Friday 19 October 2012

Samurai Shodown Anthology Review (Wii)

The Samurai Shodown series is one of SNK's best known franchises and players have been chasing decent home versions of the games for years. Though a number of the titles have appeared on everything from the SNES to the Mega CD there has never really been a version that lived up its arcade origins.

The Samurai Showdown Anthology gives many players the chance to play arcade perfect versions of the six Shodown games for the first time. As well as the games there are a few other minor options included such as being able to edit characters colours and play a small mini game.

The Shodown series has always taken a slightly different approach to the beat'em up genre due to the characters carrying weapons. The games are also much more about waiting for an opening and capitalising on your opponents mistake. Matches in any Shodown game can be incredibly cagey as it can take as little as three strong attacks to down an opponent due to extra damage being given for counters and hitting people in the air.

The first two Showdown games are the best example of what makes the series so special. The second game especially, is incredibly tactical. One mistake and your opponent will be all over you. This makes it pretty tough in single player but it does illustrate the different way you need to play the game.

In order to win matches you need to understand which moves counter other moves and which will leave you open if they are blocked. Special moves are also used differently with their main aim being to make your opponent jump or move into a position where they can be struck with you weapon.

Samurai Shodown II is also the best balanced of all the games. After this, SNK started to add in mountains of new techniques and even changed the button assignment. Samurai Shodown III is the worst affected with gaudy, overly large sprites and bizarre move sets making it seem messy and unfocused.

Luckily, the series does recover and the forth and fifth games return to being fun. However, they are still full of overly complex techniques and difficult moves to pull off (especially on the small Wii classic controller), and still feel more than a little unbalanced. In there favour is an ever increasing roster of characters that remain interesting and different enough to warrant players trying out the newcomers.

Samurai Shodown VI is the most over the top and allows you to pick just about every character in the game. You can even choose to play as a small monkey or one of the characters dogs. It also allows for a large degree of customisation in which special bars and techniques you use. It may not be as tactical as before but it is excellent knockabout fun.


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