Showing up to show out
Veteran fighting series Samurai Shodown returns with few flaws
SNK has done it again. Gorgeous graphics, fun play mechanics and a solid fighting game engine make up the core of one of its flagship fighting franchises featuring samurai. If you’re in the mode for beautiful fighting in the Japanese feudal era, you’ve come to the right place in the 2019 revival of Samurai Shodown.
Getting back to the root of what makes Samurai Shodown fun and unique, the 2019 reboot is basic in every way. The barebones options mean there isn’t much to do, but if you’re looking to just pick a fighter and jump in, it’s clearly there for that. You choose from 18 base roster fighters and duke it out in feudal Japan with various motivations. All are investigating a coming catastrophe, but their intention in the face of a sinister environment is unique. Timeline-wise, the game is set between the prequel Samurai Shodown V and the original Samurai Shodown. So, you’re getting a taste of the story before the main series even kicks off.
The characters, as well as the backgrounds, are stunning. SNK has always been known for its impressive attention to detail when it comes to graphics with Samurai Shodown, and this entry is no different. The colors pop with an emphasis on non-realistic graphics that resemble what we know in the West as ukiyo-e and woodblock paintings; everything is utterly gorgeous, beginning with the menu and options screens.
As a title set in feudal Japan, the music must reflect the environment — and it’s well done as well. The use of traditional Japanese instruments has always been present in Samurai Shodown and it’s used liberally and to great effect. Also, the voice work is excellent. We appreciate the Japanese language, and it sounds beautiful and clear here.
We do have an obvious issue with the reboot, despite its beauty. There is a noticeable lack of things to do once you stop marveling at the graphics. Where are the modes beyond the standard offerings? So much more could have been added, especially with the series’ history at hand. It’s a pretty package but it’s missing a lot.
Samurai Shodown has been around for a long time, and this revival is just that: A return to the roots of a fantastic fighting game series. This entry is stunning and graceful yet just enough to whet the appetite of a fighting game newcomer or a seasoned veteran. With this success, SNK now knows what it needs to do to show up and show out with the renewed interest in the showstopper that is Samurai Shodown.