- This article is about the 1993 video game. For the 2019 video game with the same name, check Samurai Shodown (2019).
"A samurai fears not death, struggles to triumph over evil, and lives for one purpose: TO DESTROY ALL ENEMIES."
The official story, as given by SNK, is as follows:
"Plagues of unknown origin, strange phenomena, repeated outbreaks of war: these were enough to cause panic and plunge people into despair. But one smiled as he surveyed the unfolding chaos rending the world asunder. For this 'man,' once slain by the forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate, hate for the Shogunate is all he possesses along with newly acquired dark powers to bring it down. This 'man,' Shiro Tokisada Amakusa, unleashes his unworldly forces and spreads his false creed in an attempt to lead the world to ruin.But in the midst of such calamities, there were still warriors who put their beliefs to the test. These warriors spurred by different motives and beliefs converge as if drawn together, battle, and make their way to the source of the chaos."
The game is set in the late 18th century, in the Edo period, and all the characters wield white weapons. The game uses comparatively authentic music from the time period, rife with sounds of traditional Japanese instruments, such as the shakuhachi and shamisen, and a refined version of the camera zoom first found in Art of Fighting. True to its use of bladed weapons, the game also included copious amounts of blood.
The game quickly became renowned for its fast pace, focused more on quick, powerful strikes than the combos. As to emphasize the distinction of this gameplay system, slow motion was added to intensify damage dealt from hard hits. Also during a match, a referee held flags representing each player (player 1 was white; player 2 red). When a player landed a successful hit, the referee would lift the corresponding flag, letting everyone watching know who dealt the blow. To lessen the repetition of fights, a delivery man running in the background threw items such as chicken (that healed) or bombs, which could significantly change the outcome of a play.
The cast of characters, like many other fighting games of its time, spanned from fighters across the globe, allowing a wide range of weaponry open for the players' enjoyment.
Samurai Shodown introduces the Rage Gauge. As your character takes damage, the gauge rises from green to yellow, then yellow to red. The character himself changes color to indicate his rage. Once the gauge fills up to the maximum, the gauge flashes POW and for a limited time, all the character's attacks inflict critical damage. This is an aspect which should be taken advantage of during the battle. Once the rage subsides, the gauge empties and attack power reverts to normal.
The original cast of sword-wielding ronin are:
Game Boy Exclusive Characters
- Note: In Arcade Mode, there is a bonus stage, where the player needs to cut ten straw dolls in 20 seconds. Features a giant banner, a wooden stage and judges dressed like Kuroko, that vibrate when all the dolls are cut. This stage appears three times, each with a different atmosphere.
Gairyu Isle at Noon — Haohmaru: A rocky beach next to the ocean. Features moutains, vegetation, rocks on the left and crashing waves, besides the clouds and the sun. A similar version can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019).
Gairyu Isle at Night — Ukyo: In this version of the stage, can be seen the full moon and the starry sky, and the waves are more serene. Also features fireworks. A similar version can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019).
Versailles, France — Charlotte: The salon of the De Colde state. Features chandeliers, a red carpet, angel statues, a fireplace, candlesticks, a red carpet, two windows with curtains and guards, besides a painting with a knight and other man. This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), in a new version.
Hokkaido — Nakoruru: The birthplace of the Ainu priestess, Kamui Kotan, in a day of winter. Features snow, the wooden cabin which Nakoruru lives, trees, the Ainu priestess' grandparents, animals and firewood logs..
San Francisco, California, USA — Galford: A wooden pier next to the San Francisco Bay, in a sunset. Features caravels, a dog, barrels, bottles, wooden boxes and a crowd greeting.
- Note: when the lids of the barrels are cut, it's revealed that they keep apples inside.
Yamagata — Hanzo: The Mount Gassan, one of the three mountains of Dewa, in a windy day and in the right side. Features a red sky, a wooden cabin destroyed, vegetation, dead trees, destroyed flags and fences, besides crows.
- Note: in each beginning of round, leaves can be seen flying on the wind.
Kochi — Jubei: A bamboo forest. Can be seen a shack, a fishing rod, chopped firewood, a thicket, leaves and a mudding ground. This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), in a new version and name.
- Note: during the course of the fight, bamboo trees are cut by the fighters' blade.
Seian — Wan-Fu: The courtyard of the imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty, in a rainy day and a red sky. Features statues, a red carpet with an Asian divinity, a pyre, candles, besides Chinese temples, pagodas and mountains, in the background.
