Review by Storm Shadow
"2D weapon-based fighting at its best? It sure is!"
The Samurai Shodown series has always given the players something excellent and that all fighting games should have: a decent fighting engine with really cool characters and flawless gameplay. Samurai Shodown III is not an exception. This third installment in the series improves from the first two in every department and it is the best Samurai Shodown game in my opinion, as well as it remains as one of the best Neo Geo games ever released. On with the review:
The visuals represent a huge leap from Samurai Shodown II. This time, all the characters are large and very detailed, thanks to the absence of the giant Earthquake. The animation is smooth and true to the fighting style of each character. If anyone disagrees with this, go play SS II and see how Kyoshiro looks and moves. Now play SS III. This time he actually resembles a real, fighting kabuki. It is just perfect. The graphics are also darker and more serious than the former episodes.
Still not perfect but, again, it is better than the previous games. The fighters have appropriate voices and each stage has the appropriate music. The narrator is a lot better this time around, too. Obviously, the sound of colliding swords is still here and sounds really fine.
During the Feudal Japan, the legendary demon Zankuro is killing innocent people and you must stop him. The story is good, but this is a fighting game, so, this does not matter that much.
A very important feature in any fighting game. The controls are close to perfection here. Finally, someone at SNK noticed that it was not practical to press two buttons to get a fierce slash with the sword and decided that there should be a button only for that. Now, three buttons are for sword moves ( light, medium and fierce attacks ) and all those useless kicks are gone. There is still one kick button, but you will not use it that much. For the rest, expect to find Street Fighter inspired moves to work for every character. However, the more elaborate moves, specially the super moves when the power is full, are really difficult to pull off due to the complex commands required and will make you really irritated.
One word comes to my mind: perfect. There are less characters to play with this time around, but now, every fighter has two different styles: slash and bust. They work much like the “isms” in Street Fighter Zero 3. Slash is the traditional fighting style that every character had since SS I. Bust is a more dark and aggressive style. It is just like a “dark side”. At first glance, the difference between them is only the different color of the fighters. However, it goes far more than that. Some moves and tactics work better for some style, and some moves don’t even exist in both of them. This means that playing with a character in the slash mode is a completely different thing from playing with him in the bust mode. In a way, it doubles the numbers of fighters at your disposal. Also, now it is possible to choose an easy mode ( auto guard ) and a hard mode ( no defense, power gauge always at maximum ). Finally, there is something that really improved the gameplay in SS III: air defense! Being able to block in mid-air adds a lot of thought in the duels and make the combat in the air a lot more strategic. Too bad it was removed in the sequel, SS IV. Who knows why.
Reaching the end of this game is not exactly easy and mastering all the characters in both their slash and bust personalities is close to impossible. This game just seem to get better every time I play it.
Overall ( not an average ) : 10/10
What else can I say? Perfect hand drawn characters, solid gameplay, excellent controls, high replay value... If you never played it, you really should. This is the best Samurai Shodown game around.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/30/01, Updated 02/11/02
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