Samurai Shodown preview: back in force for SNK's fine blades


In 1993, the prolific SNK illuminated the world of combat with Samurai Shodown, the first episode of a hit series. The foreshadowing of the basic concepts of Soul Blade / SoulCalibur by Namco, Samurai Shodown and its sequels were stabbing fighting games, with a focus on hyper-lethal counterattacks rather than long combos. In 2019, SNK returned the cover and was pleased to note that the formula had not aged.

Preview conditions

We were invited by the publisher to join us in a press event organized in London, where we could try it for just over two hours, solo first and then by two players later. The game was running on PlayStation 4 Pro; six characters were available (Haohmaru, Charlotte, Earthquake, Jubei Yagyu, Genjuro Kibagami and Galford) and only three arenas were available.

Samurai Shodown: this is a name that does not have much to say to the little ones, but that will have a particular resonance in the ears of the elders of the old woman. Because if today, in terms of stabbing fighting games, Soul Calibur refers, it hasn't always been like this. In the early years, the SNK studio offers enthusiastic players Samurai Shodown, a fighting game of a new kind. There are no extended combos here, but a very short weapon passes, where the counterattack is dazzlingly raised to the rank of the art. Striking little, but striking hard, is all the interest of this Samurai Shodown who has subjugated many players through his artistic direction and his very strong Japanese images. An atypical game that has given rise to several sequels but has never had the success it deserved for the general public. What if things had changed in 2019?

A successful graphical update

Samurai Shodown: again in force for the thin SNK blades

The art direction is successful.

Difficult not to notice the surprising graphic evolution of this Samurai Shodown, presented by its creators as a reboot of the series. Vaguely recalling the work done by Capcom on Street Fighter IV, this new Samurai Shodown plays with the proportions of its characters as with colors, to offer an amazing visual rendering. A treatment that also remembers a very different title, Okami, with the use of supported black lines that come to highlight some extremes of the 3D models of the characters, or flat colors that seem to have been placed on paper. This gives a very organic side … to the game's graphics, which intelligently modernize while preserving the very Japanese touch of the series.

Samurai Shodown: again in force for the thin SNK blades

The backgrounds reveal the technical limits of the game.

Samurai Shodown is not unassailable because this art direction also serves a lot of suffering. It is obvious that this is a low budget production and the decorations of the three arenas we have seen are rather weak, technically speaking. The plots lack precision, the animals that appear on this occasion are roughly modeled, in short it is a bit limited but the visual style of the game makes it work anyway. It must be said that the different arenas are quite rich in details and have a lot of personality; which, together with the highly successful design of the different fighters, gives a special charm to Samurai Shodown. Yes, it's not always very nice when you stop at the details, but actually, at stake, it's never disturbing. If we were afraid of falling on a Street Fighter IV pastiche, this is not the case: this new Samurai Shodown has a lot of identity and elegantly reinvents the graphic codes of the series. Well then.

Zatoichi Simulator 2019

Joystick in hand, the sensations quickly return. We find this gameplay so different, in which the player must be patient and show a good sense of time. Samurai Shodown shots can do much, much damage and a round can be completed in less than thirty seconds. It is therefore necessary to know when and how to attack, to maximize the chances of inflicting damage on the enemy.

Samurai Shodown: again in force for the thin SNK blades

The special moves are beautifully staged.

Secondary orders, we find the usual Kick, Low Shot, Medium Shot and Strong Coup, respectively arranged on Cross, Square, Triangle and Round. The different triggers are actually a joystick for shortcuts that makes it easier to perform certain actions, like the Dodge (R1) or the switches (R2). Rage's system is making a big comeback so it is still possible to enter Rage by pressing L2 and trigger a particularly painful special attack by pressing the same button. Remember that the anger indicator fills up by taking shots and then allows you to inflict more damage at the end of the round, which brings an obvious tension to the fights. Be careful, however, when the special attack is used, the anger bar disappears: you can no longer benefit from its effects. It is interesting to note that the activation of Rage generates a short animation that allows you to repel an enemy and thus to counteract some blows. This can lead to brutal counterattacks, which require constant vigilance, especially when the anger meter is full. Note the addition of a new type of attack, simply called "Super Special Move", makes it a special attack even more powerful and can be used in a state of anger, executing the correct command (6 41236 + R2). We are talking about an attack that can make 80% of an opponent's life disappear: as much as saying that the move is quite interesting.

Samurai Shodown: again in force for the thin SNK blades

The character shots have their own visual effects, making it easier to read the action.

Everything is done to add tension to comparisons that were not lacking yet. Because obviously, since everything is played on the player's ability to hit fast, strong, at the right time, there is a lot of ways to defend or to deceive the bretteur opponent. For example, by pressing Back at the right time, you can perform a proper Defense, which allows you to block the enemy attack, to counterattack immediately afterwards. It is not uncommon for the Right Defense to chase itself until a player ends up bursting, giving rise to some really interesting arms passes, where the mind game prevails. all the rest We quickly learn to fight back intelligently after a Fair Defense because it is not the enemy: if we opt for a strong blow, it is a safe bet that the enemy will have time to strike first, while a weaker but faster cut will have more likely to hit. Therefore we constantly focus on adverse actions and it will take time and training to successfully recognize the animations (very successful, however) of the various fighters, to predict their future actions.

Thin and thin, Samurai Shodown is so busy trying to defuse the opponent, which is certainly a handicap, but the game here again allows several turns, thanks to the possibility of capturing the enemy weapon with bare hands; or to counteract the blows by striking at the right time, so that the blades collide.

Terribly appealing

The formula "easy to play, hard to master" (easy to play, difficult to master) applies very well to this Samurai Shodown, which in the end offers rather classic commands, based on quarters and semicircles, and special moves that are very easy to get out of . The characters react to the finger and to the eye and only after some fights, we make the round of what the different fighters allow.

Samurai Shodown: again in force for the thin SNK blades

Everyone will find his favorite child.

On the other hand, it shines with the depth of its mechanics, which makes each fight a brief moment of extreme intensity, or the slightest breath is punished by a terrible katana blow. Situation reversals are legions and create the horrible but captivating feeling of being able to lose at any time, which gives the game a taste of "return". Everything is run by a very successful cast and we had the great pleasure of (re) discovering the six characters featured in this demo. Everyone is finally very different and everyone should find his little treasure; if we fell for the savage beating of Genjuro or for Yubei's quick hit, some might be more interested in Haohmaru's versatility or Galford's ranged attacks. In any case, dodging, parrying, hitting is a real pleasure, thanks to the care given by SNK to small details, such as a slight slowdown on some shots, which highlights successful counterfeits or the most lethal shots. As such, Samurai Shodown is a very fun title to watch as much as to play. We are looking forward to seeing the games that will bring the best players on the planet.

Our impressions

Samurai Shodown has always been a bit apart, a difference he has cultivated over time and for which it has been appreciated. This 2019 episode does not reinvent the wheel but cleverly modernizes it, first with a rather successful visual but also with some well thought-out game innovations. Intelligent, visceral, stressful and engaging, the title of SNK seems to seduce the fans of the series, and why not some newcomers, at its release in June 2019.

Profile of Epyon


March 25, 2019 at 14:07:07


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.