Recently I picked up Samurai Shodown Anthology, a collection of SNK’s series of 2-D one on one fighters. It’s available for Wii, PSP, and PS2 I believe. I got the PS2 version because it was only 15 bucks. And as I always like to do with these things, here’s a blog detailing the games on this collection (SS 1 through 6), plus a little info on the series and my favorite characters.
While each Samurai Shodown game has its own tweaks and differences, they all share some common traits. Instead of battling each other with fisty punches, spinny kicks, and the occasional pooped out fireball, SS games are weapons-based fighters. You could even get your sword knocked out of your hand and would have to go pick it up if you wanted to continue to fight effectively. Also, most SNK fighters at this time had crazy ‘Engrish’ win quotes, but they seemed more prevalent and memorable in the Samurai Shodown games! Just go to any zany video game quote sites and spot a few for a good laugh!
Most 2-D fighters from SNK are a bit violent, but since they’re also so cartoony, it doesn’t seem so bad. I’d be OK with most any kid playing them. However, one thing about the Samurai Shodown series is they’re a bit bloodier and the attacks a bit more grisly. Granted, it’s cartoon blood and the violence is nowhere near Mortal Kombat caliber, but I’d have a bit more reservations about letting young kids play the games on this collection.
Anyway, this collection has Samurai Shodown 1 through 6, so here’s a rundown of each game and my brief opinions on them:
Most early SNK fighters were a bit slow and clunky in comparison to the smoother fighters of today. But the slower pace kind of works to Samurai Shodown’s advantage. You kind of have to plan your attacks more in this game. There’s even a referee in the background that tells who got the hit. It’s just another way that helped the SS series stand out from the rest of the fighting games that were available at the time.
Samurai Shodown 2
I’m no expert, but from what I hear, SS2 is most people’s favorite. And I can see why. They took the same gameplay from the original and added lots of new characters and new moves for existing characters. It’s also the one I saw in arcades the most on those Neo Geo collection machines. Back in high school, one of my best friends was very good at fighting games, and I had fun watching him play fighters like Samurai Shodown 2.
Samurai Shodown 3
I’m not quite as familiar with the rest of the games on this collection. By the time SS3 came out, I was already in college (or nearly there) and my friend and I didn’t go play games at arcades much anymore. Again, I’m no expert, but I get the feeling that Samurai Shodown 3 is the weakest in the series. Am I right? It kind of feels that way to me. The graphics have been totally redrawn and look really good, but the changes in gameplay don’t feel as balanced, and there’s even LESS characters than in the first game.
Samurai Shodown 4
It feels like things started to pick up in SS4. The gameplay feels more balanced than in 3, and there are more characters, too. Sorry I don’t have any more to say about that.
Samurai Shodown 5
Again, the series seems to continue to improve in the fifth installment. A bunch of old characters return along with some new ones, including one that I never knew about before that has quickly become a favorite (more on that later). Again, if I knew more about fighting games I could probably give better details on each game in the series.
Samurai Shodown 6
What’s weird is that you have to select to play SS6 from a different menu screen than the rest of the titles. I don’t know why that is, but I do know that SS6 has a different feel from the rest of the games. The colors are a lot brighter and the music is more varied (and even kind of silly in places). One nice thing is the referee from the first two games returns. You can pick from a TON of characters. Some of the SS cast were accompanied by a animal friend, like Galford’s pet dog Poppy. Well, in SS6, you can play as Poppy and other animals separately. Granted, they had limited moves and were more like ‘joke’ characters, but that’s still pretty darn cool. I’ve always thought it would be neat to play as the pets, and I didn’t even know you could do that in a game until now. You folks have got to tell me about stuff like this, you know? Anyway, because of all this, Samurai Shodown 6 has more of a Marvel vs. Capcom 2 vibe to it. At least I think so.
