While I’ve heard over the years how Samurai Shodown is of those games that’s easy to pick up and but hard to master, I never actually took other people’s advice to try the series up until now, instead preferring to stick to The King of Fighters. Now that I’ve actually tried it, I can absolutely see why people say that’s the case.
The biggest thing to understand, going from something like KOF, is that the game is a lot slower-paced. I nearly had a double-take (and a small chuckle) seeing how slow Nakoruru moved in this game compared to KOF14. But that’s very deliberate, as this game is a weapon-based fighter.
It took me a while, but I got used to the slower pace of the game. Essentially, each movement you take is doubly as precious as in faster-paced games, and even a light attack takes a while to perform. What Samurai Shodown makes up for in its lack of speed however, it makes up for in power. Special moves and heavy slashes are extremely powerful, taking up to a sixth of your health bar at once, and while it sucked when I was on the receiving end, in the cases where I was able to get into the opponent’s head and read the timing, it was immensely satisfying to pull off.
You’re almost always in a neutral state, wondering just what the opponent will do next. Each short bout is a tense affair, and if the entire point is to simulate how tense actual close combat weapon battles feel, I’ve got to congratulate SNK for making players feel the same way.
In particular, this intensity is partially thanks to how the game has a wide variety of ways to counter the enemy, which are universal across all characters. Apart from standard blocking, which already staggers the opponent if they used a heavy slash, there are Just Defenses that act as a parry like in other games, and means certain immediate retaliation. You can also dodge, useful for projectiles and something I was slightly familiar with thanks to Capcom Vs SNK 2, and a Deflect that immediately disarm the opponent. Some characters (like Darli Dagger who’s the coolest character ever) even have special moves only available during Disarmed state.
Fortunately, Samurai Shodown is quite lenient in terms of easing players in. There is a Tutorial mode, as you might expect, and it teaches players adequately what situations each mechanic should be used, with some extra tips on things to be aware of after the tutorial. There aren’t character-specific tutorials though, and while I understand that it is likely thanks to the lack of combo game in this title, it still feel like something obvious that is missing.
I’m still getting into the groove of the game, but even just playing through Story Mode (essentially arcade mode) has given me an appreciation for how much depth there is despite the surface-level simplicity. It’s no wonder that the series has managed to maintain its core fanbase both overseas and in Japan locally.
Food for thought:
- Can I just gush about the graphical style and visual flair? Sure, in some places they betray themselves and look around the same level as The King of Fighters XIV (which was decent), but things like the artwork present in Genjuro’s slashes are downright beautiful.
- I need to say again that Darli Dagger makes everything she does look cool. Her sawblade hits eight times in a row, and she’s able to put down her blade intentionally just to wind up for a bone-shattering punch. Her command grab makes her pull out a freaking drill spear to stab enemies with. Can we get a spin-off game with her already?
Samurai Shodown is available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’ll release for Nintendo Switch and PC this winter. Check out more on the DLC characters in our previous report.