Dealspwn Rating: 5/10
Publisher: SNK Playmore
Samurai Shodown Sen may be a straight port of a two-year-old arcade fighter, but it makes a great first impression. The lavish menus and loading screens feature handpainted Japanese artwork replete with abundant cherry blossoms, atmospheric traditional music and truly hilarious English translations. A sprawling selection of 24 characters provides a balance of fighting styles for every taste. The first impression is that of a delectible arcade thoroughbred- and SNK's Samurai Shodown series has some serious arcade credentials.
Unfortunately, this rose-tinted perspective soon wears off after the first battle starts. This game is already two years old- and no effort has been made to polish it up for the Xbox 360's superior hardware. It would've looked reasonable on the original Xbox or PS2, but Shodown Sen is a jaggy mess of clipping issues, low-res textures and limited animations. But who cares about graphics- right? After all, a good fighting game is timeless. Unfortunately, this isn't a good fighting game.
The control scheme may seem daunting at first (since the control list resembles a complicated and delicious Chinese takeaway menu), but fighting fans of will soon acclimatise to the familiar selection of horizontal attacks, vertical swipes, kicks and throws. The most marked departure from the traditional Samurai Shodown moveset is the addition of powerful slash attacks that're mapped to the triggers, which can easily wipe out a third of your opponents life bar in a single hit. These attacks can be easily blocked, but perfect timing can lead to fast, deadly and humiliating wins that result in graphically lopping off a limb at the end of the fight.
This newfound reliance on split-second timing is the control scheme's undoing. Samurai Shodown Sen has one of the most sluggish and unresponsive movement and combat mechanics I've ever had the misfortune to wrangle with. Attack animations are slow, cumbersome and exhibit a marked delay between pressing the button and actually witnessing the move. It's also impossible to break out of an attack into another move or queue up a new moves before the attack has finished. It still works... but only just.
Most depressingly, the movement speed is horribly slow, unresponsive and feels completely broken on an Xbox controller. The '8-way run' mechanic (that allows you to sidestep around an opponent à la Soul Calibur) requires you to quickly doubletap the d-pad to step into or out of the scenery- but will usually result in your character idiotically jumping or ducking on the spot as your opponent pours on the hurt (and causing you to hurl your controller through the telly in a fit of unadulterated rage!). Losing to a superior opponent is one thing, but losing a close match because the game consistently fails to register your commands is frankly unforgivable. The blocking mechanics are equally clumsy and desperately miss a dedicated button.
This sluggishness is most noticeable in the singleplayer story battles. Shodown Sen boasts a bog-standard arcade story mode that provides the familiar (nay, mandatory), text introductions, mid-boss cutscene and three-letter leaderboards; but it simply isn't much fun. CPU opponents nimbly dodge, weave and dance around you even as your character ambles about like a blind, fat, drunken freshman on a three-legged pub crawl. I'm no slouch when it comes to fighting games, but squaring off against speedy enemies was occasionally a frustrating challenge even on normal difficulty.
Oh, and while we're on the subject of the story mode, I have to mention that Samurai Shodown Sen features the cheapest character in fighting game history. The penultimate boss has a shotgun.
Yeah. A shotgun. You can't block his attacks...because it's a shotgun. You can't sidestep properly... because it's a shotgun. This overpowered Brokeback Mountain reject will raise your blood pressure to dangerous levels after the umpteenth cheap victory- and being juggled into streams of air combos from 20 metres away is one of the quickest ways of ending up with a controller embedded into your living room wall. I'm all for tough challenges, but the reward simply isn't worth the aggravation in this case.
However, versus mode is a lot more fun since both players have the same control disadvantages. Multiplayer has always formed the core of most fighting games, and Samurai Shodown Sen is actually immensely enjoyable when played with friends. Lopping off an opponent's head or limb is a real blast when you can turn around and rub it in their face, and the gory dismemberment provides loads of laugh-out-loud moments. The addition of a few mates and several beers provides a perfect way of killing a few hours- but then again, the same is true of any fighting game.
The online multiplayer modes are also impressive. They don't offer anything particularly new or interesting, but they're lag free and offer surprisingly speedy loading times. Good luck finding someone to play against, though.
Second Opinion: The best word to sum up Samurai Shogun Sen is 'late'. A perfectly solid arcade fighter for 2008, its rebirth here comes with an unfortunate sense of having seen it all before. Half the characters seem like sub-par rip-offs of Soul Calibur stalwarts, the gory Conclusions seem to be trying to plug the gap that Mortal Kombat left when that franchise abandoned fatalities just before Midway went under, and the flimsy nonsensical pretext has always been far better in series such as Dead or Alive and Tekken. You find yourself wishing that the menu style graphics would carry over into the game - and we can say that would have been spectacular having now seen stylised art direction in Street Fighter IV - but even visually this game is somewhat disappointing. It's a bit of a laugh if you can find a mate to play with but, as we discovered, you'll just end up hankering for something...well...better. This one gets a 4 from me. You can add another point to it if you own an arcade controller. - Matt
- Loads of characters with a range of combat styles
- Local multiplayer is occasionally laugh-out-loud hilarious
- Awesome menus
- Sluggish combat
- Weak graphics
- Feels obsolete in 2o10
The Short Version: Samurai Shodown Sen is a serviceable fighter, but it feels completely redundant. Soul Calibur, BlazBlue and even its XBLA prequel offer a far more enjoyable experience for a fraction of the RRP- and after two years of improvements, it's difficult to justify buying a game that's obsolete before you even open the box. Fans of beer-driven local multiplayer might enjoy Shodown Sen when it hits bargain bins- but it feels much older than its two years would suggest.