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Samurai Shodown
Samurai Shodown II

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Samurai Shodown III
Samurai Shodown IV

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Samurai Shodown V
Samurai Shodown VI

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Samurai Shodown 64
Warriors Rage (Arcade)

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Warriors Rage (PSX)
Neo Geo Pocket

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Samurai Spirits RPG
Samurai Shodown Sen

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Samurai Shodown Slash

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Samurai Shodown V / Samurai Spirits Zero (サムライスピリッツ零) - Arcade, Neo Geo, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Wii (2003)

Japanese Neo Geo Cover

American Neo Geo Cover

Japanese PlayStation 2 Cover

Seven years after Samurai Shodown IV, a new 2D Samurai Shodown title surfaced on the Neo Geo system. Dubbed Samurai Spirits Zero (and Samurai Shodown V in the West), it's meant to be a prequel, and was released to Japanese arcades in 2003. This was during the period when SNK was in bankruptcy and had to (temporarily) hand over some of their properties to other companies. While The King of Fighters was handled by Eolith and Metal Slug ended up with Mega Enterprises, this Samurai Shodown title came from Yuki Enterprises (who later went on to create their own 2D fighting game series, Arcana Heart). Samurai Shodown V plays somewhat differently than the earlier titles, yet captures their unique feel. However, it's far from perfect, and not quite the triumphant return many had hoped it would be.

Samurai Shodown V's plot involves the coup d'etat of the Japanese government by a demonic general named Gaoh Kyougoku Hinowanokami, who begins a rebellion to save the country. This game's storyline operates in 1786, a whie prior to the first Samurai Shodown. This is the reasoning for its Japanese title, but was changed to Samurai Shodown V for the American release to reflect the game's placement in the series' release history, rather than in the plot. The American version actually skimps on the story entirely - it simply has all cutscenes and endings removed, which is really quite disappointing because the dialogue is interesting. The Xbox version tries to compensate for this with translated ending quotes, but that's really it.

Samurai Shodown V takes a slower, more deliberate pace than the previous two games. The system resembles Samurai Shodown II, with a great emphasis on timing and carefully placed attacks, in contrast to the aggressive, combo based nature of Samurai Shodown III and IV. Also new is the Sword Gauge, which is a means of regulating attack power. The meter decreases when attacks are used, which in turn makes your strikes weaker. To regain strength, the player is required to "meditate" or withhold their attacks. The control system has been changed up once again: A is a weak attack, B is a medium attack, and pressing both is a strong attack. The C button is for kicks, and the D buttons executes several defensive maneuvers, such as rolls, dodges, and quick jumps. Pressing C and D at the same time results in an attack that shoves your opponent and prevents them from blocking. Also new to the system is the Concentration One system. By activating a command when you're low on health, your character slows down time Matrix-style and can inflict massive damage on the enemy for a comeback. It's useful and easily abused, but after playing the game for awhile, it becomes predictable. Finally, the character specific fatalities from Samurai Shodown IV have been removed.

Samurai Shodown V has perhaps the most vibrant graphics seen up to this to point in the 2D titles and boasts a rather large roster of 24 characters. However, not many of these characters are actually "new." Since the "bust/slash" system has been eliminated, many are simply the "evil" versions of existing characters that have been given slightly redesigned sprites. (Rasetsumaru is a demonic Haohmaru, Rera is a dark version of Nakoruru that attacks with a Galford-style wolf instead of an eagle, etc.) The brand new characters include include Yoshitora, a samurai who fights with seven swords; Mina, a white haired girl who wields a bow and arrows; Kusaregedo, a gigantic, gross monster who takes up half the screen; Yunfei, an elderly swordsman; Yumeji, a clone of Ukyo who can shapeshift briefly into other characters, and Sankuro, an annoying bastard of a character with a huge hammer. Some of these new characters were designed by Nobuhiro Watsuki, the artist who created Rurouni Kenshin, who is a big Samurai Shodown fan. The final boss this time is Gaoh, who can transforms into a demon. In the American version, he morphs mid-battle, while in the Japanese verison, he transforms for the second round, and the battle is fought on a different background, similar to the Amakusa battle in the first game. This change is due to the lack of story scenes in the American version.

Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo)

With all of these characters, Samurai Shodown V is hampered by a severe case of character imbalance, and this is where the game really falters. Some new characters such as Yoshitora and Mina are pure devils and can dole out damage without much fear of retaliation. Then there's Sankuro, who's a total ass. He mimics Genjuro, but with a twist: he has three henchmen at his disposal, who cannot be harmed. One can drop out of nowhere and inflict huge damage, the second trips you up, and the third freezes you in place while Sankuro runs away and eats sushi to regain strength (the most annoying of the bunch). Yumeji is also kind of a pain, although not as bad - but whenever she shapeshifts between characters, she's momentarily invincible, which is pretty cheap.

Overall, Samurai Shodown V is a step in the right direction, with great music, colorful graphics and interesting storyline. On the downside, the botched character balance and cheap system additions do little to improve the game.

Ports of Samurai Shodown V were released on PlayStation 2 in Japan and Europe, and on the Xbox in America. The PlayStation 2 version features some really obnoxious load times, which are on par with the 32-bit Saturn games. It plays almost perfectly, and even features a new arranged soundtrack. The Xbox version shortens the load times drastically, although there's a bit of noticeable screen tearing during the cutscenes due to resolution discrepancies. The Xbox version also includes online play, which is nice. Strangely enough, a completely new English announcer was added to this version, bu you can switch to the original voices by going into the Xbox system settings and changing the language to Japanese. There were some really stupid oversights though: even though the option screen gives you the choice of Original and Arrange soundtracks, it will only ever play the Arrange versions. Additionally, the manual indicates that there was a secret code to unlock all the bosses that were used in Samurai Shodown V Special, but this was an unfortunate misprint. The Xbox version also censors Rasetsumaru's ending, which originally featured a decapitation. Finally, with the balance issues prevalent all over this game, you'd assume SNK would skip this game, or least package it with its patched upgrade, Samurai Shodown V Special; but alas, gamers must be hoodwinked again. The versions featured on the Anthology are basically the same as the original PS2 release, although they use a generic loading screen instead of the artwork portraits.

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Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo)


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Samurai Shodown V Special / Samurai Spirits Zero Special (サムライスピリッツ零Special) - Arcade, Neo Geo (2004)

Japanese Neo Geo Cover

American Neo Geo Cover

In 2004, Yuki Enterprises released Samurai Shodown V Special, an upgrade that addresses many of the issues with the original version. It rebalances the characters, removes the storyline, replaces several backgrounds and adds in the extra violence found in Samurai Shodown IV, as well as tweaking other minor aspects.

The most prominent addition is the return of the boss characters from all previous games, who are now all playable. Zankuro has been downscaled, Amakusa makes a return from SSIV, and Mizuki from SSII has an upgraded sprite. Even Gaoh is playable. Sadly, there are still omissions in the roster: Cham Cham and Sieger are still missing, not to mention Nicotine and Kuroko. Sankuro and Yumeji are gone as well. Otherwise, the gameplay is pretty much the same as Samurai Shodown V.

Samurai Shodown V Special (Neo Geo)

The violence level has also drastically increased. Unlike SSV, in which characters are simply knocked unconscious after losing matches, Special delivers the blood, gore, and pain in spades. The old fatalities return, along with a ton of new character specific death sequences. Some of these are just vicious: Galford commands Poppy to shred his opponent to pieces. Hanzo grabs his foe and snap their bones, with x-ray close-ups of the attacks, similar to his super move in Warriors Rage. Nakoruru pile drives her opponent into the ground and stabs their stomach, causing an eruption of blood to spew, before she whispers "sayonara" to their lifeless corpse. Rasetsumaru pulls a Kano and simply pull his foe's heart out and crush it. Suija will levitate his foe into the sky and crush them, bathing in their blood. Yunfei literally rips his opponent's soul out and demolishes it. Mina launches dozens of arrows into the body of her foe, the last one causing an explosion that destroys their whole upper body. These are mostly here to look flashy, but you need to execute on them on the final bosses in order to get the good ending. And that's not all - using Concentration One to finish off your foe results in large amounts of blood, making SSV Special by far the most violent in the series.

That being said, it still doesn't drastically improve over Samurai Shodown V, so if that game annoyed you, this one will too. Although there were plans to port Samurai Shodown V Special to the PlayStation 2, its release was eventually cancelled. It's also missing from the Samurai Spirits Anthology. There are various rumors circulating regarding this. One suggests that since Samurai Shodown V Special was the last title released for the Neo Geo, that SNK wanted to leave it exclusive to that platform.

