Samurai Shodown V Import Impressions
We got our hands on the recently released Japanese version of Samurai Shodown V, the latest chapter in the original weapon-based fighting series.
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SNK has released Samurai Spirits Zero--known in the US as Samurai Shodown V--for the PlayStation 2. The game originally appeared on the NeoGeo home console and in arcades last year, and aside from a few additions, this version of the game appears to be an arcade-perfect translation.
As you might expect, Samurai Spirits Zero is a prequel that takes place before the events of the first Samurai Shodown game. But don't expect a return to the grand form of the first two games in the series. Graphically, Zero takes after the art style originated in Samurai Shodown III, using many of the character sprites and animation created for that game, which were then later recycled in Samurai Shodown IV. Most of the cast from the previous game returns here, but the slash and bust system, which gave you two versions of each character in previous games, has been removed.
However, this system sort of lives on in some of the game's "new" characters, which are really just the bust versions of existing characters. The game's bosses are also somewhat based on existing Samurai Shodown characters, which is a little disappointing. There are four all-new characters: Yoshitora, Kusaregedo, Yunfei, and Mina.
The play in Samurai Spirits Zero is still similar to the previous games, but it has some unique features of its own. The X button (which corresponds to the D button in the NeoGeo version of the game) can be used for various movements, like short hops, rolls, and so on. When pushed by itself, it allows you to meditate. This converts any built-up rage in your meter and moves a little pointer above your life bar. This pointer determines when you can enter a clear mental state mode, which slows down the gameplay and also gives you access to a desperation-style super move.
Samurai Spirits Zero has some weird movement to it. The characters seem a little floaty at times, but even this doesn't seem too consistent. Also, the character design is a bit spotty. Kusaregedo is the game's classic "big character" in the vein of Earthquake, but he's a really lame-looking demon with a bone sword for a hand. In one move, his head flies off of his body and lunges at his opponent. It just looks stupid. Add to that some of the game's weak voices--again, Kusaregedo immediately comes to mind--and you've got a game that simply doesn't deliver on the cohesive vision of the early games in the series.
On the options side of things, Samurai Spirits Zero covers the basic ground that you'd expect from a fighting game. The game has its story-based arcade mode, a versus mode, and a practice mode. In the options, you can change the game's difficulty, change match time limits, and so on. The game also has two soundtracks. It defaults to an arranged version of the original NeoGeo soundtrack, but the original soundtrack is also available.
Overall, Samurai Spirits Zero is an arcade-perfect translation of the original game, but that original game isn't really the most awe-inspiring thing to ever hit the 2D fighting scene. The game is now available for the PS2 in Japan, and there are plans to bring it to North America at a later date. We'll have more details on the North American version as it becomes available.