Reviewed: May 1, 2006
Released: January 17, 2006
I can remember the day when 2D fighting games ruled the day. This was the era when Capcomís legendary Street Fighter series and SNK's world-renowned King of Fighters were the best fighting games around. Itís been about a century since their heyday and the most popular fighting games are now Soul Calibur and Dead or Alive (DOA).
They are great series and two of my favorites since the previous decade. Unfortunately I always felt like they were missing something that the old 2D games offered. Those being the variety of combo moves, in air attacks, and less blocking that were required to win.
Samurai Showdown V is the story of one Samuraiís quest against the Shogun which leads to the gathering of the bravest warriors.
The game opens with a very slow, samurai themed song. Nothing really happens except the announcer says the title of the game, ďSamurai Showdown V.Ē From there itís a simple matter of picking which mode to play. Will you practice, play arcade mode, story mode; the choice is yours.
Once youíre in a game mode youíll recognize that the fighting is relatively slow and tactical. This is either your cup of tea or it isnít. I personally prefer the action to be faster and more of a button masher, but for all you strategy, tactical fighter this will definitely appeal to you.
Overall the combat is smooth and the actions are responsive. Sadly when you connect (hit) an enemy it doesnít feel like your actually hitting them. This makes it harder to get into the game and will hurt your overall enjoyment. Whatís interesting is that the game places more emphasis on well placed hits then combos. Sure the combos are beneficial and good to know, but timing is everything in this game.
When it comes down to it this is a simple, straightforward fighting game based on three rounds of fighting. To win youíll use combos, special attacks, kicks, punches, and slashes. Of course each fighter needs to have a unique power-up meter and this game features a strength meter, which is depleted each time you attack and is gradually replenished when youíre not attacking. What this does is discourage you from button mashing because the more you swing like a wild man, the weaker you become. This is what makes Samurai Showdown V a tactical fighter where well placed hits are critical to beating any enemy while combos come second.
The strength meter isnít the only unique feature this game has. When you take damage your character gradually becomes enraged. When the rage meter fills completely you will turn completely red and itís now that you can perform that characterís special move. Doing so will max out your strength meter, disarm your opponent, and make it super easy to annihilate your challenger. Thereís even a rage explosion ability which will not only fill your rage meter but will interrupt an opponents combo. It can be used only once per turn so itís generally good to save it until the end just in case.
The only way I could beat the story (single player) mode was to use cheap tactics that I knew would work. Youíll have to do this because the AI opponents and bosses get really hard at the end and youíll have to do everything humanly possible to beat them (thank goodness for continues right?).
The graphics feel old, very old, but thatís to be expected considering what system it came from and how long ago. Most companies would take a few weeks to sharpen up the graphics and make them more presentable and less NES like. That isnít the case and for the most part everything looks very 1st generation.
The only really good thing to say about the graphics is that they are colorful and the characters look decent. They all have their own distinct personalities, which make them fun.
The animation is pretty touch and go. For the most part characters move smoothly and their attacks look all right, but there are other times when they look really poor (like the last boss Gaoh). Likewise, the backgrounds vary in quality as making for some pretty gaudy ones.
After digging up some information about the varied background music in Samurai Showdown V I found out that it is a collaboration of the original, digitized, and new instrumental music. Thereís also an English-speaking announcer who does a decent job, but the audio is very rugged.
One cool thing I found out is that you can access the original Japanese audio by adjusting your language setting. Sure itís annoying to do and they should have made it an option in the gameís menu, but I still think itís cool that it is accessible.
One thing I liked was the character sound effects and voices. Some of them made more sounds than others while some even had voices. The ones who spoke were my favorite because voices add personality to the characters. If they would have expanded the audio it would have given me memorable characters to talk about, play with, and increased my overall enjoyment of the game. This is because likeable, memorable characters are what make or break a game.
The sound effects and grunts each character makes are repeated to exhaustion after only the first round. They are boring at that point and you almost want to turn them off. I didnít because for some strange reason I canít get into a fighting game without audio (go figure).
This is a game where youíll have as much fun with it as you like it. What I mean is that the more you like it, the more youíll play it, but there really isnít any reason to play it after you beat it unless you are a big fan.
Sure there is two-player versus mode and a basic online mode, but how much fun can you get out of that. My experience online was limited. There werenít very many people playing, but at least you could play with a person as much as you wanted after you found one. I assume the only way youíll get a lot of value out of this game is if you have a friend who loves to play this game as much as you and youíre continually facing off against one another.
The downside is that there is a balancing issue because you can select the two obviously stronger bosses to play as online, which is a huge disadvantage to anyone wanting to play with a different character. It pretty much forces you to play as one of those two and that is sad.
Overall Samurai Showdown V is essentially a direct port of a 3-year-old 2D fighting game on a really old (NeoGeo) system. Thereís not a lot of value here unless you want are a dedicated old school fighting or SNK fan looking for a showdown. This isnít a fighter for everyone because of its slower paced, more tactical, less combo intense fighting system.
If you are true swordsman youíll buy this game, but Iíd strongly recommend a rental if you are at all interested. The real question is ďAre you slave to the blade?Ē