I’m no stranger to the Samurai Shodown series—it’s one of those fighting franchises that helped shape all of the fighting games that came after it. Its remake in 2019 showed that SNK still can make a hell of a fighting game, and Samurai Shodown is still a relevant franchise—and also one of my personal favorite fighting games to release in the last few years. Though there are no plans announced for a PlayStation 5 version of Samurai Shodown, it did get next gen treatment for the Xbox Series X|S, so I loaded up my Series X and took the enhanced version of Samurai Shodown for a spin.
Samurai Shodown is a fighting game with an emphasis on weaponry. It’s part of a long running series of fighting games, though Samurai Shodown takes place before the other games, technically making it a prequel. But as I mentioned in my previous review , there isn’t much story, even in its solo campaign mode. It’s all about fighting, and with a base roster of sixteen fighters, and a third season of DLC on the way, there are lots of ways to do that.
Fighting in Samurai Shodown is equal parts tight fighting game and old-school Kung-Fu flick—it’s not just a great fighting game, it’s stylish and flashy, with certain moves resulting in filmic vignettes featuring fountains of spurting blood. The character designs are absolutely superb, with each character feeling like a fleshed-out, realized entity—there’s not really any filler here, as each of the fighters I’ve had a go with has interesting movesets and great visual style.
The Xbox Series X enhanced upgrade for Samurai Shodown comes free of charge—and any DLC purchases you might have made come over as well. That’s good news, because there are already two seasons of released DLC, with a third season roster of characters currently trickling in. I haven’t had a chance to try out the newest season three character, but the previous two seasons of DLC were any indication, the quality of fighters is high. The DLC characters consist of Samurai Shodown originals as well as a few series crossovers, including some unusual choices—like the armored Warden from Ubisoft’s For Honor. Currently, with all DLC purchased, there are 27 playable characters.
With its upgrade to the next generation, Samurai Shodown also gets an upgrade in frame rate—from its original 60 frames per second on Xbox One, to double that at 120 frames per second. I played both versions back-to-back, and had to plug my Series X into a display that could match the super-fast frames. While it does make a difference, I wouldn’t say it’s groundbreaking. But the biggest difference between the Xbox One and Xbox Series X versions is the load time. The Series X often loaded fights in less than 15 seconds—sometimes less than 10 seconds–while the Xbox One took 30 to 45 seconds on the high end. For the most part, loading times seem to be cut in half or less—and that alone is worth playing the upgraded version.
As much as I appreciate Samurai Shodown’s fighting mechanics, my chief complaint is its lack of things to do. Despite its DLC, the online community seems to have dwindled since I last got into it. That’s a bummer for a game that is lacking in single player modes. There are, of course, local versus modes and a few challenge modes—but it’s lacking a tent pole story mode to prop it up. There is a story mode, but it’s extremely basic, and can almost be considered retro: you fight through the roster with minimal story. For someone like me who’s been spoiled with cinematic fighting game stories from developer Netherrealm Studios, Samurai Shodown’s story mode is a huge letdown.
Samurai Shodown is easily my most-played fighting game of the last few years, and now that it’s on Xbox Series X|S I can play it with double the frames and half the load times. With its weapon-based combat and stylish visuals Samurai Shodown is easily one of the best modern fighting games. Currently, the next generation upgrade is exclusive to Xbox Series X|S, but I’m hoping that PlayStation 5 gets the same treatment in the coming months.
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