Swordplay at it's Finest!

User Rating: 8.5 | Samurai Spirits: Amakusa Kourin NEO
Konichi wa my brothers, woss happening! Shoot…Samurai Shodown's got me turning Japanese.

The relentless sword slashing bravado continues with the fourth edition, once again delivering the violent and colorful gameplay that helped put SNK on the map, and although this may be the lesser challenging sequel of the bunch, it still kicks as much ass.

Samurai has to be one of my favorite fighting series of all time, just because the gameplay is so methodical, intense, and just different from other fighters. With the use of swords, rather than martial arts, one swipe, literally can mean the end of the fight, as a single hit can drain half of the energy gauge. In most cases, the duels are more like a standoff where you're constantly on the defense, just waiting for your opponent to make a mistake before you pounce on them and spill their blood.

Each character has a wide variety of beautifully rendered animations, as well as dazzling special, "power", and finishing moves, plus 2 different "styles" to choose from which each offer different attacks to use…AND with a couple new characters added to the lineup, the varied cast does not fall short of scarce by any means. The addition of an extra health gauge makes for longer battles, plus the implement of the new combo attack adds another layer to the already great fighting system. But that's not all, the infamous "blood spray" finishing move has been updated with a more refreshing look. This time around, when you hit your opponent's sweet spot, not only does their blood spurt from the broken artery, but you get covered with it from head to toe…so satisfying.

The controls are very simple and basic, with a light, medium, and heavy attack for your weapon, as well as a kick attack. Certain button combinations will also allow you to "throw" your opponent back, or make a step around them, so as to get in for a quick attack on their backside. And, as tradition goes with fighting games, use of the joystick in half-circle, quarter-circle fashion, in conjunction with the attack buttons will unleash a special move. In other words, it's an appealing fighter for any novice to jump in and have instant fun, and veterans to fine-tune their sword skills and find some new elements to master.

As always, the sound is perfect. The music, although not as great as the 1st or 2nd Samurai Shodowns, still sets the mood for the fights. More often, there are only slight sounds every once in a while, on an otherwise quiet track. That's not necessarily a bad thing though, because it helps build the tension between the two fighters even more. It's like a battle for your life that you need to concentrate on without being distracted by a wicked soundtrack. I think that's what they were going for when they constructed the music for this game, right? Regardless, I've always been more attracted to the sounds of the swords clashing, there's just something cool about it.

Overall, Samurai Shodown IV is an awesome fighting game that proudly displays the tradition of one of Neo Geo's crowning achievements. Those lucky (or rich) enough to own a home console should definitely pick this one up.