Samurai Shodown II


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 10

Sound: 10

Gameplay: 10

Overall: 10

There are literally thousands, hundreds of thousands even, of video games released since the inception of the hobby began back in the 70's. In such a mighty crowd, it takes something special to really stand out amongst the pack. Designers have tried gimmicks (Jim Power in the 3rd Dimension, SNES), flashy graphics (X-perts, Genesis), goofy control schemes (the Power Glove), and even vibration (uh, the rumble pack...yeah..), but still, the only thing that matters is the gameplay.

When you have a game that excels in the area of gameplay, you know it. You become part of the game. Your a character in it. If graphics mattered, then games like Adventure wouldn't still be played for hours on end like they are today. Samurai Shodown II is one of those games. It's a game that if you own the console, you really DON'T own the console unless you own the game. What makes this one even better? It has even more than masterful gameplay. Simply put, it has everything the true classics of our industry have.

The first game in this beloved series was a major change of pace for the fighting game genre. It ditched everything that made fighters of the time popular. No combos, no super meters, just perfectly balanced weapons based fighting. It was a risky attempt, but it worked...tremendously. Here we have a sequel that not only does everything the first one did, but it quite obvious that every aspect of the game has been tweaked, modified, and toyed with just enough to make a game that has finally been worthy enough of one word: Perfect.

It's all about patience. One wrong move, and the fight could easily completely change. That's why Samurai Shodown was so different. You cannot be a button masher and go in thinking you will dominate. You must pace yourself, only attacking when you see an opening. If one is not available, you can create one. Should you anticipate an attack, you have the ability to quickly step back or even drop to the ground for a split second to avoid your opponents attack. Your strongest attacks will leave you wide open should you miss, so using them with any type of frequency and you'll find yourself on the losing end of every confrontation. Also, you only have 2 meters to worry about: Life and rage. Taking too many hits and your characters rage meter will flash, causing them the become exceptionally powerful for a short time. This has been made consistent for every character unlike the first game which each character has variances with it.

Each character has 6 standard attacks, 3 kicks and 3 types of weapon attacks. Performing the strongest of these moves requires pressing two buttons at once. This is one way to avoid leaving yourself open by accidentally letting loose when you don't want to. Whether it was designed with this in mind or designed this way simply due to the 4-button scheme of the Geo is unknown, but rest assured it works. Every characters special moves come off with no trouble, and there are even some new movements thrown in to throw hardcore fighting fans for a loop.

While many mourn the loss of Tam-Tam, the radical masked native from the first game, the few new additions to the series more that make up for his parting. Genjuro is the best of the new additions, a strange alteration of Haromaru and is now worshipped by players of the game. Nicotine is also an intriguing character and can be mastered with some work, the perfect character for this willing to donate their time. Cham Cham is a quick ingenious little girl who can more than hold her own with her boomerang. Seiger has a massive metal contraption on his arm and is deadly with it. Definitely a beast in his won right. The rest of the characters have been brought over from the first game, each of them only mildly tweaked. SNK knew they had something good going here.

Watching this game in motion is a sight to behold. Backgrounds are absolutely insane, packed with ludicrous amounts of animation. New movements, win animations, and movements bring the game to life, even if you played the previous game to death. Gen-An stage, a personal favorite, has some of his species boiling some food in a massive pot. Some of their food just happens to be an Alien from the feature films. Foreground (and occasionally background) objects are fully destructible. The characters are huge (Earthquake is so large, his head is cut off partially by the life bars) even by today's standards, and the fabulous Geo hardware still manages to scale all of this out when the fighters get separated.

The soundtrack is a bit more active this time around, but still maintains the atmosphere captured in the initial game. Each piece sets the mood for each stage, from Earthquakes metal grinding fast paced music, to Haromaru's moody piece that couldn't get any better, this is one of the greatest fighting game soundtracks of all time. You probably won't be humming these tunes at work, but that's really the point. Their in here strictly for atmosphere. In this aspect, they do a miraculous job. Voices are prevalent during every match, form screams to taunts. Everything could be running off a CD and you couldn't tell the difference. As my one and only gripe, you have to question who translated the cinemas. Engrish at it's best.

This is most likely not a game that will ever catch on with the masses. This is a game the SCREAMS hardcore. Total patience is required as is the utmost respect for your opponent. Give yourself 10 minutes with this one and you will never be able to put this one down. There isn't another fighter like this on the market and there most likely never will be. You cannot ask for anything more from any video game. This game is pure bliss. If you ever questions yourself as to why you need to own a Neo Geo, this is it. Need another reason? game....ever.


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:31 PM