Jordan over at SwitchWatchTV released a Samurai Shodown review on their YouTube channel. The game is already out in Japan, but it will be coming westward some time in the next year. If you are interested in this remake and Jordan’s video review, check out the video below! Otherwise, continue downward for the transcript here on SwitchWatch.co.uk.
When it comes to SNK Fighters, my favorite series has always been Samurai Shodown. Thankfully, this year signals the series’ return to the forefront. Samurai Showdown 2019 has been out on other consoles for a few months now. But let’s find out if the Switch release can hack this franchise reboot or not.
Considering that Samurai Shodown is a slightly older port to the Switch, releasing a few months ago on other consoles, let’s start with what everyone wants to hear. Let’s talk about the port itself.
I’m sure many of you were wondering about the frame rate, and thankfully it is 60 frames per second. Whether it’s totally 100% solid is not for me to say for sure. But when playing, I did not notice any dips, and that’s what is important.
Some background elements run much lower, though. For example, some animals hanging around have very few frames of animation, which does look odd. But as long as it keeps the gameplay performance solid, that’s what matters.
Visually the game does look a little basic on the Switch. It was never designed with Triple A visuals in mind, focusing on the performance first and foremost. It’s a very stylized fighting game made on the Unreal 4 Engine. Characters are chunky, lines are thick, and colors are harsh and contrasting. It stands out for sure. I think it holds up well enough.
Although nowhere near as appealing as some of the hand drawn 2D fighters out there, with some visual effects looking a little rough. Taking it on its own however, and you’ve got a decent enough looking game. It especially looks good in handheld mode.
The port itself seems very solid, as long as you’re all about performance rather than visuals.
Outside of the gameplay, I love the presentation that SNK have put into this one. The menus look cool and the cutscenes, especially the Japanese woodblock paintings with the faded paint. It looks wonderful.
Just a brief mention to the story, if you’re into the lore. I believe chronologically, it’s second in the Samurai Shodown universe. Personally, fighting games stories don’t really interest me in how they fit into the overall. But the individual stories of each of the characters in their arcade mode are always interesting to check out, as brief as they are.
Most standard arcade fighters do this. And I’ve been more impressed with what Samurai Shodown has to offer in terms of story, rather than something like SNK Heroines, Blazblue Cross Tag, Blade Strangers and so on.
Alright, let’s move on to the Gameplay. Samurai Shodown is a 1 vs 1 tournament fighter with a reputation for being slightly on the slower, more methodical side. While that can be thrown out of the window and can play this as though you’re playing street fighter or something, it is true that you’re definitely better off choosing the right time to strike. The weapons each character holds can be brutal, potentially wiping out half the opponent’s health. If you get countered, or your weapon gets knocked out of your hand, good luck.
You’ll feel very claustrophobic in this one. Characters are large. Arenas are small. And the starting position of both fighters for the rounds is disturbingly close. You’ll be pretty much spamming the back step button right at the start of a bout. You do this just to get some breathing space and plan your next move. I love it.
It can feel a little bit stiff compared to most modern fighters. That’s probably just to the amateur like me, but I kind of like that. Despite my low skill level, I still feel I can put up a fight due to big hits and the slower nature.
BUTTONS AND CONTROLS
It’s a four button fighter with a kick. There are three variations of your weapon attack going from light, medium, and heavy. Combinations of pressing two or three buttons at a time do something else. Despite being a bit oldschool in it’s approach, it’s still one of the more accessible fighters out there.
The shoulder buttons can act as shortcuts for multiple button presses. Special moves are kind of what you’d expect with characters sharing similar combinations. This means that you can pick up anyone and do at least a couple of special attacks to make you feel like you’re doing something correct.
In terms of gimmicks and mechanics, it’s thankfully quite unambitious. There’s a rage gauge at the bottom of the screen which will build up. When used, it will allow you to hit harder for a very brief period of time.
Now, I’m not usually one to moan about the problems of the Switch’s Joy Cons. Usually they perform admirably for me no matter the game. But I do think in Samurai Shodown, for whatever reason, they didn’t seem entirely up to scratch.
