Genre: Fighting Developer: Funcom Publisher: JVC Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
When you think of fighting games, you probably think of that same old shtick that’s in every one of them: random guys doing martial arts, throwing fireballs and other assorted projectiles, and defying gravity, in some kind of tournament. Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Art of Fighting, King of Fighters, Eternal Champions, all follow this same “guideline.” But what if there was a fighting game that didn’t have that same re-hashed plot? Well, you’re in for a treat with SNK’s Samurai Shodown for Sega CD.
Samurai Shodown is a different kind of fighting game. Rather than doing yet another variation on that same old plot that everyone has heard a thousand times, SNK goes in a different direction, looking back to Japan’s rich history to give a new look to a classic game genre in the form of samurai battling it out against each other with swords, knives, claws, and other weapons (depending on which character you pick). And it makes for a very fun gameplay experience. You can choose from twelve different characters, all rather unique in style and look. There aren’t any clones to be found here, thankfully, although one character is omitted from the arcade version, (Earthquake). Other than that, no big losses here.
Compared to most fighting games, Samurai Shodown’s fighting engine is a bit different. For one, all the fighters have weapons and the whole game is based around weapon-combat. So aside from kicks, there is little hand-to-hand combat featured in the game (unless you knock your opponent’s weapon out of their hand). There is also no combo system, rather, Samurai Shodown is a mostly defensive game in which you attempt to counter your opponent’s attacks with your own. Third, you can’t deal chip damage (damage when a character is blocking) in Samurai Shodown. So, any type of button mashing here is useless.
Lastly, there is a power bar rather than a special moves bar found in most fighting games. The more damage you take, the more damage you deal out to your opponent. So just when you think your opponent is finished off, they can counter one of your blows and slice off half your health in the process. But when all is said and done, Samurai Shodown is actually built on a very solid gameplay engine. Fighting game fans will definitely enjoy it once they learn the quirks. The controls in the game are also very tight and responsive, so you won’t have trouble pulling off any moves or attacks here. And it helps too, because this game can get VERY difficult at times, even on easy mode.
The graphics are very detailed, and the sprites are large, although the sprite scaling present in the arcade version of Samurai Shodown isn’t found here. But other than that, the graphics look nice. They’re everything you want them to be, pleasing to the eye, colorful, detailed, and clear.
The music fits the atmosphere of the game very well, and overall is very well done. It’s that slow-paced old-style Japanese-like music, much like the music you’ll hear in those old Kung Fu movies right when a battle is about to begin. The sound effects are good too but tend to get annoying due to the fact that every time a character makes some kind of move, they emit a sound effect. So, sometimes the sound effects can get very annoying. But other than that, the music and sound effects are very fitting.
But Shodown on the Sega CD isn’t without flaw. You see, whoever programmed this game (JVC?) didn’t playtest it well enough. After the seventh stage in the single-player mode, the game sometimes crashes. So, any chance of you finishing the game and seeing any endings is null. And this is such a huge flaw that it makes me wonder how it got in there in the first place. Did no one have the time to play through the single-player at least once to check this? It’s a very stupid mistake, and detracts a lot from the game unfortunately, especially in this day and age where there’s multiple Samurai Shodown sequels that are much better on systems such as the Sega Saturn.
Overall, Samurai Shodown is a solid fighting game with one very large flaw. It’s great for two-player gaming if you’re looking for something new for your Sega CD library, but if you don’t have someone to play it with, you’re better off buying one of its sequels or the Genesis version instead due to its general rarity and somewhat high cost.
SCORE: 7 out of 10