After over 25 years, Samurai Shodown re-enters the fighting game scene looking to carve its place beside household names such as Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. One of SNK’s most famous series, Samurai Shodown is a weapons-based fighting game that introduces a more methodical fighting style - focusing on careful positioning, counters, and reading your opponent’s moves.
Its slower gameplay is a much needed break from all the flashy 30-hit juggle combos and its simplicity definitely has its own unique appeal. But don’t let that fool you, Samurai Shodown boasts deeper mechanics that sets the button mashers apart from those who take the time to study the game thoroughly.
Besides the updated graphics, Samurai Shodown is largely the same as it was over a decade ago when it was first released. The move-sets are simple and direct, making it easy for beginners and a sense of familiarity with the veterans. Light and kick attacks are quick and interrupts slow attacks, medium attacks serves as great pokes, while heavy attacks deal tons of damage but comes with significant risk of getting countered and punished. Even though you’re dominating your opponent, one wrong move may see the tides turn and cost you the match.
With that said, the game can be a tad punishing to new players. As mentioned, button mashing will only get you killed. It’s frustrating for sure to go up against an experienced opponent who finishes you off in a heartbeat. However, because of how deceptively simple it is, you find yourself always coming back for more.
Samurai Shodown has a diverse roster of 16 characters in the base game and another 4 characters coming in with the season pass DLC. Each character is brimming with personality and unique quirks which sets them apart from a lot of other fighting games. From icons such as Haohmaru who gets the job done with his singular blows that deal massive damage, to the new DLC character Rimururu which focuses on her mobility and quick ice attacks. SNK will release a new character every two months, starting with Rimururu (August), followed by Basara the Executioner, Kazuki Kazama, and Wan-Fu.
You can explore more on the lore of the game and the characters by playing through the Story/Arcade Mode. However the Story Mode is utterly outdated. You play through the standard set of opponents with character specific cutscenes and then you fight the boss. The end. That’s it. Compared to Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur 6 or Injustice, the story mode really lacks creativity and effort. With such a vibrant cast of characters, you can’t help but feel SNK really missed an opportunity here.
SNK has done a great job at reintroducing the classic fighting series into the modern fighting game scene. The high risk, high reward gameplay is fresh yet familiar. The simplicity of the game makes it easily accessible to new players but at the same time boasts deep strategic mechanics that lures in experienced players. It’s a prime example of an easy to play, hard to master game. Although the game lacks a proper story mode and other stand-out content, it’s still a well polished game worthy of your purchase.