The d-pad, or lack of, made inputs slightly less responsive than I would have liked. I quickly switched to my trusty 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+ with it’s nice little d-pad and all was golden. While obviously a fighting stick is preferred for hardcore fighting enthusiasts, something like this is highly recommended by myself. Check out my review of it afterwards.
There are only 16 starting characters, although there is DLC. But each character’s story mode will last you around 30 minutes depending on your skill level. Most of the characters are fan favorites returning with only three brand new characters. I think it’s a good choice to go this way, allowing fans of the older games to settle in nicely to what could kickstart the franchise back to life and produce sequels in the future.
The series was never overloaded with characters, so pretty much all the iconic ones are here. They have been honed to perfection over the years, and there appears to be a very good balance. It doesn’t feel like anyone is particularly overpowered.
I think most people will perhaps begrudge a lack of content, at least compared to some generous fighters out there. There’s the story mode, which I do honestly feel is worth playing through with every character, just to see their unique endings. Something which I love fighting games for. But outside that, there’s only competitive online play to keep you going which is not what I’m after.
Although you can keep it casual or ranked if you want to, for those that are interested. There’s obviously a standard fight for you and a friend or CPU. Then there’s basically a mode which let’s you fight other people’s ghost fighters. Basically, a CPU which is molded on the fighting style of other players around the world.
That’s really it. It’s quite bare, but that’s generally a complaint I have with most fighting games anyways. For me, the story modes are enough to keep me happy. And perhaps I’d play 1 vs 1 with a friend should the opportunity arise. I wish there could have been a little more for the solo player like myself.
You can unlock movies, music and more. But as far as I’m aware, these come naturally from just playing the story mode. You don’t have to do anything particularly special.
The audio is fantastic. But then again I’m a complete sucker for traditional Japanese music in video games. Lord knows cannot I tell the difference between the soundtrack here or in something like Okami. They sound totally the same to my ignorant ears, but both are fantastic to listen to. It’s the kind of music that really gets you into the setting of the game. It makes the whole package far more believable.
RELEASE AND PRICING
It’s worth noting that Samurai Shodown doesn’t actually release in the west until early next year. I’m playing the Asian version which my friend kindly lent to me for review since he downloaded it from the Japanese eShop. Yes, both the physical versions of Hong Kong and Japan, as well as the Japanese eShop version all have English so you can play it early like me. And just in case you weren’t aware, it’s actually called Samurai Spirits.
If you fancy picking it up then there are import links HERE and HERE if you want a proper physical copy. Here are some links as to where to find some Japanese eShop credit. You’ll need this if you want to download it. Or you can just wait until early 2020 for the western release.
There are two versions on the Japanese eShop. A standard and deluxe version. The standard is going for ¥6980, and The deluxe version is priced at ¥9100. But yeah, that’s a pretty penny. In western money that’s $63 or £48 for the first one and $83 or £62 for the second price. That’s a lot, but nothing unusual for a fighting game. At the time of this video, the western price isn’t known.
Is it worth it? Well, as someone who is only a very casual appreciator of fighting games, perhaps not. Hence why I borrowed it from a friend rather than importing myself. Although I do like the series more than most other fighters. For hardcore fighting fans, it’s a decent price, but there is better value found out there.
Dragon Ball Fighters is always on sale and offers just as much good fighting. But it’s the return of what was always a fairly niche series. SNK aren’t exactly swimming in money, so if you do want to support them by dipping in, then it’s a fair enough price.
Overall, Samurai Shodown is a very welcome return to a much loved, but perhaps niche series. It holds up well on the Switch, although is perhaps not the best version to play, but of course you knew that already. If you into a slightly different type of fighter, something a bit more tactical, then it’s a fine option to have in your Switch library, and even though the system is ripe with the genre, you know I’ve played many for review, this is really something a bit different and one of my favorites despite me hardly being a fighting aficionado. It’s tough to give it a rating though due to the price and a seemingly low amount of content. 8 out of 10.