In 2019 Samurai Shodown came to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and had a moderate success: we talked about nearly 40,000 copies sold (between physical and digital format) in Japan until July 4 of that year. So far there is no report of its reception worldwide, but it is clear that this is a franchise that does not rival in popularity with games like Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath or Dragon Ball FighterZ (which recently celebrated 5 million copies sold) . Assimilating a game like Samurai Shodown by an audience outside its niche is difficult, especially if we take into account its 100% Japanese atmosphere and its classic but complex style. However, the passage of the franchise by Nintendo Switch and Google Stadia tells us about SNK’s interest in reaching the game to all kinds of audiences, that includes its recent launch on PC through the Epic Games Store.
This takes us back to a controversial tweet that revealed the intentions of a « PC download platform » to have the exclusive launch of this title on their platform, however, Nobuyuki Kuroki, director of Samurai Shodown, rejected the proposal, having faith in the success of its most recent installment. Almost a year after its launch, the legendary SNK franchise arrives on PC in a port almost identical to its version for consoles, with some deficiencies that we will talk about in this review.
To fully enter this review I would like to mention that I will talk about the game in general in addition to comparing the PC port with the version of PlayStation 4 that I was able to test before. Samurai Shodown is one of the great titans of SNK, a saga that has had different deliveries since its launch in 1993, taking as main axis the 5 titles released for Neo Geo and the dream match developed for the Atomiswave plate. If you are interested in learning more about this title, you can take a look at the Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection that we recommend in our Stay at Home section.
The Samurai Shodown story takes up historical events that occurred in feudal Japan, specifically in 1787 during the Tenmei period. A time dominated by hunger, war and all kinds of catastrophic phenomena. As if this were not enough, a mysterious cloud of death spreads little by little and originates from Japan. The chaos that reigns in the land of the rising sun is caused by the wandering spirit of a woman named Shizuka. Its power is increased thanks to the fact that a demonic being converts its hatred and sadness into evil energy. The mission of Haohmaru and the rest of the characters will be to stop Shizuka to save the world and other hidden interests.
Although this plot takes up a narrative line from the original Samurai Shodown, it temporarily falls between Samurai Shodown V and the first title, which is a bit confusing, because it looks like a reboot in the franchise but Amakusa’s impending arrival is suggested. Samurai Shodown maintains the essence that has distinguished it through the years, I mean the period elements full of tradition and Japanese folklore: from the theme in battles similar to a duel to the death to the style of the narrator to present the characters before an encounter, in addition to telling us the prologue and epilogue of each character in story mode. This classic atmosphere is remarkable and sets the franchise apart from any other fighting game.
Haohmaru tearing Tam Tam apart with one super move
In story mode we will take our character through 8 confrontations and, after defeating our enemies, we will be able to know the true form of Shizuka. This mode is interesting because it tells us the reasons of each warrior to search for the wandering spirit. It should be clarified that this is not a cinematic story despite presenting an introduction and an epilogue through beautiful illustrations. Rather it is similar to a traditional arcade mode with a couple of special animations that introduce us to Shizuka before facing her.
The other modes are the usual ones: survival, against the clock, versus and the glove mode where we face all the characters included in the game. In addition to this we will find the dojo modality, where we can review the basic movements, and practice, which allows us to hone our skills without haste. Another interesting detail is the inclusion of ghosts, that is, you can download a kind of artificial intelligence that simulates the attack patterns of other players; the idea is that you get used to different styles of play. You will notice that their behavior is not so realistic once you face them, but the idea is good, and could be developed in other titles.
Despite having these modes available, we know that the soul of fighting games are shoulder-to-shoulder confrontations, but if it is difficult for you to play with a friend, you can always venture into online mode. platform change, as there are several factors to consider. The first is that it was recently released, so it is normal that there are few players (spend more than 20 minutes without finding an opponent). The worst thing is that when I was paired it was usually an Asian player and we just couldn’t bond. This changed recently, and I was able to play with someone from the United States, Korea, and Japan. Although the lag was evident in some cases, I was able to finish most of my fights favorably. I played about 10 games, but a couple of times I linked up with the player and after a few minutes the connection error sign appeared. I imagine that it also has to do with the fact that it is the first fighting game that reaches Epic Games, a platform that has always been in the eye of the hurricane and does not need to establish itself completely, as it happens with Steam. To this we must add that the title has been practically a year on platforms, with PlayStation 4 being the most used system in tournaments in the world. I have played online on the Sony console and even though I feel the most stable servers there is not that much active community.
The way of the samurai
As I mentioned, the soul of Samurai Shodown is the classic, and not only in the conception of aesthetics, since it applies to every aspect of this fighting game. The way you play feels like we’re in the past, as if you master the basics of other titles in the genre or are familiar with Samurai Shodown, you won’t have much trouble adjusting. The control scheme is simple, we will have 3 types of cuts and a kick; By combining these buttons we will obtain actions such as dodging, grabbing the opponent or disarming him. Knowing this in addition to the basic actions of all the characters is essential to achieve victory; on the go you will know how to react to different situations.
