I'm sure many of you have never even heard of Samurai Shodown. The name is actually a bit misleading, as many of the characters are not even samurais, although most still are. The original Samurai Shodown games were for the Neo Geo and the SNES they ran on a modified version of the street Fighter engine, and the first Samurai Shodown was one of the first weapons based fighting games. On top of this, Samurai Shodown 64 was the first 3D fighting game to utilize multi-tiered arenas, although Dead or Alive has stolen the fame for it.
When the latest entry was released for the Xbox 360, it immediately peaked my interest, but something told me it wasn't going to be worth the $50 price tag, and so I waited. About a week ago, I saw that it was only $20, and decided it was time to give it a shot.
When I first booted the game up, I immediately jumped into story mode without practicing at all. I enjoyed the graphics for a while, as they were vibrant, and cel-shaded. I soon noticed, however, that the graphics are actually a bit lackluster. The Xbox 360 is definitely capable of much more than this. The character artwork, however, is amazing.
It's pretty for a little while...
The gameplay has changed drastically in this entry. Controls have been simplified, however, combos and specials are quite difficult to learn. The basic layout took a cue from Soul Calibur. The controller's face buttons are for a horizontal strike, a vertical strike, a kick and a grab. The right bumper initiates a powerful, quick attack, while the right trigger activates and even more powerful, albeit, slow
attack. The left bumper begins charging an extremely powerful attack that can break any defense. The problem with the combo system is that it just isn't fluid enough, and the game doesn't bother making the skill lists easy to read.
The series has always had faulty translations, and Sen is no different. Some of the characters titles are good for a laugh, and was particularly amused by the sign that read "Solaon" instead of "Saloon" in the wild west stage.
The music reminds me of that from Okami, except less awesome.
This is without a doubt the most violent entry in the series. At the end of the last round of a match, you can dismember your opponents arm, cut out their head, or even chop them in half. Depending on the character, you may also be able to deliver a fatal slash to the chest, or puncture their heart. Each character also has a fatality-like move that can only be activated if they are loosing badly, but I couldn't figure out how to activate any of them. Although it is no Mortal Kombat, there is something satisfying about cutting the hand off of a spammy opponent as if to say "Now, those tactics didn't get you very far!"
Need a band-aid?
Speaking of spammy opponents, that is the best way to sum up the AI in this game. After beating story with only 8 characters, I was sick of it, and have not touched its single player since. I tried to find a match on Xbox Live, but so few people play this game that I sat there for 45 minutes while reading a book and found no one. I did play with someone in person, though, and honestly, the game is two times better when playing a human opponent.
Although this game is not as good as its predecessors, it isn't all bad. It's only $20 new, and it can be fun to play with a friend. Just don't expect to find many, if any, online matches. It is worth having in your collection only if you have a friend to play it with, but even then, you may only pick it up occasionally. Until they bring this series back to its former glory, I suggest you just play the originals.