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Samurai Shodown V Special (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown V Special (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown V Special (Neo Geo)

Samurai Shodown V Special (Neo Geo)


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Fatalities


Samurai Shodown VI / Samurai Spirits: Tenkaichi Kenkakuden (サムライスピリッツ 天下一剣客伝) - Arcade, PlayStation 2, Wii (2005)

Japanese PlayStation 2 Cover

European Wii Anthology Cover

Around 2003, SNK finally decided their MVS arcade system wasn't cutting it anywmore, and made a partnership with Sammy to produce titles for their Atomiswave system (think of it as a slightly less powerful Naomi). Samurai Spirits Tenkaichi Kenkakuden (in the West once again simplified to Samurai Shodown VI) was released to Japanese arcades in 2006, and the final product, while not astounding, was still quite good.

Samurai Shodown VI's most notable aspect is that you can play as nearly every character from every previous 2D game. This means that the long neglected Samurai Shodown II characters - Cham Cham, Sieger and Caffeine - have finally returned. (It's a shame they didn't transfer Asura and Shiki's sprites over from Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, though.) In addition to the already massive roster, there are also four completely new characters: Iroha, the massively endowed maid-warrior; Andrew, an American patriot wielding a musket; Ocha-Maro, an android... thing that uses string attacks; and Sugoroko, an overweight warrior who uses a bell/cannon he carries around with him. This makes the roster over 40 characters, all boss characters included, so there's plenty of diversity. The judge is even back too, after a prolonged absence.

There are several gameplay styles available, similar to the "grooves" used in Capcom vs. SNK 2. Here they're called "Spirits," and are a mix of the different features used from the earlier games in the series. There are six in total: Rei, Shin, Dou, Ten, Zen and Ken. They affect everything from how your rage gauge fills to how and if you can use special attacks, and more. Rei, for instance, resembles SSV's system and Ten uses features from SSIV. Ken is a completely new style specific to this game and introduces a new defensive maneuver called the "Mikiri Slide." While the systems operate differently in the games, SNK managed to make them fairly balanced to one another here, so choosing the one you're most comfortable with isn't a problem. The gameplay also is a little bit faster than its immediate predecessor, and combos are easier to pull off.

Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)

Many SNK games on the Atomiswave are kind of strange. Although the backgrounds are high-res, they used the same old sprites they've been using since the Neo Geo days. As a result, you have huge pixelated characters over crisp, sleek backdrops. Some of the old sprites have been cleaned up a bit, although it's disappointing that they used Earthquake's older sprite instead of his newer design from SNK vs. Capcom Chaos. In general, the graphical style is much brighter and cleaner than earlier titles, and there's absolutely no blood at all either. Still, the new high-res and quasi 3D backgrounds are lively and lush, from the Japanese pavilion stage to the African savanna backdrop with the mountain range. It's a throwback to the earlier games, whose battles took place all across the globe instead of just instead of just Japan. The backgrounds bustle with activity and make the action feel more hectic, as if you're putting on a show and everyone is invited. The attacks also look really good - there are some nice particle effects going on, and activating your rage gauge just looks plain awesome.

The music is also a departure from the rest of the series. It's more orchestrated and symphonic than the previous titles', and is meant to capture the "vastness" of the new game and its differing locales. There are vocal and festival style songs, although none of them really seem to capture the typical Samurai Shodown mood. There are both Original and Arrange soundtracks on the PlayStation 2 version, although they only vary slightly. Strangely enough, there are options for both Japanese and "English" announcer voices. Unlike the Xbox version of SSV, the lines aren't actually in English; it's just an American guy speaking Japanese. There are some amusing unlockables in the PS2 version, including a mode to create your own Spirit, the ability to play as any of the animals (who have their own Spirit mode as well), and adding Kim Ung Che, Gaira's Korean counterpart, as a playable character.

The load times on Atomiswave games are pretty annoying, and the PS2 ports are often even worse. The original version of Samurai Shodown VI isn't nearly as bad as Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, but they're still a bit intrusive. Thankfully, on the Anthology pack they are significantly shorter.

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Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)

Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)

Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)

Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)

Samurai Shodown VI (PlayStation 2)


Additional Screenshots


<<< 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:
Samurai Shodown Slash

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