A perfect example of how arcade games used to be
Samurai Shodown is only one of many fighters in the Neo Geo line-up, but there is one thing that it does different. Set In feudal Japan, the authentic settings of yore get accompanied by characters wearing the appropriate kimonos and such. More important than this genuine presentation both in appearance and traditional sound, the game is also a pioneer in the use of weaponry. Its anime appearance would later be an inspiration to modern, 2D, scrolling fighters such as BlazBlue and Marvel Vs Capcom.
But while the historical Japanese scenery is most appealing, there are a few issues to be addressed, such as the horrible translations and disturbing backgrounds. Not that these backdrops are ugly, but as they only seem to have 2 animations, they can make quite a peculiar impression on people. At least, I never saw details insinuate violent masturbation in such a way, ever. But at least it’s contrasting and admitted, the visuals are quite detailed. There are even certain minor parts that can be destroyed, such as barrels and bamboo sticks.
This difference gets prolonged in the most misfit bunch of characters ever to grace a screen, although slightly stereotyping certain traits. For instance, you have Earthquake, a morbidly obese giant from the USA; another US pretty-boy-show-off called Galford and a Mayan primitive from “Green Hell” named Tam Tam. SNK is lucky to have made this game when it did, because two decades later, the political correctness of the world would’ve been all over instances as these. Luckily, this only enhances some of the fun and distinguishes character greatly from one another.
Therefore, a character of contrary stature will also play in an individual manner. The fast ninjas will have speed traded in for the raw power of the bulkier characters; but these land punches a lot harder with destroying moves. This gives you a move set that is already unique and entertaining to begin with, such as Earthquake’s peculiar grab attack. For Family Guy fans; think of when Meg tells Peter he’s a “smart feller” and make that into a simple anagram. Now figure it out and then ‘clench’ a little in disgust.
Performing special attacks is much in line of games like Street Fighter that introduced the use of precise direction in combination with an attack button. Therefore, executing an attack will come hand in hand with front to back movements or the well-known ‘Shoryuken’ front-down-diagonal combo. In addition, a man in the background will periodically throw some items such as healing chicken or exploding bombs; just to switch things up even more.
Further creating a face for itself, Samurai Shodown also focuses on timed hits rather than a string of combos. Ranged from fast to hard strikes, a well-landed attack can do a devastating amount of damage. As if that wasn’t enough, given moments in the game will trigger a sound when you break the defense of an opponent; making his life bar red and leaving him more vulnerable. There is a flipside to this, as fierce battles also fill up a Rage meter. Once this is full, your character will overheat from sheer anger and blows will land even harder than before. It gives the game its own steady but precise pacing, although unfortunately sometimes it will come off as very cheap. As even the slightest indiscretion can and will suddenly take half of your life bar, it becomes harder to let your skill decide a round. And this game is already quite challenging!
Fighting veterans will not only get a chance to complete this trial, but can also master their craft as a Hit percentage gets counted at the end of battle, which gives more credit to accuracy. Added to this, there are also some Bonus stages alternating fight levels, which get you points upon achievement. But generally, this game will be a struggle for newcomers even on the easiest settings. Adept players can punish themselves by advancing in 4 different difficulties, although Normal is already fairly brutal.
Samurai Shodown is once again a perfect example of how arcade games used to be: brutal, punishing and very challenging. Luckily, it’s also a very unique title that masters each implementation and adds to that an entertaining and varying exposure. It’s a fighting game with its own appeal and can have fans of the genre play it for ages to come; even if it’s a step up for any fresh faces.