Diving head first into the Samurai Shodown series for the first time sure was an interesting idea. The mechanics took some getting used to but I eventually learned to appreciate the feel of the gameplay. Samurai Shodown V Special is very different from other SNK fighting games. In fact, it kind of reminds me of the Bushido Blade series on PS1, except in 2D. It’s all about being aware of your spacing and range. You won’t be racking up super long combos in matches, enemies can be defeated in a two blows if played correctly.
If you’re going to be trying Samurai Showdown V Special for the first time, do yourself a favor and watch the launch trailer; it explains some of the terminology and mechanics. Going into the game I hadn’t seen that trailer and a lot of the names of things in Samurai Shodown can be confusing since there’s no tutorial to be found in the actual game. It didn’t help that the AI in the normal “Arcade” mode could be incredibly brutal. Since the mechanics are a little more unconventional compared to many modern fighters, it’s pretty much necessary you learn these things before hopping in.
The cast of 28 characters in the game is wonderful and varied. They all look as if they’re pulled straight out of classic anime like Rurouni Kenshin, Samurai Champloo, and Ninja Scroll. Yoshitora and Charlotte definitely became my two favorite characters to play online. The game’s stages also made for nice backdrops while both characters tried to split each other in two.
Samurai Shodown V Special is a weapon-based fighter, similar to the Soulcalibur series. Each fighter comes in a different size and uses a different weapon with its own reach and strength. I found myself trying out lots of different fighters to see which one would really click with me most. It’s important to take into account each fighter’s range, size, and speed when you’re in the heat of a good match.
The first thing you should look out for is your Rage Gauge. Once it’s filled your attack power goes up. You can also use a weapon flipping attack that’ll disarm your opponent. If you drop your weapons or it gets knocked out of your hands you’ll have to go pick it up. With no weapon you can only punch and kick, doing very little damage.
Activating your Rage Gauge at the right time can greatly turn the tide of a match. When you activate the bar your attack power goes up even further. You may also slow down your opponent when your gauge is filled, I personally prefer a boost to attack power though.
Samurai Shodown V Special is incredibly brutal. Like over the top, bodies being chopped clean in half. It’s crazy, hyper violent, and a lot of fun. Slicing your opponent in half can cause their blood to shoot all over your character, and it’s oddly satisfying the same way Fatalities are in the Mortal Kombat games. Each character also has a unique Overkill move that’ll end the match if they hit your opponent.
The game comes with four separate modes: arcade, versus, multiplayer, and training. Arcade mode could be kind of ridiculous at times as I said before, the AI seemed dead-set on countering everything I threw at them, this mostly occurred later on in the mode. I did think the final boss in arcade mode was fun though, but I still wish there was some kind of difficulty option in the game. But at least you can change the controls and screen size to your liking which I really appreciated.
Multiplayer is where I had the most fun. I was evenly matched with most players and the game’s mechanics made for some very fun and intense duels. Unfortunately there isn’t any sort of ranking system, multiplayer is strictly fighting online for fun. Also, it would be a bit better if you could see your opponent’s ping before you go into a lobby, I got mixed results with lag.
Ultimately I think my biggest gripes with Samurai Shodown V Special is how basic the package is. With arcade and multiplayer being the modes you’ll play almost all of your time, it does feel a little light for $15. Especially when other Neogeo games before it have been cheaper on the PS4, and PS Vita. If you’re a long-time fan of the series you should still have a lot of fun with this game, but if you’re getting into it for the first time you may be surprised by the lack of things to do as well as the difficulty spike in arcade mode. Luckily there are a lot of cool characters to try and I definitely think it’s worth trying them all.
If you’re looking for a fun fighting game to play with your friends, Samurai Shodown V Special will fulfill your needs. It’s the type of game that you’ll want to play with a couple of people in the same room. Long-time fans of the series should also feel right at home; even with few modes. The game has a glossary that allows you to unlock exclusive artwork, but it doesn’t really feel worth looking at more than once.
I really enjoyed my time with Samurai Shodown V Special, I just wish it had given me a couple more reasons to come back in the future. After a few runs in the arcade mode there isn’t much else to do on the single-player side of things. I hope we’ll get the opportunity to see this series return again someday.