It has been a good year for SAMURAI SHODOWN. The 2019 release revitalized the series when it came to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One last year, and it was among the first titles to appear on the Stadia service. Its second season of DLC characters are coming in 2020, and the Nintendo Switch version is about to appear outside of Japan. To help go over what’s making this reboot special, Siliconera caught up with Game Director Nobuyuki Kuroki. Kuroki has been with SNK since 1993 and worked on its fighting games, starting with Art of Fighting 2 all the way up to SAMURAI SHODOWN.
Siliconera: There was an eleven year gap between SAMURAI SHODOWN SEN and SAMURAI SHODOWN. How did the break and development and insight from other fighting games released during that time help shape and change this reboot?
Nobuyuki Kuroki: Honestly speaking, I cannot say that there is a title that helped shape or change SAMURAI SHODOWN all that much.
This is because SAMURAI SHODOWN has its own unique worldview and gameplay which is totally different from other titles. Instead of being influenced by other titles, we felt that creating the game fans have waited so long to play a lot more essential.
SAMURAI SHODOWN has a distinct flow and style compared to other modern fighters, with a great emphasis on careful, calculated movements, and single strikes. That being said, the game also features special moves using familiar inputs. What’s the creative mindset behind making these somewhat competing ideas into a cohesive identity?
Kuroki: We set out to make a game that doesn’t just have unique and interesting flavor as a fighting game, but one that our fans would easily be able to pick up thanks to well-known SNK-style gameplay.
Therefore, it may look like these two styles clash, but in actuality they fit rather well together. We understand that if the game is too distinct, many players may have a hard time getting adjusted, however we were able to strike a balance with SAMURAI SHODOWN.
SAMURAI SHODOWN was SNK’s first game using Unreal Engine 4. What did you learn from the experience and how will those lessons influence your future fighting games?
Kuroki: For KOF14 and SNK Heroines, rather than do what we want, it was more of a case where we could only do what we can due to limited options.
By using Unreal Engine 4 with SAMURAI SHODOWN, the range of expression has been expanded.
For sure a coin has two sides, and we faced both positive and negative aspects. But it was great for us to have the chance to do what we wanted.
If we continue using Unreal Engine in our future games, we will make good use of the experience learnt from this time and make every effort to design our games.
Porting a fighting game to the Switch sounds extremely difficult on paper. What was the motivation for taking on this task and was it as tough as it sounds?
Kuroki: Our only wish is to allow more fans of this title to enjoy the game.
Since the users who played this game speak highly of it, we are confident that our fans will be pleased with this version.
However, it was quite difficult to port the game while keeping 60fps, which is the core of fighting games.
Therefore, we really appreciate all the hard work done by SAFARI GAMES, the company in charge of porting the game to Switch.
SAMURAI SHODOWN is on Stadia as well. What has the team taken away so far from Stadia as a platform for fighting games so far?
Kuroki: Since the title has only be launched on Stadia for a relatively short time, there are not many things we can share at this moment.
However, we do appreciate that as a platform for fighting games Stadia is well-established and supportive.
Also, we’ve learnt a lot of new technical skills from this experience, so please allow us to keep these as our own little secrets.
In the past, you explained part of the motivation for creating SAMURAI SHODOWN was to focus on the community. How did you feel about and what did you learn from its Evo 2019 and Evo Japan 2020 appearances?
Kuroki: It is our honor to have the opportunity to present our game on the tremendous stages of both EVO and EVO Japan.
SNK deeply values and appreciates its community.
We think that by the revival of KOF, SAMURAI SHODOWN, and other old titles, we can show our gratitude to the community and our fans.
Also, by attending these events like EVO and presenting our titles there, we gain energy from all our fans all over the world. This energy will further push us as we develop other titles.
In any case, we depend on the community for bringing hype to our games, and so we wish to do right by them.
SAMURAI SHODOWN will have its second season pass kick off. How do you determine which returning characters reappear and who would you like to see come back?
Kuroki: We will choose the characters based on how popular they are among fans and how they can make the game more fun.
More detailed information will be released soon!
Personally, I prefer Sieger.
We’ve seen three original characters in this installment so far, Darli Dagger, Yashamaru Kurama, and Wu-Ruixiang. What are the steps for creating a new fighter and how do you ensure they feel balanced and comfortable within the existing roster and lore?
Kuroki: During the early development stages, our in-house artist and designer Saji-san first set the tone of the characters and drafted the designs.
Based on those designs, we discussed together when deciding what kind of characters we would like to make.
The most difficult part for us was probably trying our best to avoid using similar elements that have been used before and to build up a distinctive character.
According to our experiences, no matter how perfect when you draw the plan, there will be loads of differences when you play it. So, to make the game more balanced and comfortable, we will arrange battle planner to play the game.
What is your perception of SAMURAI SHODOWN’s current status outside of Japan? Do you have any related longer-term goals?
Kuroki: As far as I know, I think it’s not bad.
Since the game itself and the designs are quite unique, at first, we were worried whether it would be well-accepted by our fans overseas. But I suppose it turned out quite good.
We will focus on our release of Season 2, and that’s all I can talk about at this point.
With lost games appearing via digital or special releases, could we ever see SAMURAI SHODOWN V Special: Final Edition reappear?
Kuroki: I only can say that it’s not a hundred percent impossible, but we do not have plans on that at this moment.