Anyway, that’s all the games on this compilation. I’d have to say that it’s a pretty solid collection and highly recommended for SNK fans. There are lots of other Samurai Shodown games that are not on this collection, though. SNK made a couple of 3-D SS fighters on their Neo Geo 64 arcade system. I hear there was also a Samurai Shodown RPG, but I don’t know what system that was for. I also have a handheld version of Samurai Shodown on my Neo Geo Pocket Color. I like the fighters on the NGPC system because the characters are all squashy short and chibi-ized (wish I still had Gals Fighters). Speaking of the NGPC, it’s not in the Samurai Shodown series, but SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters Clash had a lot of cards of characters from the SS games. Aside from my friends, most of my knowledge about the SS characters comes from this card battling game. Card Fighters Clash is my favorite Neo Geo Pocket Color game, and I like it even better than Pokemon. Too bad the Card Fighters DS game wasn’t as good.
Samurai Shodown Characters
In my opinion, Samurai Shodown characters are more memorable than any other SNK fighting game (the KOF and Fatal Fury bunch is right on up there, though). One of the main reasons why the Samurai Shodown cast ooze with personality is because of their fluid and varied animations. Simply moving around shows off their character. In fact, my most favorite SNK character is from the Samurai Shodown series.
Speaking of which, another aspect that helps Samurai Shodown characters stand out is that many of them have animal helpers or pets that follow the fighters around while they battle. And the animals sometimes can lend a helping hand, too. And since I like animals, I always thought the critters in the SS games were really cool to have around. In Japan, there is a series of cell phone and DS games that are dating simulations with various SNK gals (I never understood these kinds of games). I think a better idea would be a pet care simulation game, like Nintendogs, where you could take care of the various pets and animals from SNK games. Like Poppy the dog or Nakoruru’s bird. I think that would be a pretty cool game, don’t you? I guess I’m the only one who likes that idea, huh? Sometimes I wonder if I’m too weird for my own good.
Anyway, I can’t list ALL the Samurai Shodown characters because there’s a ton of them. Plus if I did that, there would be a lot of ‘here’s a ninja dude, here’s another one, here’s a karate dude,’ and that would get kind of redundant. So I’m going to only list my favorite Samurai Shodown characters, or ones who just stood out in my mind for some reason.
He’s the main character in the SS series. Kind of like Ryu from Street Fighter. I didn’t think too much of Haohmaru until years later when I was playing Brave Fencer Musashi on the PSOne (which is a fantastic game, by the way). Then later when I played Card Fighters, I noticed that Haohmaru’s card looked a lot like Musashi from the Square game. Turns out I wasn’t too far from the truth since both characters are based on a real life swordsman from Japanese history named Musashi! There are actually a lot of characters in Samurai Shodown that are based on either Japanese history or myths. There’s another character named Jubei for instance, who is also from history. You have to wonder how the real life historical figures would feel about how they’re being portrayed in these games.
She’s the main female character in these SS games. It’s good to see a fully clothed female fighter, and her quick attacks and movements are a nice change of pace from the slower characters. But really, the cool thing about Nakoruru is she has a pet bird that flies around as she fights, and you can make it dive at the other player and other cool stuff. I forget what the bird’s name is so I just call it Bird.
She’s Nakoruru’s little sister or something. Looks just like her, but smaller. She doesn’t have a pet, but a little ice cube thing always follows her around and helps her do cool ice attacks.
Galford and Poppy
On his own, Galford’s really not that interesting. What makes him stand out is he’s got a pet dog, Poppy, who helps him fight. I always thought that was cool, so I decided that Poppy would be my number one favorite SNK character. In later games, Poppy even has puppies. Sometimes, one of them will catch the bone that Galford throws after winning a fight, and other times the puppies just parade along, the last one stumbling along the way. It’s so cute! And in Samurai Shodown 6, you can even play as just Poppy, which is about the most awesome thing ever. So yeah, Poppy’s the best!
This guy has really blue hair and likes to cut up apples with his sword. He should be eating those apples to keep the doctor away, though, because in Samurai Shodown 5, when you highlight him on the character select screen, he starts constantly coughing! Someone get that poor guy a throat lozenge! The other weird thing about this dude is he tends to be looking the other direction when you fight him. I bet he would fight a lot better if he’d, you know, face the opponent. But hey, what do I know?
