By Steve Baltimore / June 19th, 2020
|Release Date||June 11th, 2020|
|Platform||Epic Games (PC), Switch, PS4, Xbox One|
|Age Rating||M for Mature|
I’ve loved the Samurai Shodown series for many years. I remember when I was a very young lad pumping tons of quarters into arcade machines. I loved busting out my favorite samurai and laying waste to my opponents. There have been many more entries in the series since then, and I have checked out most of them over the years. This made me pretty excited to get my hands on the latest entry in the series that takes place one year before the first game’s story. I fell in love with the graphical style when I first saw this reboot of the franchise, so let’s see if it plays as good as it looks.
The story here takes place in 1787, which is known as the Tenmei Era of Japanese history. The country of Japan has been in decay for a while. Dark forces have caused the lands to fall into ruin, and with no food the people are suffering. This is due to Shizuka Gozen. She is the spirit of a young woman who has become possessed. Her spirit is infested by a sinister aura that could lead the world to total destruction, but warriors from all over world driven by their own desires are coming to put an end to this evil force once and for all. The story here is pretty straightforward but it’s interesting to see what drives each character into combat. Some want to protect those they love and lands they cherish, while some just care for glory. Each character’s ending has some fantastic illustrations and I really enjoyed seeing how each one of these played out.
As I stated in the intro I really loved the graphical style of the Samurai Shodown reboot. The game uses the Unreal Engine and sports some of the best 3D models I’ve seen in a long time. Each character is highly detailed and the animations are smooth as butter. The blood spattering on the characters when they land a hard hit was a nice touch, and while a small detail, it really helps immerse you in the action. The bloom effect when the swords clash and during special moves give the game a lot of flair as well. This is one of the best looking and most stylized fighters I’ve seen in years.
The music has always been a strong point of the Samurai Shodown franchise. This entry is no exception! Each of the tracks are just a pure joy to listen to and adds a ton to the overall experience. As usual the tracks are all Eastern inspired and sound like something you’d hear in an up to date samurai movie. Darli’s theme sounds like something you’d play while plundering the seas, but this makes sense since she is a pirate! Tracks for returning characters do take some cues from their older versions and I thought this was a very nice touch. The sounds of swords clashing and the tearing sound when you land a hit gets you right into the action. Throw in some great Japanese voice acting and this one is a stand out.
The gameplay of Samurai Shodown has always included risk and reward. Do you go for the heavy strikes and try to end the match quickly? Or try to chain together smaller attacks and special skills to throw your opponent off balance? This really depends on which character you choose and your play style. I love Nakoruru, she has been my favorite since the very first game. You cannot go in guns blazing with her since her strike doesn’t have the range of other samurai, so you must rely on blocking and special moves. Now If you take someone like Haohmaru he hits like a truck on a solid strike, so you may go more aggressive. As with previous entries the rage gauge add a new layer of strategy to fights. The meter fills as you take take damage and will give you access to a sword flip move that can disarm your opponent. This can really turn the tide of a fight in your favor. You can also give up the gauge and enter rage mode. This will give you a huge damage boost for a short time but the rage gauge will be gone for the remainder of the match.
Samurai Shodown features all the modes you would expect to find in a fighting game. Story mode, various on and offline versus modes and a gallery mode. The Dojo however is one of the more interesting modes in the game. This mode collects online ghost data from fighters around the world and allows you to challenge them. As you win matches you gain points and can improve your ranking. I had quite a bit of fun with this mode, just seeing how many of these I could defeat. There is also an Ironman Challenge that will pit you against 100 ghost fighters in a row.
Samurai Shodown is a fantastic addition to the franchise. The robust combat and amazing style make it one of the best fighters out there. The PC port itself is really solid and I had zero issues booting it up and jumping right into the game. The game only supports resolutions up to 1080p which is not an issue for me but some may be turned off by it. The only other issue I ran into was that online matches will have some lag issues. I think a better netcode would probably help out here. The game has tremendous replay value and is well worth the $49.99 price tag. If you’ve been holding out for the PC port of Samurai Shodown or haven’t picked it up yet, there is not better time than the present.
Game was provided by the publisher.