SNK Playmore is known for having a plethora of franchises that gamers adore: The King of Fighters, Metal Slug, Fatal Fury and of course, Samurai Shodown. The problem with having beloved franchises is that sometimes one misstep and the fans of the series condemn the developer for trying something new. Samurai Shodown Sen is the eleventh game in the series and the 4th attempt at a 3D version of the 2D classic. With that many games under their belt, SNK Playmore definitely knows what the fans want. Or do they? Does Samurai Shodown Sen live up the franchise’s legacy of excellence?
Once in a great while a game comes along with high expectations and a legacy of outstanding gameplay. For fans of the series, the game is supposed to be “the” game that sets the bar for all other imitators/competitors. I’m not sure if Samurai Shodown Sen has been hyped to that level, but it is definitely not that game. Just loading up the game to play it is a task. You should unlock an achievement just for being able to successfully wait long enough for the game to load. Once the game is loaded it is pretty much all downhill from there.
The most important aspect of the game is obviously the combat. Fortunately for SSS, this is where the game shines. However, being that the part of the game that shines is actually barely tolerable says a lot. In Samurai Shodown Sen battles take place in an arena with no ring-outs, with you choosing a warrior out of the 24 combatants on the roster (with unlockable boss characters as well) and fighting to see who can emerge victorious. The combat of Samurai Shodown Sen relies upon combos built up by either horizontal or vertical slashes, as well as kicks and throws. There is also a special Rage Explosion meter that once unleashed gives greater power to the player’s attacks while also allowing them access to different Rage Explosion Moves. The only fun I had while playing this game was when I was able to successful execute such moves and access the amazing limb severing moments, wherein your player slices off a head or an arm or even the torso of your opponent. It’s a nice gory moment that adds life to the otherwise bland and repetitive game play.
With a roster as deep as 24 characters, there should be a character here for everyone but the problem is that the game doesn’t include a tutorial mode so that casual players (like me) can identify which of the characters is best suited to them. I made due with one of each of the character types: Speed, Power, Skill, and Tricky with my favor falling upon Hanzo. But even Hanzo couldn’t save the game from stiff fighting mechanics. Playing online a bunch of times made me realize that there is genuine strategy in the game, such as sidestepping and deflecting attacks, but playing the game enough to utilize it made me sick to my stomach.
Difficulty-wise the game is not for the weak willed. Normal mode was quite the challenge and losing to the same character multiple times due to some cheap tactics is highly frustrating. The thing that puzzled me the most is that one of the bosses, Draco, wields a gun. How fair is it that someone can bring a gun to a sword fight? Not very, if you ask me.
Being able to overlook a few of the major flaws in combat might have been possible should the game have looked amazing. But yet again Samurai Shodown Sen disappoints in the visual arena as well. Playing the game I was thinking to myself, “This would have made an AMAZING Dreamcast game” without realizing that I was thinking that mainly because the graphics aren’t even up to last gen’s standards. The character animations are clunky and stiff and the backgrounds are not even highly detailed. Even the cut-scenes looked outdated.
Audio wise the game does not fair any better. With my Earforce X41’s I could hear some static during the game’s background music. Thinking it might have been the earphones and maybe batteries going dead or something, I changed batteries and the static remained. After swapping a game the static was gone, which told me that the game’s audio needed a bit more work. The generic game soundtrack was not anything out of the ordinary if unspectacular.
Overall I was disappointed in Samurai Shodown Sen because I felt that it had the potential to be great. There are many things wrong with the game that I feel could have been corrected if the game had spent more time in development. You ever wonder how things would be like if you were born in a different decade? Well if Samurai Shodown Sen were a Dreamcast game instead of a 360 game, the positives would be overwhelming. But for a current gen game Samurai Shodown Sen just doesn’t make the cut.
- Matt W.