Samurai Shodown

All Consoles

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: varies

Sound: varies

Gameplay: varies

Overall: varies



Super Nintendo


Sega CD

Game Gear

SNK's Samurai Shodown really set the fighting game world on fire. It's highly sophisticated gameplay, gorgeous backgrounds, stylized characters, and loads of the red stuff made fans of the genre kneel before this game in the arcades and at home thanks to Neo Geo. As is the norm for our industry, games as hot as this one were naturally ported over to numerous consoles to take advantage of the popularity. Takara handled each of the home console ports with the utmost respect for SNK's beast, but none of these versions are perfect conversions.

Herein lies the premise for this article. Each version, the 3DO, Genesis, SNES, and Sega CD, have their notable highs and lows. I have accepted the task of nit-picking each and every one of these games in every possible way, short of re-programming them. Some of these complaints may seem minor, but you very well may be stunned to learn of all the things missing from your favorite version of the game. There will be no ratings, scores, or numbers thrown at you, just facts. The decision of which version you choose to enjoy is up to you, not me.

Gameplay: The lifeblood of any game.

You'll find very few complaints in this section. Each of these games is outstandingly playable. Very little is missing in this area from any version. The most notable deletion is Earthquake, the overly huge sickle wielding beast of a man, from the Sega CD and Genesis versions. This is most likely due to the size of the sprites, but we'll delve deeper into that later. A few of the basic moves have also been cut from the Genesis version, such as Haoramu's mid slash which is now just a slower version of his light slash. This was fixed in the Sega CD port, as was the slowdown that plagued the cartridge version at odd times. Players fond of Tam Tam should not tackle the Genesis port as his sprite reeks havoc on the speed of the game in certain stages.

SNES players will find everything intact, but the small size of the characters can cause some issues with timing, especially to those experienced with other versions. The saving grace is the lack of any slowdown which was obviously achieved with the smaller sprites. There is no scaling in this version even though the SNES is proficient with the effect. It was obviously too much to handle for the SNES. If scaling is your thing, the 3DO is the only way you'll get it. Everything moves fast and precisely, but in order to achieve such perfection, the frame rate took a major hit. This can not only affect timing, but pulling off moves as well. As another complaint, the lack of 6-button support is inexcusable. In order to kick on the 3DO, you must hold "R" and then press the appropriate button. This is more than slightly annoying. On a side note, the SNES does not support 6-button control either, forcing you to press both slash/kick buttons at one time to get off the strongest moves, more like the NG version.

Each one of these versions supports the main staples of the gameplay. You can dodge, run, kick, slash, weapon clashes, POW meters, and perform all the special moves no matter which version you choose. None of the combinations to perform the moves have been edited in anyway, though you may have trouble with the 3DO version thanks to it's woefully inaccurate D-pad.

Graphics: Pleasing to the eyes anyway you look at it.

Right from the start of each version, you can begin dissecting them. The Sega CD, SNES, and 3DO ports all have the original games introduction (in which Haoramu chops down the lights and tree) while the Genesis one simply uses the text. The Genesis and Sega CD versions both sport huge characters, most likely the same size as if the game was always zoomed in the Geo version. This decreases the playing area however and corner trapping becomes much easier here. The Sega CD cuts even more of the backgrounds out leaving very little room to maneuver.

The SNES features the zoomed out look with super-tiny sprites but plenty of room to chop up your opponent. It may be hard to look at, especially from a distance, but this gives you the full playfield you would have in the main version. Since the 3DO version features the zooming feature, it's the closest your going to get without shoveling out the cash for an AES/MVS system, but again, I must stress the frame rate does get in the way.

The Genesis also suffers from the lack of post-match cinemas, instead getting comic book style balloons for the games stylized taunting. These are included in both of the CD-based versions, but there is an option to turn these off if the loading times annoy you. The SNES has them all with little sacrifice.

The bland color palette of the Genesis/CD combo hardly affects the character graphics, but the background are missing a lot. Most notable, in the Sega CD, Kuroko, the referee featured in every other version, is gone. The power-up guy (who's name eludes me at this time) is also gone and power-ups simply drop from the heavens. A lot of the effects like Hanzou's rolling sky are missing, but included in the SNES and 3DO versions. A lot of details have really been cut from the Sega CD version, most likely to cut out the slowdown that plagued the cartridge version. One look at Charlottes background reveals that nearly the entire painting has been removed.