Again, it’s nice to see a fully clothed female character in these fighting games. And this one’s smart enough to wear armor, too! Her long ranged quick thrusting sword attacks come in handy, as well.
Yeah!!! This guy’s cool! He’s so huge he takes up about a third of the screen. In the arcades I would always pick him just to annoy my friend.
Another favorite character, Cham Cham is a jungle girl with neat spiky green hair and a big ol’ boomerang. She also has funny attacks and a pet monkey. And when I play as her, I can usually get pretty far, which is amazing considering how bad I suck at fighting games. For some reason she reminds me of the sprite from Secret of Mana.
This is a fairly new character from SS 5 and 6. At first I thought he would be one of my favorites, but he isn’t. Like Earthquake, he takes up a large portion of the screen, and he’s a big red monster. So at first I was like, “Cool, I can’t wait to play as him.” But after I tried him I decided I didn’t like him because he’s too gross! On one of his arms he has no hand, just a big sharp bone sticking out that he uses as a weapon. And when he wins a fight, he takes a big bite out of his other arm and eats it! Ewwww! If I were a little kid, that would give me nightmares! He could’ve at least sprinkled some salt or spread some mustard on his arm before taking a big chunk out of it. At least it would’ve been funny as well as gross. Sorry big red monster, I don’t like you now.
Another fairly new character. She’s a ninja chick, and ninja chicks are cool (Ugh, I sound so immature saying that). She also has a wolf for an animal friend. And that’s all I know about that!
Oh no! SNK made a maid fetish character! Actually the only reason why I put her on my ‘cool’ list is because when you play as her and make her move around, she hops on one foot! Really, it’s true! It’s pretty funny (yeah, I know, I’m easily amused). Some days I wish I had a maid, though. I work my butt off all day and then come home and have to clean house, too. And sometimes I’m just too tired! But if I had a maid like Iroha, I’d probably end up helping her out with the cleaning because if she cleans like how she fights, hopping on one foot, she probably needs all the help she can get!
OK, now this one is WEIRD. It’s a mechanical robot puppet thing. It jumps by using a wooden catapult on wheels and rolls over to land. It fights with a big gear and can turn into a puppet show stage as one of its attacks. I don’t even know how to describe it better than that, it’s so strange!
Referee and guy throwing food
I don’t want to overlook two minor characters you see in nearly every SS game. The hooded referee with the flags is one of them. I hear you can even play as him in one of the titles, but since I suck so bad at fighting games, I bet I’ll never see how he fights. The other character is this guy that runs around in the background and throws food. If you nab it, you get some or all of your energy replenished, so it’s a lifesaver for folks like me who stink at fighting games.
I saved this new character for last because I had never heard of this fighter before, and she quickly became one of my favorites. Why? Well it doesn’t really have anything to do with her. Unfortunately, she wears even less clothes than Mai Shiranui. And while she has neat white hair and uses a bow and arrow (making projectile attacks really easy to pull off, like Mega Man from Marvel vs. Capcom), the reason why she gets high marks from me has nothing to do with her, but more so the company she keeps. You know how other SS characters have animal pet pals that follow them around as they fight? Well, Mina has one, too, and it’s a, uh, well, I don’t know what it is! Some kind of critter! It’s like a cross between Toad from Mario and a Servebot from Mega Man Legends! And all he does is waddle around underfoot and make whiny noises! He’s annoyingly cute, and you know I like that. I think his name is Chumpy or Chompy or something. And Mina’s always really nice to him, always patting him on the head and giving him a hug when she wins. Best of all, you can play as only him in Samurai Shodown 6, just like how you can play as Poppy. Mina and her little pal still haven’t replaced my favorite SNK character, that being Poppy, but they’ve sure come pretty darn close! But if Mina’s pal ever got his own fun cute game, watch out, Poppy!
And that’s all I feel like writing about Samurai Shodown right now. In the comments section, tell me what you’re favorite Samurai Shodown games and characters are! Later! –Cary