IGN Review of Samurai Shodown Anthology
The subhead above is the descriptor of the fourth fighting Spirit in Samurai Shodown VI, which is just one of the games on SNK Playmore's Samurai Shodown Anthology. As has been the case with the previous SNK compilations, Samurai Shodown Anthology has suffered under an extremely limited distribution and received very little attention when it officially shipped. The game lets players explore their affinity for 2D sprites by offering the original Samurai Shodown all the way up to Samurai Shodown VI. Although there were other games in the Samurai Shodown franchise, the six classic fighters are all present here and will certainly stir up the memories of fighting game fans. It's unfortunate that Samurai Shodown Anthology slips by so many people unnoticed, as it represents a sizable chunk of the classic 2D fighting scene. Regardless, this is a nice collection for fans of the series, though I wonder if the franchise's later innovations will scare away newcomers that pick up a copy.
The Samurai Shodown series was started in Japan decades ago thanks to the efforts of what is now SNK Playmore. A 2D fighter on the Neo Geo platform, Samurai Shodown was special in that it offered fighting of a much different variety than its peers -- fighting that was far slower in pace and sometimes felt more like a traditional battle from old samurai flicks. You cautiously move around the screen and you can often finish the battle with just a few precisely executed attacks. It was a different type of experience.
Samurai Shodown Anthology gives you easy access to Samurai Shodown I, Samurai Shodown II, Samurai Shodown III, Samurai Shodown IV and Samurai Shodown V. Samurai Shodown VI is on its own, as the other games can all be accessed from a dropdown menu that includes Arcade play and Practice modes (VI gets its own icon on the main menu!). The interface for the collection is similar to SNK Playmore's other offerings, so the simple grey background and big icons will be familiar to some of you.
There are plenty of options for tweaking your experience, including button configurations and character color palette editors. Ultimately though, you'll be spending most of your time diving in and out of the six games that all run well. There are obviously load times to work through and occasional bits of slowdown, but the stutters are normal for these sorts of collections.
What was most fascinating for me as a gamer was to play through each of the Samurai Shodowns on the anthology in order and watch as the series grew over the years. That's perhaps the greatest value in a compilation, and I think that historical perspective alone is worth the price of admission. But my concern is that the Samurai Shodown series is not an easy one. Balancing your Rage gauge is just one of countless sub-systems players need to learn over time and it's really not easy to pick up and play. It's also stiffer and more stubborn than the other fighters I've wrestled with, which will make it appeal even less to beginners. Then, of course, there's the beast known as Samurai Shodown VI.
The sixth member of the collection is so complicated I could barely wrap my head around it at first. There's no sense in me explaining the fighting systems contained within VI (and its predecessors), but to put matters simply, Samurai Shodown is a traditional one-on-one fighter with special moves, counters, rolls and all sorts of goodies fighting game fans should come to expect. But Samurai Shodown VI actually lets you choose between nine different Spirits, or fighting styles, one of which has eight variations. Yikes. This brings me back to my original point: this game will put newbies in a pinch and frustrate casual gamers (See what I did there?). It also has some hilarious translations, but I imagine this game will only appeal to hardcore Samurai Shodown fans anyway.
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