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Game Info:

Samurai Shodown
Developed By: SNK
Published By: SNK
Released: June 11, 2020 (Windows), June 25th 2019 (PS4/Xbox One), February 25, 2020 (Nintendo Switch)
Available On: Arcade, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Google Stadia, Xbox One
Genre: Fighting
ESRB Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Partial Nudity, Violence
Number of Players: 1-2, local or online
Price: $49.99

Thank you SNK for sending us this game to review!

Having grown up playing games in the arcade (while they were still common), there have always been a few series that really hit home for me as something special. Fighting games were probably the largest genre of the time, following the explosion that happened not long after Street Fighter II hit the scene. The Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games were always popular, and I played them plenty. I was always a bit of a frugal gamer, and so one of the arcades at the bowling alley that my friends and I would frequent had several major fighting games on display, including Killer Instinct, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, and a Neo Geo cabinet.

While I always loved playing the first two games, they were more expensive - depending on the game and location, sometimes fifty cents a round. (Fifty cents was a lot for a young person in the 1990s!) The Neo Geo, on the other hand, was only a quarter. So, while looking through the six games available in that cabinet, Samurai Shodown really caught my eye for some reason, so I gave it a shot, and instantly fell in love. While I have never been a 'master' at fighting games, Samurai Shodown will always have a special place as one of my favorite games on the Neo Geo, in part because of the interesting, deep gameplay, fantastic art, and the awesome sword attacks of Haohmaru, who I played as most of the time.

This new Samurai Shodown is a reboot of the classic series that started in 1993. There had been five main games released during the long lifetime of the Neo Geo, spanning approximately ten years. After the Neo Geo era, there have been a few other games (outside of compilations), but none had the same impact, and things have been pretty quiet for over a decade. It's great that we finally get a full-blown reboot of one of my favorite fighting game franchises of the 1990s.

Samurai Shodown
Highlights:

Strong Points: Graphics look great; weapons-based combat action is as fun as it's ever been; decent character variety; relatively simple combat system with plenty of depth
Weak Points: PC port is good but has notable flaws; not many players online
Moral Warnings: Combat action with plenty of blood, especially with certain characters (that thankfully can be disabled); many characters wear very little clothing, with some female examples being pretty unrealistic; some suggestive body motions

Despite my years (well decades, now) of history with fighting games, I'm really not that great at them and just play them for fun, so some of the finer points of technicality might be lost on me. But what I can say is that to me, this series has always been about timing, weapon and range management, and a great sense of defensive caution, as hits can be very punishing. Keeping your guard up, looking for openings, and getting that powerful strike in is part of the dance that happens between players in this excellent fighting game series. And let's not forget those animations! The art direction has always been excellent.

We have a fantastic review of the PS4 version of this same game here  by another reviewer and I highly recommend you check it out if you are looking for more details on the flow of battle, the finer points of combat, the various game modes, and how it compares to other fighting games. I highly recommend you check that one out! Rather than rehash those things again here, I'm going to look at the technical aspects of the PC release.

The PC platform has seen a huge uptick in available fighting games in the last several years, and it's become one of the most popular platforms for them since. It also really helps that expensive arcade fight sticks keep working for many years (unlike on consoles, where you need to upgrade them each new platform cycle), and games on PC tend to keep working (with some exceptions) for decades - you can buy, today, games made in the 1980s in MS-DOS, or in the 1990s and since on DOS or Windows, and you can often run them with either a simple emulation layer, or straight up natively - many (but not all) older games can be installed straight off of CD and still 'just work'. This is why, in my opinion, how good a PC port is really matters - you might be playing it ten years from now on your (future) modern gaming rig!

The good news is that it seems to have sensible defaults - when you start up the game, it defaults to your desktop resolution, using the 'borderless fullscreen' approach, and for most players, you shouldn't have to go into the options at all to have a great gaming experience. The downside is that if you are a tweaker, like me, and prefer to set every option yourself, you might be scratching your head.

For example, when you go into the display options, you can set just a few things, like resolution, anti-aliasing, shadows, and bloom. If you try to change the resolution above 1920x1080 in the full screen mode (not borderless), you may be in for a surprise - it simply won't let you. Thankfully, the borderless mode automatically renders the game at desktop resolution, so if you leave it alone it's fine, but that was a bit of a shock.

Another quirk is with the controls. While both Xbox and PS4 controllers all work great out of the box, what isn't so great is that you can't quit the game without a keyboard. I tried pressing every button combination I could think of, and if there's a way to quit the game back to the desktop without pressing the escape key on your keyboard, (or alt+F4) then I certainly haven't found it.

Samurai Shodown
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 81%
Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 8.5/10
Sexual Content - 4.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The good news is that the game itself - your experience while playing - is top-notch. It plays very smoothly, looks wonderful, and controls just as you'd expect. You can modify the default button bindings, though some of the defaults are a bit... interesting, especially if you attempt to play this game on the keyboard. Not a major problem, as this type of game is really best for controllers anyway, but something to be aware of. Thankfully, the arrow keys control one of the players, so you can probably fumble your way to the options menu to configure things further if you need to. Backing out of the current menu is awkward, but there are button prompts on the screen. (There is no button prompt on how to quit the game, however.)

Even though most of the advanced graphics options are not visible in the main menu, there are actually quite a few hidden in a config file, where the saves are stored. This filesystem path is typically C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Local\SamuraiShodown\Saved\Config\WindowsNoEditor and the main file to edit is GameUserSettings.ini. Here you can do things like adjust the ResolutionQuality setting, which can really help it run better on low-end systems. Despite that, I was not able to get it to run satisfactorily on my GPD Win 2.

Outside of technical issues, I had a very positive experience trying out the many characters while testing this game, as each one feels quite different. I'm unsure how many characters come with the current package on sale at the Epic Games Store, but our review copy was blessed to include all characters currently available, which I appreciated. There isn't a huge roster, but there are sixteen base fighters, with eight DLC characters currently available. They all look and play great from what I tested.

That said, many of the females wear outfits that would likely not cover them for long if used in a real combat situation. I guess that's come to be expected of the fighting game genre, but still. Thankfully not all of them are like that, as modest options exist. When you launch the game for the first time, it will ask you if you want the blood/gore enabled. When enabled, sword slashes leave enough blood on the ground to make your local Lifesource chapter envious. When disabled, there is no blood. Of course there is still plenty of violence, as this is a one-on-one fighting game where you attack each other until the other player is defeated.

Samurai Shodown is back, and I'm really happy to see that, and thrilled I got a chance to play the latest game in one of my favorite fighting game series. It's as fun as it's always been, while admittedly sticking to the formula that made the originals great. If you loved the classics, you will find a lot to love here, also. If you've never played a Samurai Shodown, this is a great place to start.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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