Title: Samurai Shodown
Release Date: February 25, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Athlon Games
The soft reboot of the Samurai Shodown series took the fighting game community by surprise. Over the years, other fighters have proved to be worthy contenders in the competitive space, but this series seemed to get lost in the crowd. Well, that is until SNK took what fans loved about this samurai tournament fighter and crammed it all into a new title. Samurai Shodown on Nintendo Switch retains a lot of what is fun about the series at the cost of its visuals.
Samurai Shodown sets the tone of a fantasy samurai battle, where everything is on the line. Instead of rushing towards your opponent, the game gives players the ability to set up a strong defense and use the enemies’ attacks against them. Dodging and disabling your opponent is encouraged, and those who master these techniques will get the most out of the systems.
That said, there are still offensive playstyles that feel just as rewarding when you’re matched up against an unsuspecting victim. Reading your enemies’ moves and responding is what this game is all about. It’s these systems that make the series stand out, and we haven’t even gotten to the button layout yet. I enjoyed this design as it gives more thoughtful players a chance to put up a fight against an aggressive opponent. There’s a real balance to be found during these fights, and most of the time, it’s just beautiful to watch play out.
Attacks are tied to the face buttons where players can do low, mid, and high attacks, along with a button for kicks. This simplistic layout allows players to pick up the game and put up a fight quickly, but you’ll know exactly when you’ve met your match after your ass handed to you within seconds after the countdown. Within the first few hours, you’ll know which areas you need to improve upon, and that idea of how to grow within the game will keep you invested.
Samurai Shodown encourages new players even more by tieing some actions to the shoulder buttons. Utilizing a special attack with the press of the ZL button or dodging using the R button is possible thanks to this button mapping. Still, mastering these actions and when to properly use them is learned over time.
Samurai Shodown doesn’t have a traditional Arcade Mode, but it does have a Story Mode where players are able to choose a character and follow their path down a series of fights. The fights do become more difficult until the last battle. Each character has their own reason for fighting, but they all seem more like standalone stories instead of one cohesive narrative.
The game also doesn’t take it easy on the player for the final fight, which will definitely put your skills to the test your first time through. However, in terms of what is offered, there isn’t a reason to play through Story Mode outside of the experience. You can just as quickly play through a few CPU fights and jump into Online battles for the rest of your time and be fine.
Outside of Story Mode, players have access to a few options on how they can continue their fighting experience. This includes online ranked and non-ranked modes as well as a mode that lets you fight against ghosts of other opponents. Additionally, players can play through more traditional versus matches along with trials and survival. These options allow you to get your money’s worth, and they effectively enable you to get better at the controls.
Samurai Shodown on Switch is a decent port of the game. However, the graphics have taken a hit here, which can be seen in docked mode and is exceptionally prominent in the undocked mode. Still, the game runs smoothly, and I had no problem with the controls not being responsive or encountered frame rate issues. I will say that the Joy-Con is not suited for this game, so having a better controller ready yields the best experience.
The portable nature of the Switch allows you to play Samurai Shodown on the go for the first time, and that’s pretty much all I could ask for. If you are playing the game for the graphics alone, the Switch won’t impress, but it still provides the same gameplay experience.
Samurai Shodown’s fighting system of reading your opponents moves and responding to turn the tide of a match, no matter your skill level, allows it to stand out in the genre. Matches are a bit slower-paced than other fighters, but it still manages to pack a punch. On Switch, the game runs well at the cost of a visual downgrade. All-in-all, the only thing I could have hoped for was a proper story tieing together this unique roster instead of a glorified Arcade Mode. If you’re wondering, Shiki is best girl.
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