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Page 1:
Intro
Characters

Page 2:
Samurai Shodown
Samurai Shodown II

Page 3:
Samurai Shodown III
Samurai Shodown IV

Page 4:
Samurai Shodown V
Samurai Shodown VI

Page 5:
Samurai Shodown 64
Warriors Rage (Arcade)

Page 6:
Warriors Rage (PSX)
Neo Geo Pocket

Page 7:
Samurai Spirits RPG
Samurai Shodown Sen

Page 8:
Anime
Other

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by Zero and Felix McClay - updated October 2013 (originally posted September 10, 2007)

When Samurai Shodown first appeared in arcades in 1993, it was a breath of fresh air in a genre already becoming known for rehashes and knock-offs. The game wowed both fighting game enthusiasts and general gamers alike with its uniquely implemented weapon based combat, colorful graphics and sound, and incredible atmosphere. The first entry into the series was released in 1993 for SNK's then-new MVS system. Samurai Shodown's main draw was that it deviated from the norm by arming all of its characters. Instead of fighting barehanded, the combatants duel with Japanese katanas, European rapiers, pole arms, and scimitars.

The Samurai Shodown franchise is infamous for its tense pacing. At a glance, the fighters' movements and attacks appear to be much more slower than most fighting games. The difference here is that the control response is lightning fast, and a single well timed button press can take off more than half an opponent's energy. As a drawback, the characters have a much longer recovery period after most powerful moves. In result, the older Samurai Shodown games are all about tricking your opponent into going for a big hit and then countering. While these mind games are a usable in any fighting game, the Samurai Shodown series was the first to reward them with the inherent nature of its fighting engine. This added layer of depth is where the real intensity of the classic Samurai Shodown games comew from and is one of the major reasons it became so popular immediately upon its release.

Samurai Shodown also takes a note from Art of Fighting, and zooms out when the characters get farther away from each other, allowing for a dynamic view of the duel. In certain installments, a delivery man named Hikyaku will randomly run by to toss extra items onto the battlefield, such as food (good) and bombs (bad). Additionally, a judge character (named "Kuroko" or "Slick" Sukihiro) watches over each fight, declares its beginning and ending, and signals successful strikes with his flags.

Atmosphere is a big part of the Samurai Shodown experience. While there are several songs throughout the series that make use of electric guitars and the typical styles found in contemporary 2D fighters, the majority of the music makes use of traditional Japanese instruments like the shakuhachi along with subtle strings. These tunes are geared towards creating a desolate and lethal mood, all in service of complementing the deadly gameplay. Compared to other Japanese fighting games, the action is also extremely bloody. Although not nearly as over-the-top as Mortal Kombat, characters frequently cut their opponents in half or finish them off with a fatal blow to their jugular.

There are six main fighting games in the series, one RPG interpretation, two original portable titles and four 3D installments. Strangely enough, the main 2D sequels are numbered only in the Western releases, while they only have subtitles in the Japanese games. Moreover, there are also many side stories, drama CDs, arranged soundtracks and several animated movies. Most of the original four games were designed by a group within SNK called Team Galapagos.

The mainline games were released as part of an Anthology compilation for the PlayStation 2 and Wii. The PlayStation 2 version has online play, but only in Japan. All games can be played with original or arrange soundtracks, but strangely, there's no option to turn off the soft focus filter, forcing you to play with slightly blurry graphics. All of the games beyond the first two also have brief load times. Samurai Shodown V Special is missing entirely. Despite these minor issues, they're basically perfect ports, so they're the best way to go. The Wii version has a handful of extra minigames.

Samurai Shodown is an expansive game series, and for a fighting game, its narrative isn't half bad. The drama CDs describe more about the characters using the (Japanese) voice actors, and are generally quite interesting. Also, a manga was released several years ago which was translated into English by Viz, which features a scant one chapter as it follows Haohmaru and Nakoruru in their fight across Japan. Like the King of Fighters manga licensed out by SNK, it takes too many liberties with the plot to be interesting.

Then there are the arranged soundtracks, which were a norm amongst SNK games. Samurai Shodown 64's in particular was weird, but in a catchy way. There are also a lot of collectable figures, and artbooks which are the most engrossing by far. SNK has always had excellent art, and being able to see the different changes throughout the series along with the different artist renditions is a real treat. You can clearly see how the characters started out more lifelike (probably to resemble their historic figures) and slowly became more and more stylized and anime-like.

Samurai Shodown is one of SNK's most beloved and unique franchises. It's amazing to think that the Samurai Shodown name has now appeared in more than fifteen different titles, spanning well over a dozen years years among numerous platforms. In fact, the creative character designs have become as much a part of the SNK gaming universe as Kyo, Iori or Terry Bogard. Even though it doesn't have quite the impact as it did during its heyday, Samurai Shodown continues to be adored by gamers worldwide for its innovation, creativity and Japanese flair that instills its own sense of identity in the fighting genre. To those with patience, a taste for a bit of animated violence and ambient orchestration, there is none better than Samurai Shodown.

Thanks to Neo Rasa for writing the intro and comparisons of the console games, Pat R. for extensive proofreading, Deuce for various input (and translating SS RPG!), ReyVGM, Daijoubu, ZZZ, Brian Gazza, MGBenz, and everyone else that contributed to this article.

Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown! 2 (Neo Geo Pocket Color)

Samurai Shodown: Warriors Rage (PlayStation)

Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)


Characters


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Characters

Page 2:
Samurai Shodown
Samurai Shodown II

Page 3:
Samurai Shodown III
Samurai Shodown IV

Page 4:
Samurai Shodown V
Samurai Shodown VI

Page 5:
Samurai Shodown 64
Warriors Rage (Arcade)

Page 6:
Warriors Rage (PSX)
Neo Geo Pocket

Page 7:
Samurai Spirits RPG
Samurai Shodown Sen

Page 8:
Anime
Other

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