Samurai Shodown (video game)
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Cover art of the Neo Geo U.S. version of Samurai Shodown by Shinkiro.
|Arcade system||Neo Geo|
|Display||Raster, 304 x 224 pixels (Horizontal), 4096 colors|
Samurai Shodown, known as Samurai Spirits (サムライスピリッツ Samurai Supirittsu?, Samu Supi in short) in Japan, is a competitive fighting game developed and published by SNK for their Neo Geo arcade and home platform. Released in 1993, it is the first installment in the Samurai Shodown series. In contrast to other fighting games at the time, which were set in modern times and focused primarily on hand-to-hand combat, Samurai Shodown is set in feudal-era Japan (similar to Kaneko's Shogun Warriors) and was one of the first fighting games to focus primarily on weapon-based combat after the success of Capcom's Street Fighter II.
The game is set in the late 18th century, and all the characters wield weapons. The game uses comparatively authentic music from the time period, rife with sounds of traditional Japanese instruments, such as the shakuhachi and shamisen. A refined version of the camera zoom first found in Art of Fighting is used in Samurai Shodown; true to its use of bladed weapons, the game also includes copious amounts of blood.
The game quickly became renowned for its fast pace. Focusing more on quick, powerful strikes than combos, slow motion was added to intensify damage dealt from hard hits. During a match, a referee holds flags representing each player (Player 1 is white; Player 2 is red). When a player lands a successful hit, the referee lifts the corresponding flag, indicating who dealt the blow.
A delivery man occasionally appears in the background and throws items such as bombs or health-restoring chicken, which can significantly change the outcome.
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Shiro Tokisada Amakusa, slain in 1638 by the forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate for his part in the Shimabara tax revolt, is an actual person and Japan's most famous Christian martyr. He is revived as a satanic demon. Driven by hatred for the Shogunate, he unleashes his dark powers to bring chaos to the world. An assortment of warriors--some historic, some fictional--converge upon the source of the chaos, each driven by their own reasons.
In addition to the Neo Geo system, the AES, Samurai Shodown was ported to multiple other platforms, including the Super NES, Game Boy, Genesis, Game Gear, Sega CD, Sega Saturn, 3DO, FM Towns, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. All of the cartridge versions were handled by Takara, while Crystal Dynamics ported the 3DO version, and Funcom handled the Sega CD port.
The Genesis and Sega CD versions omit the character Earthquake and his stage. Both versions lack the camera zoom, and the camera is locked in a close zoom. This gives better detail to the characters, but the fighting area is smaller. In addition, some attacks were altered or removed entirely from the Mega Drive/Genesis version of the game. The final boss is playable in two-player mode without the use of a code. The Mega Drive/Genesis version lacks the arcade introduction, instead displaying the arcade version's text with no background graphics or speech. Also, the character artwork shown after beating an opponent is missing, and portions of some characters' endings are missing. The announcer no longer says the names of the characters before a fight or after winning a fight. The Sega CD version, however, is only missing portions of some characters' endings. The Sega CD version also includes the attacks that were removed or altered in the Mega Drive/Genesis version, and the music is the same as the arcade version.
The SNES version has the character line-up intact, but has the game zoomed-out, which makes the character sprites smaller compared to the other ports. This version has all of the stages from the arcade version, and they are less restricted compared to the Mega Drive/Genesis and Sega CD ports. This version also supports Dolby Surround sound. The SNES version includes the arcade intro sequence, although the voice accompanying the text is missing, the character artwork shown after beating an opponent is present, as are the arcade endings. The announcer, like the Sega CD version, says the names of the characters before a fight and after winning a fight. An exclusive mode, count down, is included in this port. Players can also use the final boss in two-player mode with a secret code.
The Game Gear port offered only 9 fighting characters to choose from (Gen-An, Galford, Haohmaru, Ukyo, Charlotte, Nakoruru, Jubei, Hanzo and Kyoshiro), whilst the original (SNK arcades) version offered 12.
Unlike most early home versions of the game, the 3DO version includes the camera zoom, as well as all the characters, special moves, and fatalities.
