The 90s saw a renaissance of arcade games, games that were transitioning from vector line graphics and small sprite characters to more realistic looking avatars. This new era would also be defined by the shift from mainly platform games to a slew of fighting games.
Most remember spending their quarters on Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, but the NEO GEO platform (which also had its own home version) by SNK would bring its own slew of colorful fighting games to the scene.
My first introduction to the Samurai Shodown fighting game was in college, with it’s vast and unique characters and anime-type design I was instantly hooked. Since it’s original release in 1993, there have been a slew of variations and sequels that have appeared on everything from PlayStation and Sega Saturn all the way to the most recent release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. So, it only makes sense that we would finally see the release of their re-envisioned version make its way to PC.
Samurai Shodown originally was released on consoles all the way back in June of 2019, and PC gamers are now able to get their hands on this via the EPIC store. For those unfamiliar with the series, the player gets to select from 16 unique warriors to do battle across numerous locations. Each character comes with their own unique play style and weapons (some even bring along various pets to fight along side them).
The control scheme is fairly simple, using only a four-button layout (much like the original NEO GEO games in the past). The four buttons allow the character to perform numerous attacks and combos, consisting of a light slash, medium slash, heavy slash, and kick. This makes the game far more novice friendly and makes it a bit easier to learn the various combos and fighting stances that each of the characters have available to them.
Samurai Shodown is more about finesse then about button mashing (although to be fair, I did more then my fair share of that as well). Landing quick or heavy blows and then backing up and resetting is the key to success here. There is much focus on defense and countering your opponents moves, then firing off a flashy fireball or a smashing backflip. Each character does have a devastating Super Special Move that does a ton of damage (and can instantly turn the tide of a fight, when executed at the right moment).
One of the most unique moves that can be executed, is a disarming move. This allows you to pull the weapon from your opponent’s hands (or in my case, pulled from MY hands) minimizing the amount of damage they can inflict with their fists. You can reach out and pick up your weapon, but not before your opponent can level some devastating blows.
Graphically, the game has certainly improved, and has an incredibly colorful palette. The different environments are beautiful and engaging but still maintains a very distinctive Samurai Shodown feel. It isn’t the graphical leap that we saw in the latest Mortal Kombat games but maintains the beauty and fluidity that has always been the showcase of the series.
The game allows for blood and dismemberments to be turned on or off, depending on the level of gore you are comfortable with. However, even when turned on, the blood and dismemberments are mild compared to previous installments of the Mortal Kombat series.
As with similar games in the genre, there are plenty of options to keep you entertained. There is a story mode (which really is not much more then some character cut scenes and moving to a new location). It is not nearly as involved as other stories included in various other games but suits the purpose of introducing new characters to fight and new locations to visit. There are online and solo battles, where you can choose various fighters to play (and battle) to better learn their moves and compete online against others. Also included are survival, time-trial, and a gauntlet mode that add additional playability and longevity to the game.
My biggest complaint with the PC series of the game, was getting it installed and running. I’m running an AMD 3900X with a Nvidia RTX 2080 super and immediately following my first install I suffered several Unreal Engine crashes trying to start the game. I uninstalled and reinstalled and that didn’t seem to help at all. I did some googling and found some potential fixes, and I eventually was able to get it to start.
After that initial frustration however I haven’t had any additional issues. I didn’t have an opportunity to try it on another PC so I can’t say for sure if this was specific to my system or a much wider issue. It wasn’t a deal breaker completely, but worth noting for those who choose to buy it on PC.
Samurai Shodown continues in a long line of fantastic fighting games. While it may not have all the advancements of other fighting series, it continues to excel as an excellent addition to the franchise. After playing on my PC with my handy Xbox One controller, I decided that the next step is to play this on my AtGames Legends Ultimate cabinet. Playing an arcade fighting game on my own home arcade system is the icing on the cake. If you are looking for an excellent fighting game, with colorful characters, and fun environments then Samurai Shodown may be right up your alley.
What I liked: Colorful characters, Smooth animation, Easy to learn but hard to master
What I liked less: Long load times, Frustrating to get up and running (at least for me)
3.5 out of 5 stars