fields through an overworld as they battled enemies in traditional rpg fashion but with the option to input commands via arcade style input also. Originally designed to be comprised of three chapters, SNK planned to milk fans by making versions that only contained two chapters thereby forcing players to buy two copies but severe backlash led to the plan not only being dropped by Chapter 3 being cut from the game entirely to meet deadlines.

    Spin Off Entry 02 - Samurai Shodown 64
    Formats: Arcade
    A premiere title for SNK's new Hyper Neo Geo 64 board, the first 3D Shodown entry fits canonically after the second mainline game and featured multi-tiered stages with side step functions added to make use of the space.

    Spin Off Entry 03 - Samurai Shodown 64 II: Warrior's Rage
    Formats: Arcade
    Spin Off Entry 04 - Samurai Shodown!
    Formats: Neo Geo Pocket
    Spin Off Entry 05 - Samurai Shodown! II
    Formats: Neo Geo Pocket
    An expansion on the first release and modelled on the content of the 64-bit arcade spin-off, the handheld entry offered a dinky 2D sprite based colour (in this sequel) monochrome interpretation of the gameplay. The game was considered a very successful adaptation of the gameplay on the portable and was one of its most successful games.

    Mainline Entry 05 - Samurai Shodown V
    Formats: Arcade, Neo Geo, Playstation 2 and Xbox
    After a fair break, the fifth mainline entry was released. A prequel to the original game, the new entry was considered to be a middling addition to the series that offered little new and particularly struggled to appeal on the main consoles where 2D games were struggling to have an impact.

    Spin Off Entry 06 - Samurai Shodown V Special
    Formats: Arcade and Neo Geo
    Feeling the sting from the release of the fifth game, SNK returned to the title and made numerous revisions including alterations to its audio and visuals to bring it closer to the third entry. Also changed were things such as swapping out entire characters, changes to the stages and a complete rebalance.

    Mainline Entry 06 - Samurai Shodown VI
    Formats: Arcade and Playstation 2
    The sixth entry expanded on the work carried out in V Special whilst adding 3D backgrounds to attempt to bring the series a little more in line with the visual standard expected from the current machines. Eager to make the game a success, the home version added more fighters and content to present gamers with a fairly complete package from the outset. Despite this, the 2D market for fighters continued to struggle to have a broad enough appeal and the mainline of Shodown games came to end with this entry.

    Spin Off Entry 07 - Samurai Shodown Sen
    Formats: Arcade and Xbox 360
    Once again hoping to break free of the 2D restraints the series had suffered from, SNK released this 3D entry into the franchise. The set up was similar to that of the 64-bit titles but this time the reaction was even more severe with this unpopular edition and the series came to its end.

    What are your thoughts and memories of SNK's weaponised fighter?

  2. #2
    I always liked the look of Samurai Shodown but I didn't actually play the main games until trying out a PC version of 2 in around 2001. I never owned a Neo Geo and wasn't actually aware of the Megadrive version (or other ports), and it was never at my local arcades - though I was aware of it from TV/mags.

    I also wasn't aware there were quite so many games.

    I had the NGPC game (the second one which got a UK release), which was fun.

    I thought they were great games; really fun. That being said, given my weird route into the series, for me it was contemporary with the The Last Blade franchise, and The Last Blade 2 always enters my mind when I think about it. That's something of a personal issue though.

    Personally, if I'm honest, I've always preferred this to King of Fighters, but that's because I've never been good at KoF. KoF has a similar issue to the Tekken/Virtua Fighter debate, in that I consider KoF to be a master's game, but similar to VF, a lot of the fun is derived from having other people to whom you can compare yourself. I feel Shodown has a lower bar-to-entry, while still being quite skilled, so it was better to play with others who weren't so inclined. I've never tried to get really good at KoF because I don't have that community to play with (Street Fighter was always easier in that regard).

    Curious to what other people think though. For those who owned a NeoGeo at the time, I can imagine that SS2 in particular must have looked beyond amazing.

  3. #3
    One of the most visually impressive games of all time. I remember being floored at the Gfx in the 1st game and it really showed how much more powerful the Neo was over the Snes and MD. Loved all the games in the series the art direction as always been nothing short of stunning, but my fav in the series was part III. That game still looks amazing and also features one of the best characters ever in a fighting game - Basara Kubikiri just love his fighting poses too

  4. #4
    I think my first exposure to the series in hand was the Mega Drive version of the original game. It was no secret that it was massively compromised compared to the Neo Geo version but it was the only attainable way of playing it at the time and it didn't leave much of an impression.

    Really, it was the Neo Geo CD versions of SS2 and SS3 that not only marked the point the series had the most play but also left the most impression. I think my preference lay with the second game but there were things about the third that made it a fun counter point between the two entries.

    The fourth game, there's nothing wrong with it but something felt off and that followed through with my dabbles in the later entries where I wanted to enjoy them but they'd lost that certain something that clicked with 2 and 3

  5. #5
    A lot of weapons based fighters lack impact for me, but Sam Sho bucks that trend. I remember playing the first one in an arcade when a friend recommended it. Played surprisingly well. Easy to get to grips with and razor sharp. This was the first time I paid any real attention to an SNK fighting game.

    Part II was the one that really hooked me in though, especially having it on a home system. Still love that game. Best looking of them all too (the wind-swept wheat field background is such an atmospheric stage - an area I was recently reminded of on a hillside area in Nioh).

    Part IV is pretty special too ... but II just shades it in feeling like you're in a Kurosawa film.

  6. #6
    I remember people being excited about the first game in the arcades - and I was very impressed when I got to play it. After that, I imported the 3DO version in 1994 and thought it was a very good port. That's when I really got to grips with the game and decided it was one of the best fighters around. The only bad point of the first game is the music, which doesn't have enough energy for my liking. I'm not fond of ambient sort of music.

    I also have Samurai Spirits 2 for my AES, which refines the game in all areas and is great fun to play through.

    Now I'm in the mood to explore the series. Thanks Superman.
    Last edited by Leon Retro; 12-02-2018 at 10:48 PM.

  7. #7
    Superb series, though feel they peaked at SS2 - particularly the Neo Geo CD version of which the soundtrack is greatest of histories.

  8. #8
    I think it's the CD based version of SS3 where you have the usual SS style music throughout the game and then over the end credits there's some cheesy jpop tune that's so at odds with the rest of the game. Love that stuff lol

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Superman Falls View Post
    I think it's the CD based version of SS3 where you have the usual SS style music throughout the game and then over the end credits there's some cheesy jpop tune that's so at odds with the rest of the game. Love that stuff lol
    I didn't really appreciate the J-rock at the end of Super Mario Odyssey. It felt really out of place.

  10. #10
    I came to this series very late. Post Last Blade late. And while I have no idea which is the better fighting game, I enjoyed Last Blade so much that Samurai Shodown always felt a bit archaic by comparison. But that was mostly about the visuals and animation so I never really went much deeper with the game. That said, I really loved the two NGPC versions of SS.


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