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Review: Japanese Fighter Samurai Shodown is Finally on PC

Screenshot: Samurai Shodown

Hell yes, Samurai Shodown is finally on PC. Released on every major platform so far, including Nintendo Switch and showing up as one of Stadia’s Pro launch titles, it’s about time this spectacular and highly stylish fighting game made its way to PC.

Samurai Shodown is the latest in a long line of fighting games that have been released since 1993—though there was a decade long gap before Samurai Shodown entered the modern era. When they did, they decided to go with a prequel that acts as a reboot to the series so you don’t have to be bogged down by a bunch of prior games and lore. In Samurai Shodown you play as one of a cast of characters set about by their own duty, honor or ambition to stop the evil spirit Shizuka Gozen from destroying Japan.

Screenshot: Samurai Shodown

As a fighting game, Samurai Shodown is probably one of my favorites in the modern era. The use of weapons and the vast differences in the size, reach, and speed of the roster of sixteen base fighters make the whole thing incredibly compelling. And it has super tight, fast fighting gameplay that favors positions and timing over stringing together combos. Of course, if you play fighting games casually you may swerve away from fighting games where you have to learn a set of moves, but I’ve never considered myself the best at this particular style of fighting game, and it’s a blast. It works because even without encyclopedic knowledge of any individual character move-set, if you can block, move, and time your strikes you have a chance for success.

Mechanically, Samurai Shodown should be familiar to those who played the classic series, or anyone who has played similar fighting games. You have heavy, medium, and neutral attacks. The heavy attacks usually have long reach, and are slow, leaving you open to quick attacks. If you can read your opponent, you have a chance to exploit them—and it’s extremely satisfying to outmaneuver and outsmart your opponent in Samurai Shodown.

Screenshot: Samurai Shodown

The rage gauge makes a return from the previous series. Getting hit and landing well timed guards will increase it. The rage gauge, once activated, works as a great way to comeback from behind, or to use your devastating special attack. But once you use it, it’s gone for the remainder of the match—not just the round. This gives a nice risk reward aspect that isn’t present in other fighting games. It adds a satisfying extra layer of fun to the whole experience.

Weapons play a major part in Samurai Shodown, but they’re inherently integrated into the fighting style of each character. You can be disarmed, which leaves you vulnerable. You can even try to deny a fighter their weapon if you’re able to keep them off of it, or use their distraction at trying to retrieve it to land a devastating blow.

Screenshot: Samurai Shodown

It’s hard not to have fun when it feels like you’re playing an ultra-stylized classic Kung-Fu film with a ridiculous cast of characters. It seems like SNK took some cues from Capcom in regards to its art style. It gives me a heavy Street Fighter vibe—and that’s not bad. In fact, its use of the Unreal Engine 4 makes everything look great—well, at least the fighters. Some of arenas you fight in are gorgeous, while others seem a little less thought out.

The roster of fighters is great, with some having unique quirks, like Nakoruru and her pet bird—which she can hang on and fire upon her opponent from above. Each have their own story, and personality. And most importantly, each has their own fighting style and weapon with their own speed and reach. With sixteen base fighters, it’s hard to get into the meat of each one in a reasonable amount of time—and with the DLC now available, there are even more fighters to check out—if you pony up the dough.

Unfortunately, Samurai Shodown, even with its vast roster, is a little sparse on content. Don’t let its many modes fool you: there just isn’t much to do. There are the usual online modes, with ranked and casual. There’s a practice mode, with a tutorial, and a way to practice each character’s move set. And then there’s a “story” mode that acts as many fighting game’s “classic” mode. At first, I thought I was missing a campaign or other cinematic story mode, but sadly, it just doesn’t exist. It’s too bad, because the story had potential to far more engaging than what we got.

Another one of the offline modes, Dojo, says it offers up CPU opponents that learn from players, and thus act like players. In theory, this sounds great. In practice, it feels like you’re fighting even less sophisticated CPU characters, which is a huge missed opportunity as well.

Screenshot: Samurai Shodown

Despite its lack of content, Samurai Shodown is a great fighting game. It’s one of my favorites of the modern era, and its roster of interesting fighters is hard to beat. I absolutely love it, but I wish it had a better story mode and just more stuff to do.

 

Samurai Shodown is out now on the Epic Game Store, along with the classic Neo Geo series.

The classic Neo Geo series is FREE until June 18th—so if you run over there now, you can keep them for no charge.

 

 

 

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