SAMURAI SHODOWN / DEVELOPER: SNK / PUBLISHER: ATHLON GAMES / PLATFORM: PC, PS4, SWITCH, XBOX ONE (REVIEWED) / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Although not as well known as the likes of Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, SNK’s Samurai Shodown is a highly respected fighting game franchise with a lot of lore and history and more than its share of classic games. It’s no surprise then, that the latest iteration of the weapon-based fighter has been met with much excitement and anticipation, but will it live up to the hype? Let’s sharpen our blade and have a look, shall we?
Coming over eleven years after the last entry in the franchise - 2008’s critically panned Samurai Shodown: Edge Of Destiny - this version of Shodown serves as something of a soft reboot, harking back to the series’ original 2D side-scrolling roots while also incorporating modern gameplay styles and graphical techniques. It seems that more and more traditionally sprite-based fighting games are moving over to fully 3D-rendered character models at the moment, with series like Street Fighter, Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs Capcom leading the way, and Samurai Shodown following suit. This is always going to be somewhat divisive in the fighting game community, as there are many that claim 3D models simply don’t respond as fluidly as animated sprites, but the gameplay here contradicts that argument completely.
Movement is tight and precise, and the controls are absolutely solid. This very much feels like the highly polished SNK products of old. Although the combat is significantly slower paced than many of SNK or Capcom’s other classic fighting games (as is generally the case with weapon-based fighters), the action is no less intense or rewarding. There is far more of an emphasis on position, timing and tactics as opposed to the usual reliance on overly complicated or convoluted air juggles, counters, cancels and mechanics that can often put off players that are new to modern fighting games. A match in Samurai Shodown can feel a lot more like a game of chess than a match in, say, Marvel vs Capcom 3 or Street Fighter IV, but the classic ‘button bashing’ technique isn’t likely to yield much success here!
Overall, Samurai Shodown is a fine product that slots in nicely alongside some of the better 2D fighters that have come out over the last few years. We could certainly see it making some appearances, or even becoming a mainstay, at some of the bigger fighting game tournaments in the near future. Our only gripe is with some of the rather arduous loading times between matches. These feel like they were lifted straight from SNK’s Neo Geo CD and can break up the flow a little, but with how great the gameplay is, it really is only a minor gripe.
Samurai Shodown is out now and, if you are even slightly interested in fighting games, we highly recommend you pick it up post haste!