Samurai Shodown


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 10

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 9.5

Overall: 9.5

Samurai Showdown is a game that could never be lost in a crowd. Considering the crowd of fighting games flooding the market in the early and mid-90's, that says something. It's a rare game that encompasses everything right about the genre and expands the category further. With very few things wrong with this game (if anything), what we have here is simply one of the most well thought out, shockingly perfect fighting games of all time.

Samurai Showdown was one of the first major weapons based fighters of all time. The immense strategy involved in each and every battle is near ridiculousness, but ever so welcome considering the hundreds of "me-too" fighters being pumped out at the time. Each characters not only carries a distinct weapon with them into every battle, but a personality as well. From the MASSIVE Earthquake to the slender Naokuru, every player will find a character to relate to in little or no time, a sure sign that this fighter has "it."

As usual, every fighter has a variety of normal and special moves, each perfectly balanced to make the game as tight as possible. No character has a specific advantage over another at any time, a testament to the design teams effort. Going even beyond weapons, 2 of the characters even have animal counterparts that can be brought into the fray if necessary.  Every character also has a "rage" meter. As their hit, this meter grows (and the characters all become a more vibrant shade of red) their power increases. At full power, any character could easily take off half of their opponents health in one blow if their good enough. This makes for some great comebacks, but also can cause some frustration since the player who dominates is actually at a disadvantage.

The 4 buttons of the Geo's controller hardly limit the moves available to the gamer. 2 kicks and 2 different weapon shots can be used by pressing one of the 4 buttons by themselves. Combinations of 2-buttons provide the most deadly attacks, but are generally slow and hard to make contact with. These must be used wisely or the consequences could end the fight. As an added bonus, nailing an opponent with one of these attacks as the final blow of the round will usually either puncture an artery or slice them clean in half (with copious amounts of blood of course). Weapon clashes require rapid button presses, otherwise you weapon may be lost and you'll be fighting bare handed until you can recover it.

Galford's stage alone shows exactly why the Geo is such a powerhouse. Hundreds (literally) of onlookers on a dock are animated with stunning detail, all while the fight is going on. The game also zooms out when the fighters separate at a certain distance, and again, the Geo performs this task with no trouble at all. Of course, it's not only the stages that amaze, but the fighters as well. Serried with frames of animation, these fighters impress on every level. Earthquake could easily take home the award for "largest video game sprite ever." All of this is handled with no slowdown or flicker.

Some of the stages feature loud, intense music, others barely even have ambience. This sets up the characters and their styles perfectly. At times, the music can actually control you. The stages which feature ambiance can actually cause you fight a slow-paced, defensive battle and those stages featuring the concentrated tunes will cause you go all out for a victory. The voices are clear, the clashing of the weapons is perfect, and the screams are satisfying. Perfection on every level.

Very few fighting games are this well received upon release. It took everything that was popular (and oh so right) with the genre and improved upon it in every aspect. It didn't take long for the sequel, one of the few fighters to actually eclipse this one, to make a statement. Yeah, Soul Calibur II may look better. Hell, it might actually play better too. Even so, you can't deny this game it's spot in video game history. Geo fans, this is your killer-app.


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Last updated: Wednesday, April 21, 2004 04:40 PM