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Review-Samurai Shodown (2019)

Samurai

God, I’m so glad SNK is making actual video games again. I always had an admiration for the company growing up after playing Capcom vs SNK for the first time. the company has such a long and illustrious history of amazing games and I was lucky enough to experience many of them…except for one series, Samurai Shodown. The only time I ever touched the series was by playing the first game for about 10 minutes and saying “Where are the combos? This game blows!”.

I was a very stupid child.

It wasn’t until I got older and started watching online matches from Samurai Shodown V Special that I really got interested in the series and, as if hearing my call, SNK announced that they were making a new game after the success of King of Fighters XIV. The game seemed like an evolution to what SNK did with KOFXIV, having a much more stylized art style and gorgeous art direction. Even though I was never familiar with the series, I was super keen on trying it out on release and finally getting some real exposure to the franchise. After playing it all week I can safely say that, no joke, this is my favorite new release of the year so far, at least from the ones I’ve played. Let me explain.

Samurai Shodown is a traditional 2D fighting game at heart, but it doesn’t follow the same conventions as its competition. Each character has a light, medium, and heavy attack and one kick button but none of them are able to link into each other rather each move is its own singular attack, though you can still cancel certain moves into specials. Almost every attack in the game is extremely unsafe of block which means the player HAS to be mindful over which attack they use at anytime since one wrong move can lead to an opening, and when you’re left open in this game…you get GOT.

Samurai Shodown is a game about patience and timing and it’s a very difficult game to learn, let alone master but, once you do the game becomes unbelievably satisfying. It took my a while to get accustomed to it since I’m more used to games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat but eventually, through perseverance, practice, and a lot of yelling, I got used to the ins and outs of the game. Once that happened I gotta be honest guys, I haven’t had this much fun playing a fighting game with other people in a very long time. The back and forth of the combat makes the game feel so tense and engaging and if all the other Samurai Shodown games were like this, then I really regret dismissing the series when I first tried it. I feel like SNK learned a lot from KOFXIV as SamSho not only exhibits much better flow in terms of gameplay, but the visual style since it actually looks appealing this time!

I’ve always been a fan on cel-shaded visuals and brush strokes in video games. If used correctly, they can make a lot of aspects about a games art style look striking and appealing, and Samurai Shodown uses them in such a good way. Almost everything about this game looks like a painting in motion. Every character uses some form of brush stroke and bright colors to make them stand out and the use of ink-like colors just looks unbelievable to me. All of the stages as well look absolutely gorgeous with their use of colors and composition, Shibaigoya (The Kabuki stage) and Mikatagahara (Pictured above) being my favorites. Another part of the presentation I loved were the menu’s and the narrator, who has a line for every icon and almost every selection. It’s such a cool touch.

Now, with all of this being said, none of it REALLY matters if there isn’t anything to do. Fighting games as of late have had a lot of issues with single player content be it somewhat stripped down and annoying (Mortal Kombat 11) or even..flat out not including things on release (Street Fighter V) but thank GOD Samurai Shodown actually has stuff to do.

I know this seems like a really weird thing to give a fighting game praise for but I really can’t stress enough how much I appreciate stuff like this. Like I said above, fighting games seem to be stripping away more and more basic game modes and focusing mainly on multiplayer and online, and while I get that…it just makes the game feel empty. Thankfully SamSho gives you quite a bit to do if you don’t feel like playing with other people. First off is story mode which is just your run of the mill SNK arcade mode that makes you fight several characters before you reach the end boss and receive a characters ending. Now when I started this I played on level 3 difficulty. That was a mistake.

Great thing to start the round off with. Thanks SNK.

Yeah if you’re new please play on difficulty 1 this boss is messy for certain characters.

Samurai Shodown also has other standard game modes like survival, time attack, ghost battle, and even a pretty robust and helpful tutorial. All really basic stuff, but it’s still nice to have other stuff to do that isn’t online and vs AND BOY LEMME TELL YA ABOUT THE ONLINE. It’s alright. I’ve heard reports about bad connections and disconnects and while I personally haven’t had any real issues with it outside of a few frame drops every now and then, it’s still a thing to look out for. One thing I liked about the online is how the lobbies have an easy 1v1 set up so if you’re setting up an online tournament it’ll be easy to organize since the winner doesn’t stay on like in most games. Overall I really liked all of the game modes in SamSho, the only thing I wish it had were character trials but given how simple the move lists are, I can get the exclusion.

I know everything I’ve written seems pretty standard for a fighting game, and it is, but Samurai Shodown just feels…special to me. I love how satisfying the gameplay is, I love the visuals and presentation, I love how it has actual single player content, the game just hits all the right beats for me. There’s something so simple and wonderful about SamSho that just keeps me coming back to it and playing it with my friends and other people. If you have an interest in fighting games I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s a hard one, folks but it’s well worth the time and effort to learn. Out of all the new releases that’s I’ve played this year Samurai Shodown is the one that I have the most fondness and admiration for.

What else can I say about this game other than…..Embrace Death.

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