Giant Bomb Review


Samurai Shodown II Review

  • XBGS

Even though the 360's lackluster D-pad does its best to hold it back, Samurai Shodown II still shines on Xbox Live Arcade.

The game locks the screen size down the original 4:3 aspect ratio.
Samurai Shodown II is one of the all-time greats when it comes to 2D fighting games. SNK's weapon-focused fighter offers enough moves to keep your opponent guessing, and the rage gauge and impact of the game's heavy attacks means that matches can turn on a dime. While it's received plenty of ports off of the Neo Geo hardware over the years, the Xbox Live Arcade release is especially notable for including online play. Thankfully, the online play is perfectly capable over decent connections and the quality of the emulation is just fine, as well.

There's a catch, of course. There's always one. If you've been playing 2D fighters on the Xbox 360 for any length of time you probably know where I'm going with this: the D-pad. The Xbox 360 D-pad is less-than-ideal for this sort of game, and the analog stick is probably worse. Normally, I try not to complain about the 360's D-pad because I don't normally have a ton of issues with it, but as many of SNK's games are filled with crazy controller motions to pull off supers and such, it's more of an issue here than it is in, say, Ulitmate Mortal Kombat 3.

The hardware issue can't keep a good game down, though. Samurai Shodown II still plays extremely well, especially with others. The accuracy of the emulation seems right on, as well. The game offers the same type of graphical smoothing that Metal Slug 3 and Fatal Fury Special had, and it looks pretty bad. You're better off disabling it so you can see every filthy, blocky pixel the way it was originally meant to be seen, red arterial spray and all. Who knew that HDTVs would be so good for displaying old sprite-based arcade games and finally banishing the blurry mess that we got used to back on our standard-definition sets?

While I respect most of the game's roster, I only really play as Haohmaru.
The menus are rather bare, which is fine if you already know what you're getting yourself into. But you won't find a move list or anything else of use in the game's menus, so if you're getting into it for the first time, you might need to do a bit of out-of-game research.

The online support is the standard set of Xbox 360 options, with the one real difference being that the player matching screen actually shows a real ping time in milliseconds, not some friendly little green light or four bars or some other less-specific indication. As you might expect, lower-ping games play just fine, but once you get over the 200ms mark, things start to get a little funny. Furthermore, there don't seem to be a ton of people playing at any given time. Sometimes I was unable to find any opponents, other times I'd join games only to be kicked out, probably because the host is attempting to cheat his way through the game's achievements, which include points for 100 online wins and ten straight online victories. Many of the online players I've faced have been quite good, so expect an uphill battle if you're going to attempt to honestly earn your ranked victories.

Samurai Shodown is a great series, and as far as I'm concerned, SS2 is the best installment of the bunch. Between that and the game's online support, I'm well satisfied with this release. If you have fond memories of '90s arcades, I'd guess that you'll be satisfied, as well.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
27 Comments Refresh
Posted by PabloDiablo

Maybe I'll check this one out.

Posted by John

I had no idea this was out, I'll download the demo.

Posted by breton

That widescreen backdrop is.. off-putting.

Posted by CarolynP

I'd recognize that thumb anywhere.

Posted by Sigmund

Seriously, buy this game.  I've literally spent thousands of dollars to be able to play this game whenever I want.  $10 is a bargain, and SNK Playmore should be applauded for bringing this to XBLA. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go make out with my MVS cabinet. 


Posted by Not_Rage

I remember Jeff saying he has 3 copies of Samurai Showdown II and buys it every time he sees it.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Samurai Showdown II looks pretty cool.  I am getting Duke instead however.  (Need more points!)

Posted by eduardo

Also, be sure to check out the gamerpics... they're awesome, just like the Fatal Fure ones.

Posted by dead_panoramic

I don't buy that the D-pad has a minimal impact on gameplay.

Posted by Judoka

Now we need 3 or 4, not necessarily in that order.

Posted by Oemenia

Unfortunately as with any XBOX Live game, its going to die out within a few short months. Whats worse this isnt a game that you can see selling well either

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

Sam Sho FTW! I'm getting this as soon as I get my Xbox360 back!

Posted by PureRok

Meh. Played the demo and it's not that good of a game. Of course, I pretty much hate all fighters so I didn't really have high hopes going into the demo. Fighting games should just die out already.

Posted by Gregomasta

wait wait wait........cartoon giant bomb staff have only four fingers?

Posted by Linkyshinks

Awesome, must get for the online play alone, despite recently getting the both 1 and 2 on the Virtual Console recently. I'm really looking forward to the Anthology later this year on Wii and PSP also :P.

Posted by Kohe321

Cool. I hate the d-pad, though...

Posted by DiGiTaL_SiN

Yeah, but apparently only Brad has the gift of all 5 fingers. 
And yes, you can see every cartoon character rating for all the guys, I'm not gonna say how but it's pretty obvious.

Posted by BostonPimpDaddy

D-pad SUCKS for fighting games. Wow did I play this game a lot in college. I think I may get it since I have a nice arcade stick I can use to play it with.

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

The d-pad problems are a bit of a bummer, but I'm excited to play this anyways.

Posted by DukeTogo

Online play is sort of a moot point for me, so I'm happy with the VC release, my MS points are better spent on the Rush album finally getting released for Rock Band.

Posted by Ontheocho

Better than the Wii version?  The classic controller for Wii might offer a better D-pad, but are the visuals up to speed?

Posted by shiroren8

playing this is just reinforcing the fact that i have to get a arcade stick before street fighter 4 comes out or mk vs. dc. i just cant deal with the d-pad all that well with fighters at all. overall though i'm loving finally having ss2 at home to play whenever i want to and not have to worry about getting tokens and feeling greasy joysticks and buttons that dont work anymore.

Posted by ThePhenomenal1

buying an arcade stick totoally fixes the d-pad problem. got mine for 40 bucks. best hardware i've bought for the 360.

Posted by ferrarimanf355

To everyone whining about the D-Pad: yes, it's bad, but you can buy a joystick and play it the way it was meant to be played. Problem solved.

Posted by Ben99

this website is depressing with all this blackness

Posted by Sykosis

I wish the 360 D-pad didn't feel like an unstable joystick or else I might have bought this game.

Posted by Winternet

Totally agree with you Jeff when you say SS2 is the best in SS franchise. Aw good memories...