In Samurai Shodown, the main thing is to know when you can apply a punishment or cause an error. The set of these actions is known as neutral game, and leaves aside the abuse of combos or endless pressure. In general, it is a simple but not simple game, since it requires your full attention and the cleaner the pit, the more damage you will do. This is very noticeable and is typical of Samurai Shodown, if you put a good blow the opponent will lose about 60% of his life bar.
Many times you will have to take risk, for example, when deflecting an attack. If you do it right, the opponent will be open for a few seconds and you will be able to hit a super move that will make him lose almost the entire bar. If you fail you will be at their mercy and receive a good blow to the face, so it is important to recognize situations and think of all the possibilities in milliseconds.
Spilled blood will be abundant in Samurai Shodown
The battles, while intense, are not entirely dynamic; Some players may even get bored because everything happens at a leisurely pace, and while there are 3 types of special moves, they won’t be seen in every fight. The first is the disarmament movement, as its name implies, if the enemy receives this attack, his weapon will fly through the air and remain vulnerable. Although it can take it from the ground, being unarmed means that you will lose your main form of attack, so you will be at a total disadvantage. The next one is the super movement, this attack is fatal but very slow and does not have priority as it happens in other games. So if it is very evident the opponent can react with any single hit and stop its activation.
The super move animations are quite a show, but can only be done once in the entire fight. If you fail, there is no going back, which is sad because it is the most striking part of the game. Finally, there is the anger bar, which as you take damage will fill up and you can make a disarmament movement as many times as necessary until the bar is exhausted or until you hit the opponent. But, if you are at risk and you don’t have any more resources, you can sacrifice this bar to enter the anger explosion mode. This allows us to have a special attack that goes through projectiles, has priority and does a lot of damage depending on the amount of health we have left. The less health bar, the greater the damage. Activating the explosion of anger makes everything extremely tense, nobody wants to be wrong; Let’s say that if used correctly, you can flip the situation in a second. This action is essential and as soon as it is activated it will cause the players not to want to move forward; It is a unique feeling that can only be caused by Samurai Shodown.
Pure Japanese folklore
The character design was not changed, it was only moved to 3D, although it is still a 2-dimensional game. It is not the first time this has happened; We saw it in Samurai Shodown 64 and Samurai Shodown Sen, the difference is that this time the Unreal Engine 4 was taken advantage of, causing the models to look good, without standing out. The truth is that, although the cel shading type aesthetic helps a lot, some models look rough and the lack of textures is noticeable. Just look at Galford on the victory screen to make it more apparent. Even so, this section is compensated by the movement of clothing, hair and especially the handling of the camera in special attacks. At times the blood covers the skin of the fighters and the screen changes to papyrus or watercolor paint to give it a more artistic touch. The backgrounds are variable, some look like paintings or postcards that exalt Japanese architecture and landscapes, while others oscillate between litmus and somber tones.
On the fighters, the original cast picks up 13 warriors from previous installments and 3 new ones in the base character cast, plus Shizumaru Hisame which was added for free in the console version and here we have it from the beginning. In total we have 17 characters available plus 4 extras from the first season pass and another 3 that make up the second character pack. The last character in Season Pass 2 will be revealed soon, and when that happens we’ll update the information in this review.
Finally, the music and the sound section is something that shines as always, causing the player to plunge into a duel to the death where the environment and the sounds of Japanese instruments provoke all kinds of emotions. There are also very rhythmic songs, such as the theme that you will hear in tutorial mode and which is already a classic Samurai Shodown.
Samurai Shodown in pictures
A single-edged sword
The arrival of Samurai Shodown on PC is appreciated because it broadens the spectrum of players, and gives users of this platform the opportunity to acquire a good fighting game. Although I did not suffer from performance problems, there are some issues that I would like to highlight.
Within the game there are no options that allow you to assess which assets are active or deactivated to improve overall performance. Options such as Vsync activation will have to be reviewed in a text file located in the installation folder. So if you want to modify some features you will have to do some extra steps. As for the loading times, in themselves on consoles they are quite long, but on PC this increases a few seconds. Sometimes so much time lost between fights can discourage you from going on, so consider whether you are willing to put up with it. Finally, the online system could be better: as I said, it is good but it feels less stable than that of consoles, and the lack of players is quite noticeable.
I recommend acquiring Samurai Shodown only if you are looking for a duel of minds with a solid neutral game above the spectacular. It can be slow and very technical, but it is enjoyed to the fullest once you warm up. If you don’t have the console version yet, you can give this port a try, available to all PC users through the Epic Games Store in exchange for $ 23.99 USD.