Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Virtual Console Review - Samurai Shodown 2 (Neo-Geo)

Samurai Shodown 2 - SNK for Neo-Geo - 9/10

Now we come to one of the all-time great fighting games.  Samurai Showdown 2 is a brilliantly executed and conceived sequel, a skillful and challenging game that should keep fans thrilled for ages.  This is universally regarded as the peak of the series, for good reason.

Half a dozen new fighters are introduced to the roster, all very impressive and unique, all while exploring different methods of weapon-based combat.  I'm very impressed that SNK managed to create new characters without copying anyone else.  Even Soul Calibur could barely manage a dozen fighters before double-dipping.  SamSho 2 brings the total to a very impressive 15.

The controls feel well-oiled, and matches seem to flow more quickly than before.  All fighters have more special attacks, including a number of defensive moves that were truly groundbreaking.  In addition to rolling, ducking, or hopping to dodge attacks, you can successfully parry an attack with precise timing.  At least, that's what Wikipedia says.  I'll be very thrilled if I can pull that trick off, so I better practice.

In addition, you can taunt your opponent, unleash super desperation moves when your POW (frustration) meter is filled, and even destroy your opponent's sword.  That is an especially thrilling moment, especially when you're clawing back a dramatic comeback.  I've saved my bacon more than a few times thanks to the desperation moves.

The graphics appear more detailed, more colorful, more smoothly animated.  The color palette hews darker for this sequel.  It's an autumnal tone, heavy on the reds and browns.  I'm a sucker for warm color tones, so obviously I'm a fan.  The arterial sprays look especially nice at the end of a match, and how often do you get to say that?  Even the camera scaling, a staple of Neo-Geo games, appears very smooth and refined.

I think SamSho 2 plays much, much better than the original, for all the reasons listed above.  The game feels more liquid, more loose.  Attack combos are now a factor, and this really speeds up the game.  Thankfully, the tactical approach to fighting is still present and has not been sacrificed.  I appreciate that Samurai Shodown is a smarter fighting game.  Button mashers are not welcome.  Smarts are what is required.

I love the Japanese vibe to Samurai Shodown 2.  It's even more steeped in the mythic past than the original, evoking Kabuki and Noh theatre and Kurasawa's samurai westerns.  The music and audio are especially grand at transporting me back to this lost world.  This game just breathes style with every note, every beat.  SNK really was onto something special.  Is this their greatest fighter?  Fans will no doubt flock to the King of Fighters series, and rightfully so.  Those are outstanding arcade games.  But this game has the panache.  It has style in spades.

No comments: