IGN Review of 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. It's even more unfortunate that the PSP version is vastly inferior to its PS2 counterpart, despite having cleaner menus and better localization.
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 and Samurai Shodown VI. The interface of the PSP version is much more streamlined than the PS2 version, with a simple rotating menu but fewer character color palette editors. Despite the fewer tweaking options, I still preferred the PSP's interface, only because it was more straight-forward and had a distinct Samurai Shodown flavor as opposed to the somewhat generic gray background found in the other SNK collections.
The real problem with the PSP version of Samurai Shodown Anthology is the slowdown, which makes the entire experience jittery. Fighting game fans will not be happy when the UMD keeps spinning and the action stutters on the screen. Gamers should know by know that these sorts of games require precise button inputs and that just can't happen when the game is sputtering along, attempting to keep up with itself. These issues are made even worse when trying some Ad Hoc multiplayer, which I thought was simply unplayable. 2D fighters are all about making precision choices, and that's just not possible on the PSP version.
With that said, the most fascinating thing 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 have come to expect. But Samurai Shodown VI actually lets you choose between six different Spirits, or fighting styles, for each character. Yikes. This brings me back to my original point: this game will put newbies in a pinch and frustrate casual gamers. It also has some hilarious translations, but I imagine this game will only appeal to hardcore Samurai Shodown fans anyway.
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