In the modern era of fighting games, initiating special moves, stringing relentless combos and juggling balls and plates off the air are the things that define them. But what if you strip them all away? Well, you have Samurai Shodown otherwise known as Samurai Spirits in Japan. A fighting game about the footsies, the mind games and the rage explosions where a single mistake might have considerably devastating effects.
Bringing Basics Back to the Spotlight…
Samurai Shodown brings back the basics of true sword fights. Unlike familiar fighting games like BlazBlue which easily pulls in casual fighting game enthusiasts like myself for its stylish and easy-to-pull-off combos, Samurai Shodown engages you to a one-on-one fight of mind reading and quick reflexes. They’ve put away the combo strings and gives you the core values of fighting. There’s your light attacks which are generally quick and fast, the medium attack which generally has longer reach, heavy attack for a slower yet more devastating attack and a kick to unbalance foes.
Each move has its strengths and weaknesses and learning how to make it work is how you come back with all your body parts intact. Going in knee-deep with your slow and hard hitting heavy attack can have great consequences when an enemy blocks your attack leaving you stunned and open for a punish. However as mind games are just about in every corner, there’s also ways to retaliate given the read is right.
That on its own was already too much for my mind to process yet that was just the tip of the iceberg for Samurai Shodown. The characters also have their own special moves, often a three-directional input plus either of the three slash attacks which also change the range of a move or add additional slashes for a more devastating outcome. As it is a game about weapons, flipping a weapon off their hands is probably the most satisfying feel aside from the rage explosion super move, lightning blade that makes you an explosive ball of rage that dashes through your opponents lightning-fast and slashing them to inflict massive hurt. It’s a great comeback mechanic but comes with its own risk of a one-time user per match. But going back to the weapon flipping, it gives you an advantage to fight an unarmed opponent with only their bare hands to fight back or until they pick up their weapon off the ground. And as someone who just lost their weapon, they can catch the enemy’s sword and flip them off their grasps as well which is simply fun and satisfying on its own to pull off.
The Story, What Story?
There’s a total of 16 characters in the base game and 4 to be added as part of the season pass which for players that have already bought the game before the 1st of July can get it free of charge. There’s a vast array of different personalities and silhouettes. From fan-favorite Nakoruru and Haohmaru to the humongous Earthquake and the adorable yet clumsy Chinese warrior Wu Ruixiang.
But I’m not a huge fan when it comes to fighting game story and lore. I can live without them especially when there’s no innovation involved and Samurai Shodown falls into that category. There’s the huge looping cycle of character introductions, countless battles before facing the final opponent and get a deserving conclusion. Rinse and repeat for the rest of the cast. While the game does offer some pretty Japanese-themed visuals it doesn’t feel enough to keep me in that needless cycle of battles.
There’s also the final boss battle which voids the rules of battles making it a huge struggle to beat normally until you tone down the difficulty or when you “git gud” to learn its moves and know when to attack or evade. It invalidates all that knowledge you spent trying to beat the first few enemies only to get squashed in the face.
Be the Best Like No One ever was…
Samurai Shodown has a hefty load of game modes although pretty standard. The tutorial which only gives you the basics of what you need to know aside from a free training mode to familiarize yourself with your characters. Unlike Dead or Alive 6 which encompasses an absurd level of training regimens to get you into fighting shape.
Other than that, there’s the gauntlet to let you fight every character in a one round match, making it more of a game about hitting your rage explosion finishers and finishing them off before they do you. Survival, time trials, offline versus and online casual and ranked play. Then finally a Dojo mode to fight off player ghosts. The online can be quite disastrous though for its lack of players whenever I get into it and the fact that it’s going to be a hit or miss before I could find a match that isn’t a stop dance.
The Finishing Move… Verdict as Other People would Say it.
Samurai Shodown is an interesting comeback to the classic fighting games that I was too young to play. It managed to capture the tension of a high-stakes duel to the death where each move hits hard and meant to kill you. But in other ways it also fails in other aspects like a cumbersome story to follow through because of its sheer repetitiveness and lack of a rewarding cutscene to give you more motivation to get into. The awful 25-30 second loading times is also one thing that really puts me off about the game when matches can be decided in a minute or two and doesn’t have anything to offer like tips and tricks about the game but instead gives you a black screen with a bunny holding a mallet in the lower right corner.
If you’re looking for a fighting game other than beating up your little brother, I’d say your little brother might need to toughen up a little bit more until the game gets its deserving love and care. It might have its core values in place but needs a bit more polish with its ins and outs.