- Game: Samurai Shodown
- Consoles: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia, PC
- Publisher: Athlon Games
- Developer: SNK Corporation
A Samurai Shodown review code was provided by the publisher.
Most of the 90s most revered fighters are known for their different approaches to the genre as a whole. Street Fighter’s combo heavy mechanics, Mortal Kombat’s gory match ending Fatalities, and Fatal Fury’s background/foreground switching are clear examples of that signature theme. Samurai Shodown, SNK’s popular 2D weapons clasher, garnered a passionate audience thanks to its more methodical match pacing. After a wide array of sequels, an RPG spinoff, and a series of lackluster entries into the world of 3D, Samurai Shodown sadly went dormant for years. Fans’ requests for a new entry have finally been answered, though – 2019 marks the welcome reboot of a major SNK fighting game staple. The end result is a return to what worked in the past and the inclusion of a clever online mode that provides plenty of replay value.
Samurai Shodown features a full slate of offline modes for those who’d rather do their hacking and slashing against the CPU. There’s a Story Mode ladder to delve through for each character – its old school approach to the legacy fighting game mode is a nice throwback worth completing. Then there’s the Gauntlet Mode, which challenges you to take down the game’s entire roster with no retries. There’s also your basic Versus, Survival, and Time Trial modes to busy yourself with. While the game’s Tutorial Mode is passable, the omission of a character-based Expert Mode is a definite letdown.
But the biggest feature of all comes in the form of the newly installed Dojo. This asynchronous mode is parts offline and parts online. You and a bunch of other human players’ actions are studied and applied to a CPU Ghost, who can then be challenged during a single match or within the wild 100-person “Ironman Challenge.”
This unique approach to battling human players takes away most of the stress that comes with competing against those same players in a casual/ranked match setting. Taking on the CPU Ghosts patterned after expert players provide Samurai Shodown with a fun way to hone your skills against the very best of the game’s burgeoning community. There’s a near-endless supply of Ghosts to battle against, which means you’ll always have a new AI-controlled warrior to engage. Samurai Shodown is thankfully healthy in both the offline and online mode departments.
The stylistic visuals that power this Samurai Shodown reboot look quite impressive. The beautifully designed stages revisit past favorites and introduce brand new locales that are just as pretty to gaze at. The roster full of familiar faces and three newcomers are also easy on the eyes – Haohmaru and the rest of the Samurai Shodown gang have never looked better. Alongside the game’s striking art style is a soundtrack full of catchy Min’yō tunes. Landing the final blow on an unsuspecting opponent feels all the more satisfying once the match ending theme kicks in. Samurai Shodown’s visuals and music compliment each other in the best ways possible.
Samurai Shodown does its best to stand out from the fighting game pack by sticking to a slower-paced approach to combat. Instead of relying on button mashing and massive combos, you’ll have to pick your spots more carefully and search for openings that allow you to land devastating heavy attacks. Each character comes with a bevy of flashy special moves as well as a dodging maneuver, the “Blade Catch” counter, and a grab that’s capable of breaking your opponent’s stance.
But that’s not all – Samurai Shodown also tasks you with mastering three types of super moves that look awesome in motion. This is definitely one of those fighters that may prove to be a bit daunting for some but will end up becoming the go-to fighter for the more hardcore sector of the FGC. Wrapping your head around how to capitalize after a “Just Defense” and knowing when it’s time to land a “Lightning Blade” attack are just a few of the mechanics you’ll need to master if you want to become halfway decent. Samurai Shodown is not for the FGC crowd who wants to pull off outlandish combos – it caters itself to players who have a solid footsies game and a good understanding of when to punish. Samurai Shodown focuses on a certain playstyle in a genre that’s already tough to master – casual fighting game players certainly have a high execution barrier to climb here.
Samurai Shodown Takeaways
SNK has an admirable of great job of giving Samurai Shodown the franchise revival it so richly deserves. The visual splendor, satisfying soundtrack, worthwhile launch day roster and a nice offering of offline/online modes are the game’s biggest strengths. While it features one of the more intimidating fighting game systems in recent memory, learning the in’s and out’s of Samurai Shodown is immensely rewarding. As far as fighting game reboots go, Samurai Shodown does a great job of pleasing its loyal fanbase and featuring new mechanics that change it for the better.
Our Samurai Shodown Review Score: 8.75 out of 10
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