Samurai Shodown V Special is a fighting game for the Neo Geo. It’s a “special” version of Samurai Shodown V featuring balance updates and different characters. SNK is a master at their craft and delivers excellent fighting game experiences. Samurai Shodown V Special does a lot right but has its shortcomings.
Most modern fighting games have a proper story mode. It’s become a standard feature in fighting games to have a story, alongside arcade and versus. This wasn’t the case in older fighting games. Usually, you would get a character specific ending after completing the arcade mode. The original Samurai Shodown V had these endings.
However, Samurai Shodown V Special does not have character endings. All you get are funny victory quotes. There are gems like “Your style cannot match my sword” and “I can see your soul…It’s yellow”.
It’s disappointing that there’s no story in the game. The endings from the regular Samurai Shodown V would have been enough. The character endings are necessary due to the lack of a story mode. There is no incentive to complete arcade with all characters. Other than some unlockable artwork, which is a nice addition.
The fighting mechanics are solid and impressive. You have 28 characters to choose from with unique special moves and finishers. That’s a large roster, especially for an older title. Even modern fighters don’t reach this number in the base roster. With 28 characters to choose from, you’re bound to find a favourite.
As you would expect, Samurai Shodown V Special features basic fighting game nuances. You have your quarter-circle and half-circle motions. Aside from the usual, there are a few different mechanics. The first is the rage gauge at the bottom of the screen. When this fills up, you can use powerful special moves.
You can also activate rage explosion which allows you to use an overkill move. These are over-the-top finishing moves which will end your opponent if you land the hit. They are a bit tricky to pull off. It must be the final round of the fight and your opponent’s health must be at a certain point (it will turn blue). After you meet these conditions, you can use your overkill move.
Activating rage explosion has a major drawback. You lose your rage meter. That means you can no longer use your special moves or enter rage explosion. There’s no point in using this mode early in the fight and lose your trump card. Save it for the end of the fight when you are confident you can win with ease.
Another mechanic is disarming your opponent. If you time a deflection, your opponent’s weapon will go flying. Without their weapon, they won’t be able to deal much damage. Be careful though, they can catch your weapon and disarm it as well. The weapons stay on the stage and you can pick them up. Of course, your opponents will see you coming from a mile away.
Finally, you have concentration one. In this mode, you slow down time and open an opportunity to launch a counterattack. This one is difficult to nail at first but is a useful technique. None of the mechanics in Samurai Shodown are useless. You would be doing yourself a favour by mastering all these moves.
Being an older game, Samurai Shodown does not have an in-depth tutorial mode. You do have a practice mode, but that’s a standard feature. If you’re new to these games, then reading an online guide may be ideal. There are some fantastic guides and FAQs that will help you on your way. The lack of a tutorial isn’t a negative aspect. It’s a sign of the times.
Let’s talk about the arcade mode. It’s a little different than what you might expect, but not by much. If you lose a fight, you’ll have to restart from the beginning. You can’t continue from the same stage. This may put you off at the start but stick with it. You only need four wins to reach the first boss.
There are four bosses and the first boss acts as the checkpoint. Once you reach it, you will start from this point. This saves a lot of early frustration and rewards your patience. However, you only need to beat the first boss to get the character completion trophy and artwork. You also can beat arcade on any difficulty mode to receive your rewards.
One more thing about the arcade. Brace yourself. This game is challenging. Even at the lowest difficulty, the A.I will be relentless. Part of the difficulty comes from high-damaging attacks. Some characters can wipe out half a health bar with one attack. Not a combo, a single sword slash. There is no shame in lowering the difficulty here if you’re new.
A good challenge is great. A fighting game is about starting from the bottom and working your way up. In that regard, Samurai Shodown fails. There’s nothing wrong with having complex controls and a steep learning curve. However, you need a method for newcomers to get better.
That’s where the low difficulty comes in. An easier level for people to learn a character and improve their skills. It’s fine if you can’t earn trophies from below a certain difficulty level. It’s more important to have options. This may turn off players new but won’t be an issue for veterans.
It was refreshing to play a fighting game with sprites as most use 3D models now. The sprite work is of high quality, and the animations are fluid. This isn’t a flashy fighting game like Arc System Works titles. The simplistic animations and look has its own charming appeal.
Part of the appeal of Samurai Shodown is the violence. The gruesome levels don’t quite hit Mortal Kombat levels. Generally, you can slice your opponent in half, either horizontal or vertical. You also get some sweet blood splatter, but nothing too gory or crazy.
Revisiting an old classic is great fun. Samurai Shodown delivers on this front. You have the complete package. The lack of a story mode is a shame, but the core gameplay is still there.
If you own the original copy, there isn’t much here to warrant a purchase. There is an online multiplayer that is barren. Not worth the price of admission. For those new to Neo Geo fighters, this might not be the best start. Any of the King of Fighters titles would be the way to go. For something a little different Samurai Shodown V Special is the ideal candidate.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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