Developed by:SNK Published by:Athlon Games Genre(s):
  • Fighting
  • Platform:
  • Microsoft
  • Nintendo
  • PC
  • Sony
  • Cost:$59.99 ESRB Rating:MATURE Players:1-2 (2 Online) Release date:June 25, 2019 Reviewed on:XBox One

    Samurai Shodown (2019)

    The Samurai Shodown games make up a niche series within a niche genre. Since the first game’s release back in 93’, it always seen as a bit different. A fast paced, 2D sword fighting game that emphasized the timing and spacing of attacks. The latest entry is seemingly no different.

    I say “seemingly” because of how Samurai Shodown (2019) feels compared to other recently released fighters. It’s still technical with a focus on attacking, spacing, counter-attacking over super moves, cinematic flashes and lengthy combos. It’s no longer the fast-paced standout though. Besides MK11 – developed absent a run feature – it’s probably the slowest fighter available right now.

    It also doesn’t have a ton of content. There is a story mode, but it’s more akin to the typical arcade modes of old. The training mode isn’t as robust as one would expect and there isn’t any extra content beyond the solid ranked/causal vs. modes. Shodown’s novelty is still based on how differently it plays. It just feels somewhat outdated.

    That’s not to say that it’s a bad game. While Players won’t find a laundry list of moves or super complicated inputs, they will find a deeply technical experience. Landing a hard attack (or worse, one of the new supers) can knock off an absurd amount of health. Missing can leave a person open to being punished. A well-timed counter can disarm a foe, halving their available moves/attacks. Death usually comes quick. Because of this, nearly every match is full of stress filled moments.

    Fighting fans that aren’t as familiar with Samurai Shodown, might dislike the slower paced combat. The long pauses/slow-mo effects that accompany harder hitting attacks have always been an acquired taste. As someone who enjoys the speedier, combo laden games, I found Shodown to be a refreshing change. It feels good to catch opponents off guard; the game’s powerful slashing attacks are satisfying in design and effect.

    What I find most profound was how accessible Shodown is. There are no charge or projectile dominant characters (for the most part) and most of the special move inputs are similar across characters. The simple Light-Med-Heavy-Kick attack options are just that; light attacks are faster than heavy and so on. That said, this doesn’t remove any of the depth.
    Learning the advanced tactics is a key to a swift victory. For instance, each fighter is given a special attack that will knock an enemy’s weapon out of their hand (like the parry but with damaging properties). Disarmed players can return the favor and even the odds with a perfectly timed sword catch move. The “Rage Gauge” – a special bar that enhances certain attacks once filled – returns. Aside from powering up a character, it also allows for the new Fatal Flash move.

    After performing a Rage Explosion, putting their character’s in a powered-up state, players can perform a cinematic attack that shows them flying past their opponents, slashing them in the process. The amount of damage taken depends on how much Rage is left before the hit connects; it can knock off a ridiculously amount of health in an instant. Thankfully, it can only be used once per match.

    There’s more to the fights. Dodges, counters (which add additional damage to an attack), feints and multi-hitting specials – all of it lends to a more methodical approach to combat. The fighting is entertaining. That said, I do wish that the game didn’t strictly adhere to past mechanics. There are times when I feel like I should be able to follow up an attack with another for instance. But because Shodown is geared towards damage and not combos, I’m made to wait.
    Here’s what I mean. Haohmaru has an attack that sends a tornado at his opponents. When hit by it, they are sent flying through the air, only to fall slowly back to the ground. In that moment, I “should” be able to follow up with an attack, hitting them before they reach the ground. Instead, I have to wait for them to land as the game resets both players back to neutral; they’ll be able to get back up before I’m able to engage.

    These moments feel wasted, with clashes that seem unfinished. I mean, why have an attack that causes a wall bounce if I can’t follow up with another strike? The slower paced fights, that are normally just find, are made to be even slower when you’re forced to wait for your opponent to land/regain composer. It isn’t as if there were any limiting factors; the game isn’t stopping you from following up because you hit a combo limit or damage cap. Maybe it would have been too easy to string strong attacks together, considering how much life they take. That’s a fair assessment. That potential fact doesn’t make those slower moments feel any better though.

    Samurai Shodown is unique. It’s deliberate pacing, while a pain at times, often leads to exciting matches. It sports a decent roster, filled mostly with past characters. All of them feel balanced so far. Visually, they all look great – my favorite (design wise) is Darli Dagger, a Caribbean pirate with a sword that Ichigo would envy. The colorful, 3D backgrounds complement the cast during matches. Their manga/Japanese Oil panting aesthetics do well to keep the player informed on who’s hitting who. It also looks nice.

    I would’ve liked more content. More color schemes to unlock, better story-based options, more modes, etc. Again, when compared to Tekken, Mortal Kombat, even Street Fighter, Samurai Shodown lacks the more modern trappings. The local and/or online vs. modes is where the action will be. The fights are uniquely entertaining though. Of course, whether or not that’s enough to cough up the $60 will vary per person.



    Samurai Shodown is still a very unique fighter. While it doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from this genre, it does feature solid gameplay mechanics.



    The detailed fighters and colorful, 3D backgrounds complement each other.



    Shodown has a solid soundtrack. The sound effects are satisfying.

    Replay Value:


    The on/offline vs. modes will keep fans coming back. Those looking for extra content will probably grow board in time.

    Final Score:


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