Fighting games have been a large part of my gaming DNA for many years. I often cite Super Street Fighter as the game that transitioned me from a casual gamer to hardcore as I would come home from school and practice for countless hours. This love would transform me into a cocky competitor which I would most likely slap nowadays! I tried my hand at any, and all the fighting games I could find, mastering each character in that games roster. That being said, SAMURAI SHODOWN was the ONE that always eluded me as none of my friends had any of the games and as I grew up, I gravitated heavily towards the Tekken series over everything else.
That played a major role in how I incorrectly approached SNK’s newest SAMURAI SHODOWN.
I know this goes without saying but, SAMURAI SHODOWN is a long-running fighting game where you clash with different fighters from around the planet that are trained in the art of sword fighting. The characters themselves are 3D models, but the background is a moving 2D landscape. I love the artistic approach with the cel-shaded characters as not only do I feel it gives the game a timeless look to it, thanks to how smooth the game flows, it just looks and feels great to play.
SNK and Athlon Games have officially declared this newest game as a reboot of the series, timing it somewhere between the 1993 SAMURAI SHODOWN and SAMURAI SHODOWN 5.
You may be asking why I stated that I approached SAMURAI SHODOWN incorrectly? Well, that’s because I was trying to play the game in a way that it is not intended. With Tekken, I am used to a very fast-paced battle full of rapid-fire combos and reversals. SAMURAI SHODOWN is absolutely not that type of game. It was clear to me, relatively quickly, that you need to jump on the brakes and watch what you are doing, much like you would in a real duel I suppose.
This is much more apparent when playing on the harder difficulty as the enemies can, AND WILL, quickly reverse your every move if you try to go berserker swordsman on them. Once I realised this lesson, I started watching for the AI to make THEIR mistakes and swiftly punish them. Think of it like a game of Chess where you need to try and stay 2 steps ahead of the enemy.
Unlike many other fighting games, where you have multiple attacks to memorise, SAMURAI SHODOWN makes it very convenient and simplistic by only having 4 different attack actions.
• The Light Attack is the quickest of all the attacks but you will only do a very small amount of damage.
• The Kick is about as useful as the Light Attack as far as damage, but it’s very useful for cancelling out opponents slower (but stronger) attacks.
• The Medium Attack is a little bit heavier with the damage dealt, although it sacrifices speed.
• The Heavy Attacks are exactly what you would expect them to be. They are huge, slow swings that deal a ton of damage but also come with the biggest risk of getting countered. That being said though, if you can land four or five of these attacks, you WILL win the fight.
I found that Medium Attacks are probably the best offensive to use, overall, as the room for risk/reward is better than trying to land the Heavy Attack.
Although, the game doesn’t just limit you to standard attacks. Each character has a decent list of special moves that can be used, also within the Light/Medium/Heavy spectrum. There is absolutely no doubt though that the best way to lay down punishment goes along with utilising your Rage Gauge. As you fight, the gauge will fill up as you take damage. Once it is full, you will have extraordinary strength for a brief amount of time. In this state, you can trigger the Rage Explosion and unleash your Lightning Blade Attack that, most of the time, can pretty much kill whoever you are facing – or deal a MASSIVE amount of damage.
Thankfully, you are only allowed to pull this off once per fight, so you and your opponents can’t just spam these devastating attacks.
One of the things I appreciated the most about SAMURAI SHODOWN was the different ways the game provided me to get better at it. The tutorial is very user-friendly and does a great job at teaching you all the different scenarios you may face while playing the game. From Blade Catching to how to pick up your sword once you become disarmed. Once you’re done with the tutorial, you have a lot of the standard modes available for you to try out. From online competitions, where you can fight against players from around the world within Ranked and Unranked modes, to playing against a friend in your own home.
There is also the Dojo mode, which was unique for me as I’ve not seen anything like this before. The Dojo is where you face an AI which has been ‘watching’ players as they play SAMURAI SHODOWN, learning how they react to incoming attacks and adapt accordingly with their retaliation. The CPU opponent tries to mirror and emulate the observed player as much as possible – offering you a challenging, unique, and realistic multiplayer experience, even though you’re not actually playing against a human. Basically, it’s an AI version of a human player, SKYNET IS ONE STEP CLOSER TO WORLD DOMINATION!
After all these years of not playing any of the SAMURAI SHODOWN games, it was really neat to finally get my hands on one. At first, I was playing the game all wrong and didn’t really enjoy playing it. However, after realising the error of my ways, I re-approached the game and had a much better experience. I love that they took the game in a different direction with the cel-shaded graphics and I truly feel like it will do a service to the game’s longevity down the line. I personally didn’t get too much out of the story of the game, but that’s fine for me considering I don’t go to fighting games for epic stories.
Overall, Athlon Games did a good job with this reboot. Hopefully we’ll see another SAMURAI SHODOWN without having to wait another ten years!