Game Reviews

Samurai Shodown Switch Review

The return of the fan favorite series finally comes to Nintendo Switch

by Dean James
Samurai Shodown

SNK has long had one of the deepest lineup of games in the industry behind numerous popular series, some of which are still relevant today. With a focus on arcades over the years, one of their strongest areas was the fighting game genre behind franchises like King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown. Both of these series once had almost annual releases before slowing down over the last decade, with Samurai Shodown being on hiatus from 2009 until its triumphant return in reboot form with the simply named Samurai Shodown last year on a number of platforms. While it was not available on Nintendo Switch at launch, Samurai Shodown was a perfect candidate for the Nintendo Switch, which led to the inevitable port that is now available from Safari Games.

Samurai Shodown serves as a semi-reboot of the series in some ways, though not as drastically as say Mortal Kombat 9. The game takes place chronologically after the events of Samurai Shodown V, which was the first game in the timeline, but sometime before the original game. As the game still fits in with the existing story, the reboot comes more from the look of the game and it not being a direct follow-up to past games. Due to this, it makes the game an excellent jumping on point for those who have never played the series before, while also being very much for longtime fans of the series as well. This is something that is always very important for fighting games especially and this game does a very good job at it.

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Unreal Engine has been the standard for a lot of games for many years now, but SNK has just now jumped onto that bandwagon with the usage of Unreal Engine 4 in Samurai Shodown. The game utilizes 3D models on a 2D plane, which definitely was the right choice for this type of game. The backgrounds and character models are very impressive here as well, with there not really being a noticeable drop in quality in this release on Nintendo Switch. That also extends to the performance too, as there are very little in the way of slowdowns in the combat. For a game that requires very exact button presses, this was something SNK really had to make sure was handled well in this port and thankfully it was.

The game offers a number of different modes for you to choose from, with the Practice mode that includes tutorials and training being a good start for new players. This is as a result of the very different play style found in Samurai Shodown in comparison to other traditional fighters such as Street Fighter. While you may be able to succeed with fast paced combo strings and a lot of button mashing in other fighters, that will not help you whatsoever in Samurai Shodown. Instead, you have to be patient and much more strategic with your button presses if you want to succeed.

Even though Samurai Shodown can be a much more methodical fighter than most, the actual control scheme itself is really not all that complex. Each character has three levels of slash attacks and a kick attack that can be executed by pressing each of the face buttons, with the triggers and bumpers being certain combinations of these face buttons for easy access. From there, you also have a number of special moves available as well that you will need to learn how to use to be effective in battle.

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Blocking is almost always a very important aspect in fighting games, but it may be most important in Samurai Shodown. Certain simple attacks can deal a lot of damage, making it vital to block as many of these as possible. At the same time, you have to make sure that you are careful at using the stronger attacks, as a well placed block by the opponent can leave you completely vulnerable to taking a lot of damage in return. This leads to a lot of wait and see in the combat, as you need to analyze the strategies employed by the opponent before attacking yourself.

Samurai Shodown can be a much more methodical fighter than most

While the gameplay is stellar in Samurai Shodown, the actual single player offerings are a little lackluster, namely with the story mode. If you are entering the game expecting a grand story like you’d see in something from Netherrealm Studios or even a Dead or Alive or Tekken story, you will likely be disappointed. If you are satisfied with a more arcade ladder format with a little added in story for each character, then you will be more than happy with what Samurai Shodown has to offer. There is nothing new to the story in this Nintendo Switch port either, so gamers who double dip may not find much reason to play through it again. There are still some other single player modes like Survival, Gauntlet, and Time Trial that return as well.

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One of the most ambitious features found in Samurai Shodown is the implementation of ghosts into the mix. While playing, the game will continue to learn your mannerisms and how you play in battle and create a ghost based on your most played character. By going to Dojo Mode, you can select other player’s ghosts to fight against online or even train against your own. This is a great feature to have, but the AI learning for the ghosts does not seem quite on the level as Killer Instinct’s version of this. Even so, this is still a good feature to have in the game that can give you a chance to fight others without actually taking the game online for a fight against another live player.

The online features for Samurai Shodown are pretty standard for your usual fighter, with a Ranked Match and Casual Match option to choose from. Ranked Match pits you against a random player from around the world, while Casual Match lets you create a room for up to 10 players with more customization on the settings for said match. As you would expect, there are also online leaderboards as well for those that are playing more competitively and want to keep up with their rankings.

For those that would rather play locally, Samurai Shodown of course lets you face off against a friend in person as well. This was already available in the version for other platforms, but what makes it even better on Nintendo Switch is the ease of doing so. As the Nintendo Switch can be taken anywhere, you can prop up your Nintendo Switch and play Samurai Shodown with friends on the go at anytime. You won’t even have to bring an extra controller along either, as you can use each Joy-Con as a controller here too.

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Samurai Shodown initially released seven months ago and has received four DLC characters so far, with a second season pass of characters still to come. Considering the months long delay before a port to the Nintendo Switch, you might would assume the first batch of four might be included as a bonus to encourage players to potentially double dip. However, while the four characters are part of the character select menu on the Switch, it will prompt you to go to the eShop to purchase each one if you try to select them. The game does automatically include the free post-launch DLC character Shizumaru Hisame and some DLC costumes though.

Samurai Shodown has always been one of the most unique fighting game series and the latest iteration proves yet again why it deserves to remain relevant. The combat may be slower paced than your usual button mashing fighter, but the precise weapon-based gameplay is a real treat to experience. While there is really nothing new in the Switch port besides the added portability and ability to have two players easily with a Joy-Con each, Samurai Shodown is still worth a look on Nintendo Switch for those who want to play on the go and especially those who missed out the first time around.

The Verdict

It may have taken a long hiatus, but the return of Samurai Shodown was every bit as good as fans remembered the series to be when it released last year. Even without any new content or the inclusion of the season one characters in this latest port, this release of Samurai Shodown is still worth your attention thanks to the superb gameplay and the added portability that comes with the Nintendo Switch.

"loved"
loved

Samurai Shodown

  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Stadia
  • Published By: SNK
  • Developed By: Safari Games, SNK
  • Genre: Fighting
  • US Release Date: February 25, 2020
  • Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
  • Quote: "It may have taken a long hiatus, but the return of Samurai Shodown was every bit as good as fans remembered the series to be when it released last year. Even without any new content or the inclusion of the season one characters in this latest port, this release of Samurai Shodown is still worth your attention thanks to the superb gameplay and the added portability that comes with the Nintendo Switch."
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