Samurai Shodown

Rating: B

Before there was Soul Calibur there was Samurai Shodown. OK, so maybe it's not the best comparison, but Samurai Shodown does make me think of Soul Calibur, because the similarities are clearly there. It's a fighting game where, instead of relying upon your fists and feet, you get to hack the guts out of your opponent with a sword. The characters are colorful and varied: from big bruisers to samurais to slim, unassuming swordsmen. Also present is a ninja, a French noblewoman in plate mail armor, and a cute little kung fu girl with a bird. Very cool stuff. The fighters are big and well-detailed and look close to how they did in the arcade. The backgrounds look great too; Samurai Shodown sports some of the most beautiful scenery I've seen in a Genesis fighting game.

In terms of actual play, there are a lot of combos and special attacks that you can execute. Samurai Shodown does seem to rely more upon strategy and critical hits than the typical 2D fighter, so button-mashers might not have too much luck with this game. This is one of the few fighting games I've seen that can involve considerable blocking and pacing back and forth as you look to get that one good thrust past your opponent's guard, and in this way the matches do seem very much like duels. You can even be disarmed and forced to fight with your hands until you're able to pick up your fallen weapon, which, since we're dealing with swordfights, is a very nice touch.

So what are its faults? The only flaw I can think of is the somewhat choppy animation. However, porting an arcade game like Samurai Shodown to a 16-bit system must have been a tough job, and the programmers likely did the best they could given the hardware limitations they were dealing with. Still, if only the animation was was a bit smoother, the Genesis version of Samurai Shodown would be a truly remarkable fighting game.

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