XBOX REVIEW: SAMURAI SHODOWN V

If you're fond of the Samurai Shodown series, this is totally for you. All others can bypass it as they probably won't understand what the fuss is about. by Cole Smith

January 30, 2006 - Samurai Shodown V is not an entirely new game. Much of it has been ported from the NeoGeo arcade version which itself contains hardware that is more than 10-years old. The presentation is no-frills. It's a 2D fighting game with few options and stands to get its ass kicked by newer fighting games. Fans of the Shodown series will appreciate the nostalgia trip as well as the online play but if all you're interested in is a good 2D fighter you might want to look elsewhere.

I don't really know what element of this game I could recommend for newbies to check out. There's very little we haven't seen in fighting games in the last 10 years. Perhaps Shodown V's simple approach may be its greatest strength. It doesn't bog the player down with control configurations yet it doesn't encourage button mashing. There is a cold, deliberation to the gameplay that seems to favor strategy over action.

Just about all of the characters from the Shodown series are included here. You'll see Haohmaru, Genjuro, Hanzo and Ukyo as well as new characters such as the seven-sword wielding Yoshitora and the monstrous Kusaregedo. Unlike previous titles in the series, these characters will not have alternate versions of each other but will feature somewhat original characters based on other characters' abilities. This give us about two dozen characters but only a dozen are truly original. The differences are subtle and it may take weeks of experimenting until you find the perfect character for your style of playing.

Kicks, slashes and special moves are favored over combos and button mashing. A few well-placed hits will do more for you than just hitting every button willy-nilly. A meter monitors the strengths of your attacks. It drains the more you use it and it replenishes itself as you hold off. This discourages button mashing as it will just make your attacks weaker if you continue to strike out.

A rage meter is fuelled by getting hit. The more hits you take the faster the meter will fill up. When you decide to unleash it you will turn red and have the ability to unleash a devastating move that may turn the tables on your opponent. It will also immediately refill your strength attack meter should you require a bit more endurance to engage your opponent after disarming him or her. You can only unleash one rage attack per match.

The Concentration One attack, like the rage attack, can only be used once. It slows the action into a form of bullet time, allowing you some precious time to do some real damage to your opponent while he's stuck in slow motion. This feature usually comes into play near the end of the match proving that it's anybody's game until the match is completely over.

As I already mentioned, there isn't much in the way of extra features. You can fight against the computer, go head-to-head with a friend or just have fun fighting all of the opponents in the practice mode. Of course the one great addition is the online mode. Those that have cultivated their skills by playing this series over the years will be able to put their powers to the test against other fighting gods from around the world.

Finding a game online isn't difficult if you use the Quickmatch mode. It automatically pits you against anyone else in the world looking for a fight at the same time you are. The problem is that you can't challenge them to a rematch since the mode kicks you out of the arena and continues in search of another wayfaring combatant. However you can keep the same opponent using the Optimatch.

With a cartoon flair, the game is colorful but the graphics are a mixed bag. The old characters look the same but the new characters just don't seem to be from the same game. The movements aren't exactly fluid and it can be a little difficult to tell just how much damage you've inflicted by viewing the attack onscreen. What might look like a light tap that barely misses your opponent can turn out to be a devastating, game-ending blow. It's nice when it happens but it's so anticlimactic.

The music is nicely done with a variety of tunes to match the different, eclectic backgrounds. The sound effects are tight and punchy and the voiceacting is surprisingly well done for a game of this genre. The English translations are good and if you're a purist, you can choose from the original Japanese dialog.

You don't have to be a big fan of the series to enjoy this game but it certainly would help. The no-frills features prompts me to recommend renting this game unless you're content with fighting like-minded fans online for the next few months.

Features:

  • Full Xbox support featuring Tournament Mode
  • Choose from a total of 26 fighters including 11 new characters to the franchise plus one boss and one hidden character
  • Select characters designed by world-renowned manga artist Nobuhiro Wazuki
  • Total of 23 combo-moves featuring 8 new moves for the Xbox
  • Power up the Rage Gauge and unleash death combos for extreme damage
  • Use the Spirit Strength to make your opponent go into slow motion
  • Use the Sword Spirit Gauge to strategically plan your attacks for maximum effect
  • Upgrade version of the original arcade release

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

Rating out of 5
Samurai Shodown (Xbox)
3.1
Graphics
Some scenes are good and others look poor. It looks like a compilation of the series from the beginning to the present.
4.2
Control
The controls are simple to use in that there isn't a lot of buttons to memorize but they are a little sluggish.
4.0
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
English voiceacting - but Japanese voices are available as well.
3.5
Play Value
Only the online mode will give this game any significant replay value due to the lack of modes.
3.5
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: Xbox
Dev: SNK
Pub: SNK
Release: Jan 2006
Players: 1 - 2 online
Review by Cole

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best