Unlike games by developers such as Namco, Tecmo, and Capcom, SNKs games have never enjoyed the same popularity in the US as they have in Japan. While the King of Fighters and Samurai Shodown series don't have the huge followings that Street Fighter and Tekken have, some truly great fighting games have come from SNK, and a small but dedicated fan base has developed that is devoted to its games. Unfortunately, Samurai Shodown: Warrior's Rage is not a title worth dedicating yourself to SNK over. Even die-hard SNK fans will have a hard time swallowing this abrasive blend of horribly dated graphics and sound, awkward and disjointed gameplay, and an overall lack of polish and playability.
The latest edition in the Samurai Shodown series features a story mode, attack mode (a configurable story mode without the story elements), standard versus mode, training mode, and galleries for art and movies. You can also go through a time-consuming and somewhat awkward process to power up characters and save them on a memory card. While there is a lot to unlock, everything about the game suffers from an execution that's mediocre or worse (most often worse). The main story mode does a passable job telling your character's tale through story scenes between fights and lets you unlock hidden characters. It's disappointing that most of these characters have the same special moves as existing characters or no special moves at all. Of course, to unlock most of the extras you have to play the actual game, which could turn out to be more trouble than it's worth.
Whether or not you choose to subject yourself to the game's poor-quality opening FMV, the ingame graphics of Warrior's Rage are among the least impressive to hit the PlayStation in the last few years. Aging titles like Rival Schools and Tekken 2 manage to put Warrior's Rage to shame in terms of graphics, speed, and style. The manga-styled character designs, including a gray-haired Haomaru and an aging Hanzo from earlier games in the series, just don't have the same flair when rendered in 3D with such a low polygon count. Blocky is the word that best describes their appearance. Likewise, some of the moves seem like cool ideas, but poor graphic effects severely detract from the effect. Strange, white blood effects and bland, sparsely animated CG backgrounds round out the game's graphical incompetence.
If anything could save Warrior's Rage it would be fast and solid gameplay, but like almost every other aspect of the game, the fighting engine falls terribly short. The gameplay is a departure from the traditional Samurai Shodown mechanics, but not a very fruitful one. Players have access to three attack buttons - weak slash, strong slash, and kick - as well as a dodge button. There are a good number of special moves and two types of super attacks, and all the character moves are thankfully listed in training mode. Aside from this, there aren't many positive things left to be said. Control seems a bit loose overall, with the dodge being especially hard to use effectively and not at all necessary. Other problems that plague gameplay are obvious slowdown and jerkiness when attacks animate and connect, as well as intrusive pauses in the already-slow action each time a player loses one of his three sections of lifebar. A large oversight keeps attacks from carrying damage over to the next section, causing powerful attacks to be wasted in many instances.
One of the worst fighting games in recent memory from SNK or anyone else, Warrior's Rage offers very little for anyone but the most fanatical Samurai Shodown fans and SNK supporters. Even the faithful may end up looking for their receipts within a few hours of purchase. Gamers should rest assured that SNK is capable of much better and perhaps wait for the next incarnation of the series.