Anyone who remembers Samurai Shodown for the SNK Neo Geo platform will remember a fun, addicting, classic 2D fighter filled with unforgettable weapon-wielding characters with bad haircuts. It still, till this day, can be considered one of the most played arcade games of the early 90s, considering the competition – like Street Fighter, for example – it was up against. What began as an enjoyable, nurturing 2D franchise has turned into the sad, mutilated concoction that is Samurai Shodown Sen – an ugly 3D fighter that completely fails to capture the charisma and fascination of the original titles of the series. It isn’t the first time that the series takes on the look of 3D, however. But it sure does feel like this 3D project was put together by a group of trained monkeys rather than skilled developers. Samurai Shodown Sen is everything you’d expect from a horrible fighting game – ungraceful controls, inconvenient and visuals that can easily be compared to an early PlayStation 2 game.
As a fan of the franchise, I was heart-broken to see where the series had turned into. A series once prized for dominating weapon-based combat in the 2D fighting arena, which fully depended on careful, planned attacks as opposed to just continuous button-mashing, was taken and torn apart from the ground up leaving a façade of disgust to fans of the original titles. But I’ll stop bad mouthing the game for now and move on as to why Samurai Shodown Sen fails as a “fresh” transition to the Xbox 360.
Like any other fighter out there, Samurai Shodown Sen faces players off in a flat arena with any playable warrior out of the 24 combatant roster. The battle system might seem somewhat new to players of the series as it entirely revolves around combos constructed on either vertical or horizontal attacks. Other than slashing their way through their foes, characters also have throws and kicks at their disposal in order to add some form of variety to combat, along with a special Rage Explosion stat which powers up their attacks and allows opportune access to Rage Explosion Moves.
It might sound like something that’s been done before, and that’s because nothing in Samurai Shodown Sen is new. Just about everything you are able to do in this game has been done in other 3D fighters. You can block, and you can deflect incoming strikes to stagger your opponent somewhat; you’re now able to sidestep incoming attacks as well. Samurai Shodown Sen does indeed have strategic capabilities to be found in this game, but the stiff, bland fighting mechanics completely throws you off. The game just doesn’t feel as natural or responsive as its forbearers, respectively. Executing attacks on the clunky, non-fighter-friendly 360 controller didn’t make things easier as performing moves seemed more like a chore. While you’re in the midst of trying to perform a certain combination, your opponent is slashing away at you without any sense of hesitation. Ideally, patience is a virtue in this area.
But while the controls are stiff and almost impossible to perform fluidly, your opponents don’t make things any easier by continuously cheesing the crap out of you. While you’re trying to figure out or execute traditional moves like Haohmaru’s Crescent Moon Slash (forward+down+forward+slash – which isn’t how you perform it now), you’re getting shot in the face consecutively by Draco (dude with a big ass gun) who kills you with a couple (4 or 5) shots. At this point, the game becomes more of an annoyance when dealing with the cheesy AI that go through you like a hot katana through butter. It’s sad, really, because whatever chance at enjoying the game you had gets thrown out the window when having to deal with opponents who can merely shoot you from a distance. This is exactly why you never bring a knife/sword to a gun fight. This has confirmed every single reason why doing so is moronic, if you need the proof.
Now, in terms of visuals, Samurai Shodown Sen is an ugly game. In fact, it’s hideous and should be tossed into the pits of hell if you’re into comparing it to other 3D fighters like Street Fighter IV and Tekken. Whether or not the folks as Xseed – and I do love them – were intoxicated the majority of the time while putting this together is questionable. But, as a gamer, I can look past this if the gameplay and/or story offers something gratifying enough to keep me bewitched. That isn’t the case here, though. As stated above, the gameplay mechanics are just blasphemous for a fighting game, and the story context is extremely aphoristic, if you even consider it to have one. Whatever chances the game had for getting any love from me became nonexistent when the entire substance of the game had nothing to offer across the board.
Samurai Shodown Sen also suffers from some really bad load times – a con which I would have thought to be absent at this juncture in the 360’s development cycle, and considering how the game itself doesn’t seem complex with regards to high-res textures, filtering and mobility. At times, you’ll come across some slowdowns in certain stages, which can be disappointing considering how valuable accuracy is to the overall experience of the game.
I tried to be somewhat optimistic with the game and decided to hop onto Xbox Live in order to immerse my genius in some one-on-one actions against other players in the multiplayer section. Surprisingly, after constant searching, I got matched up a handful of times with the same players which pretty much indicated that not many folks were playing the game. My training against the AI (in which they sabotaged my patience and literally beat me to a pulp) proved to be successful as I obliterated my first opponent, whom began to yell the same exact words I yelled at my TV whilst playing the computer AI: Cheese! And he wasn’t smiling for a picture – he was cursing me out as I continuously attacked him without pause. After his defeat, and after calling my mother all sorts of whores and such, the player left the room. I began to search for more games but, at this point, I was the only person lingering in the digital multiplayer space. Everything seemed abandoned, and I disappointingly signed off with hopes that someone on my friends list would send me a game invite for some butt kicking. Although the multiplayer aspect was good – as it ran smooth – the same issues that plagued the single player accompanied the multiplayer mode. With so few people playing, however, it was kind of difficult to try and fully grasp and study just how well the overall experience was and could have been.
If you’re a fan of the series, I would probably tell you to skip this one as it isn’t a game I would consider a traditional part of the series. Not to say that Sen does everything wrong because it does do certain things well that is derived from the previous games in the series. For one, you’ll definitely find that calculating your strikes and a keen defensive game is necessary, like the previous Samurai Shodown games, and welcoming. But all that is cut short when the clunky and stiff control elements come into play and basically hinder any entertaining experiences you could have had. Not to mention that the god-forsaken visuals will probably sway you away somewhat, as it is, again, very PlayStation 2 looking – something that you wouldn’t expect from a “next-gen” game. Although the online system works fairly well, the fact that I only saw a handful of players after the game’s retail release says a lot about the game’s online community, if you can even call it that.
If you were looking for some exceptional Samurai Shodown back-in-the-day good nostalgia, you’re better off getting your hands on the anthology and going at it on that. As a fan of the series, I’d prohibit anyone from purchasing this game – especially when there are so many other current-gen fighters out there that will probably satisfy your ass-kicking appetite far better than this atrocious abortion called Samurai Shodown Sen. Sorry, folks, but if you were expecting this game to glorious, you’re going to be let down.
- Title: Samurai Shodown Sen
- Developer: K2 LLC
- Publishers: SNK Playmore / Xseed Games
- Platform Reviewed: Xbox 360
- MSRP: $59.99
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A copy of this game was provided by the publisher to DualShockers, Inc. for reviewing purposes.