Review by colexo_vizion
"GAME OF THE YEAR 1993!"
SS (Samurai Shodown) remains SNK's first bona-fide classic. The historical fighting styles of its character roster range from everything from contemplative Samurai to an erratically sinister ghoul with everything in between. Choose between twelve perfectly balanced characters with varying move sets and special attacks and ready yourself for the most complex sixteen bit fighting game of all time. Add to this a hilariously over the top back-story to journey to battle the androgynous Amakusa and bask in the glory of intensely challenging battles that will make your palms sweat. When I first experienced SS in arcades years ago my first battle was between Haomaru and Earthquake. I was amazed by the sheer size of the chain wielding mammoth as the then very impressive graphical zooming made my jaw drop. I pumped hours into this machine and recently acquiring a home cart for a relatively cheap price (in comparison to the then $200 asking price of the cart back in the day) and can honestly say all the graphics and action that I fell in love with as a teenager has held up a good decade and a half later. Especially with the multitude of compilation releases on other systems, SS may make a cult come back. And I couldn't be happier.
Graphics: SS has massive character sprites that while not animating to well, are packed with enough detail and color to make their individual personalities come alive. This game features some intensely memorable characters like the green goblin Gen-An, big boy Earthquake and that sweet hawk carrying Nakoruru...among others. Also SS has the second-best fighting game boss in the history of video games: Amakusa; second only to SS2's relentlessly demonic Mizuki. The character levels are stunningly beautiful. Tam Tam's Aztec jungle is particularly memorable with is flooding waterfalls and distracting monuments (the level of detail is astounding). Fighting by the serenity of the beach side is incredible as well. I almost wanted to take a break from the action to watch the subtle detail of the ocean coming to sand, but could not for fear of getting my weapon knocked out of my hand the split-second of watching.
Sound: While the sound effects are a bit garbled at times, the Neo Geo's sound engines work in full force. The soundtrack compliments the battle levels perfectly. While the intensity adds to the battles dramatically. Heaven forbid the first time I listened to Nakoruru's theme and couldn't get the tune out of my head for a weak. And like the characters, each score has a completely different theme and flare. Kyoshiro's theatrical Kabuki theme is as wonderful to listen to as it is as nerve-wracking at the same time. And that is the beauty of SS's music. The sound here effects the game play battles like a cinematic experience; enriching the world the feudal world this game inhabits taking SS beyond a mere fighting game clone and into its own rich world with each environment having its own completely different vibe.
Game play: SNK's weapon's based brawler is quite simply excellent. While its a bit slow compared to later titles, everything plays flawlessly. SS's game play relies on timed attacks and evasive maneuvering. Novices who jump in here right on the offense will be disgruntled to find out thoughtless attack patterns is a quick way to make it to the game over screen. All twelve characters are balanced to ensure a fair fight and even the tough boss Amakusa can be challenging without having to be cheap; unlike a lot of Neo Geo brawlers where bosses are unacceptably impossible-hard. The control layout is a two slash/two kick system. Tap two slashes or kicks to get a more powerful slash. There is a rage meter that when filled to the max gives the character extra strength to pummel opponents with, though there are no super moves. In fact, characters have only between two or three special attacks to use on opponents. But the fighting is such where precisely timed attacks and smart defense and countering make the core of battles. Each character also has a gloriously campy ending with poor translation (though not as poor as later games in the series). There's a neat little bonus game between rounds where barrels need to be sliced in half, but other than adding some extra points they don't offer much to the game other than time for a breather.
Overall: SS would not be the last great game in this franchise. What is great about SS that despite all the improvements later on in the series, the original has enough charm and depth to keep going back to. My only gripe about he AES cartridge is that the blood has been turned into white sweat (and there is no blood code here) but oh well. The game is good. And with its re-release on several of the current generation consoles, I'm hoping that the franchise will find new life with younger players who will be able to see where games of the likes of Soul Calibur came from.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/25/09
Game Release: Samurai Shodown (US, 08/11/93)
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