The animation is surprisingly plentiful in the background of the SNES version, though most of it is missing from the Sega version. The 3DO is perfect in very aspect here thanks to the massive processing power it contains. Note that since the majority of the fights require a keen sense of gameplay, you'll hardly ever be looking at them anyway.

Sound: First your eyes, then your ears.

If Takara screwed anything up in just about every version, it's the sound. None of the these versions are perfect or even close, not even the CD based ports. The SNES music is a mix of good and bad, but as it is with the majority of the ports, the voices are completely muffled. Even the Sega CD and 3DO versions suffer from this flaw, inexcusable for the CD format. Surprisingly, the voices are the strongest on the Genesis, but of course the music has been butchered.

The CD based versions sport arcade perfect music, but it wasn't tweaked or remixed at all. Many gamers would absolutely die for a fully remixed soundtrack, but thanks to Takara, we'll never get one. Getting past the disappointment, the SNES version was one of the first few games to support Dolby Surround sound. Though Pro-Logic is ancient by today's standards, hearing some of these soundtracks pouring from 5 different speakers is a treat, though it's kind of odd to hear the action that's in front of you coming from behind.

Extras: The bonuses you never asked for.

As far as options go, the 3DO is untouchable. Not only can you adjust the difficulty and time (all the home ports have these features) but you can also adjust the amount of power-ups given during a match, whether or not you enjoy blood, to disable weapons (!), and the option to turn off the cinemas after each match. The Sega CD, as mentioned above, also has the option to turn off the cinemas to alleviate the tolerable load times. The SNES version on the other does not allow players to skip the story cinemas in anyway, annoying to say the least.

Blood is also a factor in Samurai Shodown, and it should be. Just trust me when I say if you hack someone's arm with a blade, it WILL get cut (Disclaimer: If your dumb enough to try it, you didn't hear it here). Nintendo stepped in and removed everything, changing the blood from red to orange and cutting your opponent in half at the end of the match is not an option. Strangely, the animation for the artery spray (a personal favorite) is there, but the blood is nowhere to be found.
Sega let in the standard blood (though there's not as much) but removed the artery spray as well in the Genny port. Your still allowed to cut them in half though, which must be seen as a less offensive maneuver. The Sega CD is the exact opposite, removing the cutting feature, but allowing the artery spray. Go figure....

The 3DO is the only version to feature all the lovely and gratuitous violence found in the arcade game. It's also the only version to feature completely uncensored quotes. Barring the 3DO, none of the other home versions features Charlotte's "Breast plate" quote with the SNES version removing it completely and the Sega versions re-wording it. There are a few minor quote variations besides this notable one, but the majority will hardly be noticed with the exception of the hardcore fanatics.

Destroying background objects was by no means a key part of the original game, but it was kinda cool to not only slice apart your opponent, but background objects as well. SNES fans will be sorely disappointed to find that this feature was completely removed, even though the breakable objects are in the backgrounds. The Sega versions have the background items, but foreground items were obviously too much for the consoles to handle. The 3DO again achieves perfection in this category including everything that can be destroyed from apple barrels to antique candle holders.

The final word: The only thing that matters

No matter which version of the game you choose, rest assured you are playing Samurai Showdown. None of the versions are perfect ports, but if you can get past the aesthetics, you shouldn't have too much trouble playing this one at home. Maybe someday we'll get a perfect home port in some sort of "collection" package, but until then, just try and ignore the minor differences and you'll be just fine.


After a lot of experimentation (and some help from Randy Franks), I discovered just how to activate blood sprays in the game. First, start a match with an opponent, and beat them in either the first or second round. In the next round, hit your enemy until they're almost out of energy, then let them hit YOU until your POW meter is full.

Once this happens, you're ready to deliver the final blow. Make sure both you and your enemy are on the ground, then slash with the sword. If the tip of the sword hits your enemy directly in the neck, they'll stand motionless for a split second, then a stream of blood will gush from their necks.

The blood sprays are very, VERY hard to execute... I mean, even worse than the overkills in Eternal Champions. I played the game for nearly an hour, using save states to repeat the final blow over and over, and I only managed to see the fatality five or six times. I can't tell you exactly which attacks will activate the blood spray... the CPU controlled Charlotte managed to do it twice with a Splash Fount, but since the Splash Fount strikes in multiple places it's hardly reliable.


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