IGN Review of Samurai Shodown V
It's likely been a while since you last played a 2D fighter. Then again, you're probably not reading this unless you really enjoy 2D fighters, Samurai Shodown specifically. The first appeared in 1993 in arcades, and to this day the name kicks around swirls of nostalgia for scores of gamers. Of course, for as many that may have rosy memories of playing this fantastical, bloody samurai fighter, there are just as many who suffer the aches and pangs of nausea at the very mention of the title. Rest assured, Samurai Shodown V does absolutely nothing to bridge that gap.
You know the drill. Pick an acutely stylized fighter, fight a series of opponents, battle a few mini bosses that require you to actually check the in-game move list, then square off against a transforming demon boss, select continue a few times when you lose, learn his attack patterns and eventually smash his face. On to running through with the next character. Except for Mina. Holy crap that doll thing she runs with is annoying.
In addition to plenty of sprite-based battles you'll find the character have their own unique storylines, which often interconnect. After about three seconds of the first storyline you see, though, you're going to start hitting A to get through all the dialogue boxes, because hardly any of it makes sense. Possibly the best is Enja's, mostly because all he does is scream, "GRRRR!" and several variations thereof.
The main menu lists a few more standard modes in addition to Arcade, including Versus, Practice and an options mode where you can customize your controls. There are plenty of control options, including several dodges, hops, attacks on downed enemies, and a good deal more, and it's going to take a while before you'll be familiar with how they all mesh together. You'll find the controls do feel a little sluggish, unfortunately. Despite the amount of evasive, tactical movement maneuvers, there's a definite focus on offensive power in SSV.
Mostly, this is because you've got the ability to enable a "rage explosion" at any point during a match, giving you the ability to perform a super move at will until you connect or a timer runs out. This is more of a last resort option, however, since once you use it, your rage meter disappears for the remainder of the entire match, not just the round. Still, the rage bar fills very quickly, usually after three or four hits. After it fills, you're able to bust out a multi-hit super move for big damage. The fact that every character in the game has the exact same button combo for a super move and the rapidity with which your rage meter fills means you're going to be unleashing super moves quite frequently. Combine that with a sword meter that adds power to your attacks, and you're going to be seeing some especially punishing offensive combos, especially online.
Support for play over Xbox Live is the largest addition to SSV, and is definitely a lot of fun provided you can find someone to play with. I definitely got completely annihilated a number of times, and at others found myself repeatedly battling opponents of around my skill level. Repeatedly fighting someone at your aptitude is easy since there's a convenient option to immediately invite an opponent to a rematch after your first fight ends. However, if that person just got a double-perfect twice in a row, it's probably in your best interest to punch out and find someone else.
There's also a cool option to organize online tournaments. You'll be able to specify a number of variable including the date and time the tourney will start, the registration delay and minimum and maximum number of entrants, which can range anywhere from four to 128. Playing online is definitely where you're going to be spending most of your time with this title, since the single player gets stale rather quickly. You should really only be using the single player to train for online matches, and even then you'll find you get better much faster if you challenge real players online.
SSV isn't the prettiest 2D fighter around, though it certainly has its moments, especially during many of the characters' super moves. Overall the game could have benefited greatly from more frames of animation. There are a few background animations, but they're extremely limited. Despite the unimpressive framerate, the art design is definitely unique, with plenty of bright, strikingly composed characters and backgrounds, especially backgrounds after a rage explosion is activated. Sound is of lesser value. Character voices boil down to several screams or grunts, and even those are grainy. Weapon sounds are so similar you'd think everyone was fighting with the same weapon if you weren't looking directly at the TV. The soundtrack is somewhat better, offering a range of distinctly Japanese themes.
11 new characters bring the total number of fighters in SSV to 26. Aside from the super moves, you'll also be able to build spirit strength which can be activated in a Concentration One attack that slows the movements of your opponent. However, the process of spirit building and the specifics of its activation parameters make it an impractical method of attack in the face of an onslaught of super moves. Mostly, this is because you have to sacrifice rage meter for spirit, and the conversion rate makes doing so as illogical as requesting all your paychecks in Canadian dollars.
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