Samurai Shodown V Special


Review by Matt Paprocki

SNK Playmore


Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

After a rough start, SNK Playmore finally got it right with the final game on the Neo Geo hardware. For whatever reason, the company released the "Samurai Shodown V Special" AES home cart completely censored, and after a fan revolt, recalled the game, releasing it properly. This is a fitting end for the neo-classic console, a great fighter that retains everything that has made this series such a treat for fighting game fans.

Special adds in every single boss from every Samurai Shodown game previous and brings back most of the character roster. Twenty-eight characters in total round the game out and every one of them is selectable from the start. No need to unlock anyone.

Gameplay follows the usual route for the series. Three slashes are available along with a kick. The biggest button in the game is D, which is used for a variety of techniques, from dodging incoming attacks, ducking, short hops, and rolls. The sheer variety of technique this adds to the game is staggering.

There is plenty more to discover of course. "Concentration One" allows a player who is down in a fight to slow down their opponent while they move at normal speed. "Rage Explosion" allows for a variety of moves, including those fatalities that were removed from the initial shipment of carts. You can even disarm your opponents with the strangely named "Knocking On the Sword Super Attack."

Getting a hard slash to cut into an opponent is even more of an accomplishment in this edition than it was in all of the previous editions. There are so many defensive maneuvers to choose from, learning them all could be a problem. You can pull and push an opponent if you time the controls right, which leaves the enemy wide open. You can even ask your opponent to drop their weapon and fight hand to hand. If you do take a hit and fall, there is a chance you will be attacked when you're down.

It's amazing to think just how deep this title is with only 4-buttons, but everything is handled in remarkable fashion. Controls are precise and accurate. You'll never miss a slash. The practice mode is an invaluable tool (and it even allows you pull off the fatalities) for this game. Even the most talented player will have a tough time getting everything down, something that really can't be said for a lot of 3-D fighters on the market.

Most of the sprites are just taken from later games in the series, though there are some tweaks and re-draws. Each is animated fluidly and the zoom feature this serious is famous for is still intact. As good as the sprites look, the backgrounds look rushed. There is very little color and many of them look almost monotone. It's not just for effect either. Background animation is almost completely absent and details are sparse. It would have been great to see some stages brought back from the first few games to celebrate, but only one noticeable backdrop returns.

Likewise, most of the music is entirely forgettable. A few stages don't even have music, but rely on rather annoying ambience. Earlier games in the series used this effect beautifully, here it just sounds like a cheap way out. All of the sound effects are the same as they have been and that's not a bad thing. Each hit, especially the fierce slashes, are really aided by the sound.

To make the game truly final, the designers make it a requirement to actually perform a fatality on all of the bosses when playing solo. If you let them live, it's game over. Not only is their AI cheap (like it always has been; you just kind of grow used to it), but fatalities just aren't that easy to get off. You should never be punished for winning a video game.

Though it lacks some "wow" factor aesthetically, "Samurai Shodown V Special" is a worthy tribute to 14 years of unforgettable gaming. In a nice tip-o-the-hat to fans, there is a nice farewell message on the back of the instruction book. It's a nice gesture, much the same like continuing to produce games all these years to keep an insane fan base happy. It finally had to end and there was no better series to do it with.


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Last updated: Monday, January 03, 2005 08:21 AM