Review by LordShibas

"Still the Best Samurai Shodown Game"

A year after the semi-colossal launch of Samurai Shodown on the Neo Geo, SNK decided to follow it up with a direct sequel. In 1994 Samurai Shodown II was released and it was superior to the first game in almost every way.

The graphics were given a much needed tweak, the backgrounds were redone, new characters and moves were added, the game was rebalanced, and a new, incredibly difficult end boss sprouted her wings. In my opinion it was a very substantial upgrade and it really fixed a lot of problems that plagued the original Samurai Shodown.

Samurai Shodown II was not purporting to be a direct competitor of Street Fighter II. The original Samurai Shodown had already paved the way for the series, and the series already had a dedicated fan base, whether they were home Neo Geo owners, or arcade goers. By the time Samurai Shodown II was released, Street Fighter II was on its fifth rendition, which was Super Turbo, which was a great game in its own right.

I remember when Shodown II arrived in my local arcade. Almost everyone was more excited for Shodown II than Super Turbo. People lined up to play Shodown II and only a few people were still playing Super Turbo.

Not wanting the arcade goers to get the upper hand on me, I quickly purchased the game for my Neo Geo AES and began playing the game at home for hours and hours per day.

The one thing that differed about the arcade to home version was the initial color of the blood. For some stupid reason, the Neo Geo home version had green blood which just looked incredibly stupid. Luckily there was a code which you could enter to get red blood and it was no longer a problem. Other than that, it was identical to its arcade counterpart and had very few options available, just like most home Neo Geo releases.

I put a lot of time into this game on both my Neo Geo and in the arcade. In fact, it may be the fighting game that I've played most in my life. Due to this, I was ruthless in the arcades, and I've never been as dominant in a game in my life as I was in Samurai Shodown II. I don't think I was ever defeated by a human player while I was being Galford in Shodown II, ever. I always ended up fighting the computer at the end of the night. I used other characters as well, but when I picked Galford, people would take their quarters down from the machine because they knew I was going to spank them. True story.

Anyway, on with the game review.

Graphics 8/10

Shodown II received a decent graphical update, but it still suffered from the same issues as the previous game. While not as bad, there was still a bit of slowdown during some of the fights. Hitting your opponent with a strong slash and then watching everything slowdown was kind of annoying, but it almost added to the intensity. Meaning that the hits felt more brutal when things slowed down, but it made follow up hits and moves almost impossible.

The character models now had smoother animations and had a little more detail than before. Some of the backgrounds were re-used from the previous game, but they were re-drawn and often populated with multiple attractions. My personal favorite background was Sieger's stage, where you fought on a huge castle wall, in front of a king and his knights, very cool.

The character designs are also very cool, especially for the new characters. Sieger is still one of my favorite fighting game character designs ever.

Samurai Shodown II still sports the same camera panning issues that were in Samurai Shodown. Basically the character models look very good up close, but they loose a lot of detail and get pixelated when the characters are far away from each other. Again, this may be a fault of the Neo Geo hardware, it's tough to say.

For the most part, Samurai Shodown II looks much better than Samurai Shodown, and it's one of the best looking and designed games on the Neo Geo, but games like Garou: Mark of the Wolves and Last Blade 2 really make Samurai Shodown II show its age.

Sounds and Music 8/10

This is the main area where I think Samurai Shodown surpasses Samurai Shodown II. The music in Samurai Shodown II is really good, but it's just not as memorable to me as the music from the first game.

The sound effects are about the same and really don't differ all that much from the first game, which is not a bad thing at all.

Controls 9/10

The controls have been kept the same for the most part, but a few new things can now be done. Pressing B & C at the same time produced an overhead hit, there is a way to duck projectiles, and you can now launch a super move when your POW meter is full.

Not too much interesting here since most of this is the same. Subsequent games in the Samurai Shodown series changed the controls, but Samurai Shodown II keeps things true to the original and the game controls just as well, if not better than Samurai Shodown.

The only problem is the slowdown which loves to rear its ugly head, but you will get used to it after a while.

Gameplay 9/10

I'm not sure what it is about this game, but something about it just feels right when you play it. Maybe it's a combination of everything that is done well, or maybe it's the unique presentation, but I could not get enough of this game when I played it. Seeing the two on-screen characters assail to the death just never seemed to get old to me.

You are now able to perform super moves when your POW meter is full. Some of them have difficult joystick motions, but you will get used to them soon enough. The joystick motion and button combination is provided for you at the bottom of the screen, in case you forget it.

The game has been a bit rebalanced and it shows. Characters like Earthquake now have a handful of moves as opposed to 2 in Samurai Shodown, Haohmaru has been toned down a bit, and Wan Fu has been completely nerfed and given a pillar of stone as a weapon. >_>

The new characters fit in quite well with the previous cast in design and style. The game now offers 15 characters to choose from. Three new characters were added and Tam Tam was replaced with Cham Cham, who is slightly different. There is also a way to fight and play as the referee Kuroko, and there is a new end boss to fight, Mizuki.

Mizuki is much more macabre than Amakusa ever was. She uses a baton weapon which has incredible reach, she can throw you through dimensional warps, can bounce you around the screen like a basketball, and has a Hell Hound with her at all times that can attack you as well. She was the first female fighting game boss that I know of, and boy she is one tough cookie. Prepare to have your butt handed to you a few times until you can properly figure out how to defeat her.

So with the rebalanced roster, additional characters, gameplay which feels much tighter, and a nice graphical upgrade, Samurai Shodown II is a great and fun game to play, especially against others. The only area where the game lacks a bit is in the music area, but it's still fairly good music, just not as memorable as the music in the first game.

Longevity and Re-playability 10/10

The single player game offers a very long and grueling time investment to reach the end boss and defeat her. So with 15 characters and a hidden character, there is plenty to do in this game, however, I implore you to seek out human competition in this game.

I've had some of the best times of my arcade gaming life playing this game and beating people senseless. If you have someone to play this game against, it could last you months, if not longer.

Conclusion

Samurai Shodown II is now a classic game in the fighting game universe. If you have never played it, then you owe it to yourself to give this game a try. Not only to see one of SNK's finest hours, but also to play a fantastic, 2D weapons based game with great artistic design and deep gameplay. Some people (like me) even consider it to be the last great Samurai Shodown game. I have not been impressed with a Shodown game since II. I still don't know why they decided to change everything after Samurai Shodown II.

Last Blade 2 has no doubt eclipsed Samurai Shodown II in most areas, but Samurai Shodown II is still a classic game, and should be played by anyone who calls themselves a fighting game fan.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/25/08

Game Release: Samurai Shodown II (US, 12/02/94)


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