Fighting game fans are well aware of the quality to come whenever the SNK logo graces a screen. For years SNK, the creators of The King of Fighters and Metal Slug, were known for their technically flawless releases and complex gameplay. Although they offered a wide range of genres to arcade players, they gained a reputation for several fighting franchises, included is Samurai Shodown. While it’s by no means a perfect game, the next gen version of Samurai Shodown is the best way to play the game. Just don’t expect to be being playing the game for very long.
Samurai Showdown is a one-on-one fighter that does things a little different in the fighting genre. Combos, while present, are not the goal. Punishment of the opposition’s mistakes are. Considering the heavy attack does more damage than most of the special moves available, it is about choosing the right time to strike more than overwhelming your opponent in a flurry. This is what has made Samurai Showdown a unique fighting series, one that will either grab your attention or one that will only be fun for a couple matches.
To anyone who played the 2019 release, which I tried out on a friend’s machine for this review, the upgrades made on Series X will likely be immediately recognizable. For a start, loading times have been substantially reduced, meaning a good run through the story mode can now be done in about half the time it could on Xbox One or PS4. This makes it a great game to throw on for 30-45 minutes, even if you only mess around with the single-player. Online also benefits from improved loading times, which means you can jump in for a few matches very quickly. Another next-gen improvement is that the game has been given a fresh coat of paint. On last-gen consoles, Samurai Shodown certainly wasn’t a bad looking game, but the boost it gets from the Xbox Series X makes the whole experience just that much nicer.
There are a few negatives with Samurai Shodown that are extremely hard to ignore . This game is $60, despite being over two years old at this point. On the surface that might not seem awful, except when you consider what you get in this “new” release. Unlike the PC version, Samurai Shodown on Series X does not include any of the DLC. You are just getting the base set of characters. If you want any additional characters, you have to spend $6 a character or $20 per season of characters. I feel like at this point in the game’s life span, the publishers would have been better off including the DLC and releasing it as an “ultimate” edition for next gen.
The other main problem with Samurai Shodown is that it is really a barebones experience. You have the standard stock modes found in every fighting game for the last 30 years. There is an arcade/story mode and a multiplayer mode. The one new addition is a fun little diversion where you take on the AI-recreated ghosts of other players. Otherwise, that’s it. The story mode is pretty short, so you wont be spending much time in there and the game’s online lobbies are as barebones as the offline game. For $60 (plus any additional money you might spend to get more characters), this feels very underwhelming.
So, is Samurai Shodown worth getting on Xbox Series X? Sort of. If you’re a longtime fan of the series or even the original 2019 release, then the improvements made will no doubt get you back into the action for more fun. If you weren’t a fan of the series before, then it’s a hard sell. It’s a beautiful, well done next gen version of the game. Yet it’s so barebones that I’d argue there are better fighting games out there, especially for less money. Ultimately, your enjoyment of this game will depend on your status with the series. For me, it was a fun experience while it lasted. However, it wasn’t that great of an experience that I’ll go back to it for more. I’ve seen all the base game has to offer.
Developer: SNK Corporation
Publisher: Bandai Namco
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Stadia
Release Date: 16th March 2021 (Xbox Series X|S)
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Samurai Shodown was provided by the publisher.