Geek Review: Samurai Shodown

The fighting game genre has its famous franchises, from the ever-popular Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, to the more niche Dead or Alive, The King of Fighters and Tekken. SNK’s Samurai Shodown, which falls in the latter category, has carved out its own share, and the 2019 modernisation of this 2D fighter is just the killer blow it needs to punch out the competition.

Simplicity is a blessing in Samurai Shodown, paving the way for beginners and veterans to enjoy the game. However, delve deeper and the significant depth and strategy within Samurai Shodown are clear to see.

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Positioning, timing, and distance are all key to succeeding in this combat game. It is less about unleashing spectacular combos, incessant juggles, or trapping your opponents in endless pain, but more of taking your time and punishing your opponents when they make a mistake.

Button mashing can only get you so far, but learning the nuances of deflecting, dodging, triggering Rage Explosions and hitting that awesome looking Lightning Blade attack will serve any warrior well in the long run.

The requisite light to heavy attacks forms the foundation of Samurai Shodown. Light attacks and kicks are quick and useful in interrupting your opponent’s attacks, medium attacks have considerable reach, while heavy attacks are risky but highly damaging gambits. Nothing feels worse than whiffing a heavy attack and getting punished, or vice versa.

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It is this risk and reward system that permeates throughout Samurai Shodown, and the chess-like nature of the combat makes for the game’s best feature by far. You can get blocked at any time, counter by deflecting, cancel out of attacks, flip your opponents’ weapons out of their hands, and much, much more.

Elements like building your rage gauge or perfectly timed guards will make your fight easier and leave your opponents open and frustrated, trigger the aforementioned Rage Explosion and they are in for a world of hurt. And just as they are scrambling, add insult to injury with a devastating Lightning Blade attack to ram home the point that you are superior.

There are inherently high risks and high rewards in each duel, and it is on a whole other level in Samurai Shodown.

A Rage Explosion is a powerful comeback mechanic, but you only get to use it once per match, so it all comes down to timing it right. Losing your weapon may be dangerous, but you still have competent combat skills, better yet, perform a perfect deflection to catch your opponent’s blade and disarm them for even more fun.

All 16 of Samurai Shodown’s robust cast of warriors come with their own flavour and outstanding personalities, reflected not just in their looks, but also how they fight. Witness the clumsy Wu Ruixiang accidentally calling forth a dragon to decimate you and one cannot help but accept defeat willingly.

There are plenty of details to glean from each character, from the way they look to the manner in which they fight. Even their movesets are distinctly different, and require some investment to fully master and grasp. 

The Story mode will let you experience the characters’ story, but it is definitely not on the level of the recent Mortal Kombat 11 or even Injustice 2. A short intro and ending after a succession of bouts are not exactly what modern fighting games bring to the table anymore, nor accepted by industry standards.

Thankfully, learning the ins-and-outs of how everyone fights is made easier with the game’s tutorial and the more comprehensive Dojo Mode, where you can fight against ghosts of other players and get some much-needed practice. Or you can try going the distance in a gauntlet, or beat your score in both survival and time-trial modes. 

As for fighting against other players, there are offline and online versus modes for both casual and ranked play, with casual rooms allowing up to 10 players. While the net code for Samurai Shodown was quite unreliable at launch, the developers have beefed up the performance and online bouts are much more stable now.

Samurai Shodown brings its own brand of combat to the modern table, pushing the dimensions of mind games to a new level. Unfortunately, the wonderful combat and tactical nature of Samurai Shodown does not make up for a lacklustre Story Mode and long load times. Look past that, and within lies a fighting game full of amazing characters that rely on a solid foundation that can be as deep as you want it to be. 



A 2D revival in the modern age, fighting game fans will not want to miss out on Samurai Shodown.

  • Gameplay - 9/10
  • Story - 7/10
  • Presentation - 9/10
  • Value - 8/10
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