The Neo Geo AES version of the game was released for the Wii Virtual Console on October 16, 2007, in Japan; May 30, 2008, in Europe; and June 16, 2008, in North America. However, before the Virtual Console version was released in the North America, the game was released as part of SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1.
Mostly due to the negative publicity surrounding the use of violence in video games, the game was edited when it was first released for the AES as it featured blood and graphic fatal attacks that kill opponents by slicing them in half. As a result, it was decided to censor the game for most platforms by changing the blood from red to white and disabling the fatal attack animations. The win quotes were also censored, and references to death or blood were altered.
In the Super NES version, the blood was recolored orange and the fatal attacks were removed.
The censoring of the Neo Geo console version was unusual in that it was tied to the specific system. For instance, a North American cartridge running on a North American Neo Geo would display white sweat, but the same cartridge, when plugged into a Japanese Neo Geo, would run the uncensored game with blood. Neo Geo console modifications would enable users to set the system's region to Japan, or play in arcade mode, either of which would cause the game to be played with all of the blood and death animations intact, even on a North American/PAL console.
Three anime adaptations based on the game have been made:
- Samurai Spirits: Haten Gouma no Shou in 1994, which is a full-length film.
- Samurai Spirits 2: Asura Zanmaden in 1999, with two episodes.
- Nakoruru ~Ano hito kara no okurimono~ (OVA) in 2002, with one episode.
In the February 1994 issue of Gamest magazine in Japan, Samurai Shodown was awarded Best Game of 1993 in the Seventh Annual Gamest Grand Prize, as well as being the first to win in the category of Best Fighting Game (Street Fighter II Dash, the previous Game of the Year, won as Best Action Game). Samurai Shodown placed first in Best VGM, Best Album and Best Direction, and second place in Best Graphics. In the Best Characters list, Nakoruru placed No. 1, Haohmaru at No. 6, Jubei Yagyu at No. 8, a tie between Ukyo Tachibana, Galford, and Poppy at No. 11, Charlotte at No. 16 (tied with Duck King from Fatal Fury Special), Kuroko at No. 18, Tam Tam and Hanzo Hattori tied for No. 22, Gen-an Shiranui at No. 29, and Wan-Fu tied at No. 45 with five other characters.
Samurai Shodown won multiple awards from Electronic Gaming Monthly in their 1993 video game awards, including Best Neo-Geo Game, Best Fighting Game, and Game of the Year. It was awarded "Game of the Year" at the April 1994 European Computer Trade Show.
On release, Famicom Tsūshin scored the Neo Geo version of the game a 25 out of 40, giving the Super Famicom version an 8 out of 10 in their Reader Cross Review. Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the Super NES version a 7.4 out of 10, commenting that despite the lack of scaling, it is still a very good port. GamePro opined that the game is a rare case where the Genesis version is superior to the Super NES version, citing the Genesis version's better scale (zoomed-in versus the zoomed-out graphics of the Super NES version) and the awkward control configuration on the Super NES version. They held the Game Boy version to be surprisingly good given the hardware, but ultimately unsatisfying, and concluded that hardcore fans should pass on even the Genesis version in favor of the upcoming 3DO and Sega CD versions.
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the 3DO version a 7.6/10, calling it "A very faithful home version of the arcade fighter". A reviewer for Next Generation remarked that "The 3DO conversion is nearly identical to the arcade version, much more faithful than the previous SNES, Genesis, and Sega CD versions. The load time between rounds is noticeable, but acceptable." He gave it three out of five stars. GamePro complained that the scaling is not as smooth as the arcade version's, the animations are slower, the load times are interminably long, and the gameplay is crippled by a poor control configuration, which the player is not given the option to change.
GamePro named the Sega CD port the best Sega CD game at the 1994 Consumer Electronics Show. Their eventual review, however, was largely negative. They criticized the slowdown, lack of scaling, frequent load times, and low-quality reproduction of the arcade version's sounds, and added that the fact that Samurai Shodown was by then a three-year-old game makes the Sega CD version's faults stand out more. Electronic Gaming Monthly scored it a 7.5 out of 10 and declared it "the best conversion of the game that made the Neo Geo the system of choice for fighting games." The particularly praised the accurate graphics, short load times, and ease of pulling off special moves.
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