What’s this!? 3D Samurai Shodown… FOR 360!?? OMGEEEEEE!
Seriously though, this is a 3D SamSho game developed by SNK Playmore and K2, originally released in Arcades in 2008 under its Japanese name, Samurai Spirits Sen (also known as Samurai Shodown: Edge of Destiny). This is not the first time the series tried to enter the third dimension either. SNK first tried back in late 97, when they developed “Samurai Spirits” for the Hyper Neo-Geo 64 Arcade system (which was known outside Japan as “Samurai Shodown 64”). Shortly afterwards in 1998, they took a second stab at it with Samurai Spirits 2: Tale of the Murderous Demon Asura (also known as Samurai Shodown 64: Warrior’s Rage). Then in 1999, they released “Samurai Shodown: Warriors Rage” for Playstation. After these three efforts bombed (and the old SNK folded soon after making PSX Warriors Rage), the series quietly retired until Playmore came and has tried to revive old SNK IPs. While Samurai Shodown will always be at its best in 2D IMO, Playmore apparently thought it would be wise to try the whole 3D SamSho thing at least one more time… but not just throw some polygonal characters into simple arenas; they wanted to “reinvent” Samurai Shodown in its latest entry to 3D and create a game almost completely from the ground up.
With this, Sen was born. The game now features fully 3D combat much like SoulCalibur, a heavily modified fighting system where most old character’s movesets have been simplified and almost all projectile attacks removed, where fighting has become slightly more technical and almost all true combos have been removed (even speed characters have many slow launchers or ground combos that don’t really connect and can be blocked midway unless the character is airborne), gameplay is based around poking and well-timed simple combinations, a new plot, and the game is now “more violent” and opts for “more realism”. Oh yeah, and the game features disembodiment… yes, you read right. You can cut off limbs as a sort of fancy fatality-esque finisher in this game… like, you can cut off someone’s arm (where it sometimes shows it fly in front of the camera, still grasping the warrior’s weapon) or slice them down the middle or decapitate a character or split them in half… yeah. When the game was released in Arcades, reception towards the game was almost overwhelmingly negative; even huge fans thought the game looked incredibly dull and bland, the soundtrack was nothing to brag about, the game lacked the artistic direction and gore of the 2D renditions, and the gameplay failed to impress. When it was ported to consoles, they wanted to enhance the audio/video and ease some of the concerns around the overall aesthetic of the game.
But… when it was later released, not much was done to the game. The game basically looks like the Arcade game with the option to play it in 1080p. This is nice of course, but if the game wasn’t very good looking to begin with, watching it in HD isn’t going to make it any better; it’s just going to make its flaws more apparent. The soundtrack is a little better quality-wise, but the gameplay is basically the same. There’s nothing wrong with the game aiming to be like SoulCalibur, but it lacks most of its fine-tuning. Executing even simple commands can prove difficult (and I found it suspicious that the game doesn’t have the option to show the keys you input like most 3D fighters) and parries and deflecting don’t work as they should. All the characters also feel too similar regardless of their type, many sharing the same basic throw and many core animations. Speaking of the animation, it’s fairly poor and actually ties into the gameplay; whereas SoulCalibur had more fluid animations (for instance, if a character wields a large weapon like Nightmare, he’s going to swing it slower) and characters were more balanced, character traits in this game are almost random and characters plod about, like big characters who do shoryukens and attack really fast while other characters have only moderately fast attacks and almost no range… it’s like the traits and movesets are out of whack for almost all the characters. This is to be expected somewhat as the game is a huge leap technology-wise from its predecessors and the full inclusion of that extra dimension can’t just be pegged overnight, but geez. SamSho is legendary and deserved a little better than this.
You know, I always thought Samurai Shodown could work out pretty well if it was like Bushido Blade or a third-person action game, but this game just missed the mark. The game isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be, but with the fatalities and generally unappealing design and iffy gameplay mechanics, this just doesn’t feel enough like the SamSho most have come to know and love. The main story is also pretty crappy, with text screen intros and endings and with only two unlockable characters and little extra content, there’s not much to look forward to.