Onigami Isle — Genan: The cave of the member of Shiranui clan, in a green athmosphere. Features skulls, stalactites, candles and firewoods.
- Note: the firewoods can be put out during the fight, by the fighters' blade.
Texas Desert — Earthquake: The Desert of Chihuahua. Features the rockies, vegetation (some rolling), besides wooden and ground dead.
Edo — Kyoshiro: The famous stage which the Kabuki dancer performs his act. Features sakura trees, ropes, actors greeting, lamps, a small ladder, Kanjis and a painting with a mythical creature, in the background.
Green Hell — Tam Tam: The birthplace of the Mayan sacred warrior. The fight takes next to a water fountain, with fish jumping on the water, besides vegetation and totems. This stage can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), in a new version.
- Note: During the fight, the totems are cut by the fighters' blade.
Shimabara: The courtyard of the Shimabara Castle, in a sunny day. Features a wall, vegetation, a tile floor, candles, a temple complex, in the background and small stone, besides a giant stone with a rope, next to the fight. Associated with Amakusa.
- Note 1: from the first victory of the player of the arcade mode, the giant stone opens and destroy all around.
- Note 2: A special version of the stage can be seen during Kyoshiro's ending.
Home Version and Ports
When SNK released the game for the home console version of the Neo Geo system, the AES, the fans bought it up in droves, and it still stands as the most successful run of home Neo cartridges ever produced. The game was ported to multiple other platforms, including the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo Game Boy, Sega Mega Drive, Sega 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 JVC handled the Sega CD port. All the ports vary in quality, given the individual capabilities of the systems it appeared on.
All the 16-bit Sega versions of the game (including the Sega CD version) omitted Earthquake. Both versions lack the camera zoom, and as a result the camera is zoomed-in, which gives better detail to the characters, but the fighting area is smaller. Of note is the Sega CD version, which contained a bug which caused the game to crash when the final boss was reached. Publisher JVC offered to replace glitched discs with copies of Fatal Fury Special (which they also published for the system). No "fixed" version was released.
The Super NES version, by contrast, has the character line-up intact, but has the game zoomed-out, which makes the characters look tiny and harder to time attacks. The stages, on the other hand, are less restricted. This version also supports Dolby Surround.
The Neo Geo AES version of the game was released for the Wii's Virtual Console on October 16, 2007 in Japan; May 30, 2008 in Europe; and June 16, 2008 in North America.
The PlayStation 4 version was released as part of the line "ACA Neo Geo", developed by Hamster Corporation. In Asia and Europe, was released in December 8, 2016, and in Japan and North America, in December 9, 2016.
The game was edited when it was first released for the AES as it featured blood and graphic fatal attacks that kills opponents by slicing them in half. This was mostly due to the negative publicity that sparked involving the use of violence in video games of the time, a most prominent example being Mortal Kombat. As a result, it was decided to censor the game for most platforms, by changing the blood from red to white and disabling all of the fatal attack animations. These censorship issues were also carried over to the win quotes, and references to death or blood were altered. This release incited controversy in the United States, as many fans who bought the game were angry that the game they had paid for was not 100% true to the arcade experience, a notion which ran contrary to the professed point of the AES in the first place.
The Sega 16-bit ports frequently had the violence toned down. While the blood is featured, it is used sparsely and one of the fatalities is cut for each version. In the Super NES version the blood was recolored orange and the half slicing is removed. The 3DO version, however, was ported almost a year later, and managed to reach the console with all blood and fatality graphics intact. As a result, some retailers didn't even carry this edition of the game.
Samurai Shodown is justifiably considered the starting point for the wave of Neo Geo console modchips, which would enable users to set the system's region to Japan, or play in arcade mode, which would in turn allow the game to be played with all of the blood and death animations intact, even on a U.S. console. It also marked the beginning of SNK's nebulous and much-discussed policy of censoring their games for release in the United States, which still persists (albeit sporadically) to this day.
Chad Okada, "The Gaming Lord", states that Samurai Shodown "put SNK on the map" and overwhelmed games in the arcade at the time. President of Noise Factory, Keiko Ijuu, adds that one of the factors contributing to the game's success was the change to medieval setting for a one-on-one fighting game, a stark contrast to other games set during contemporary times.
- Neo Geo commercial
- 15 sec commercial for SNES
- Virtual Console page
- Arcade Archives official website, product page
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