Samurai Shodown II, known as True Samurai Spirits: Haohmaru Hell Change (真サムライスピリッツ 覇王丸地獄変, Shin Samurai Supirittsu Haōmaru Jigokuhen, The hen meaning “change” being a pun on hen (編, hen) meaning “chapter”, “volume”, or “work”) in Japan, is the second game in SNK's popular Samurai Shodown series and the sixth of the official chronology, succeeding the two-chapter games Samurai Shodown III and Samurai Shodown IV.
The official story, as given by SNK, is as follows:
"Shiro Tokisada Amakusa, cause of the calamities occurring worldwide and driven to resurrect the Dark Deity Ambrosia, was slain by a single samurai whose existence was never recorded by history.
This person deeply involved with the resurrected Amakusa, Haohmaru, was suddenly attacked one night. But the one who was up easily defeated was not Haohmaru, but the sinister assailant...
Haohmaru's attacker was clearly manipulated by someone or something -- an evil force. The would-be assassin gasps a final promise to Haohmaru. 'I'll have your soul one day.... Ambrosia...lives.' The evil ones are after him! Haohmaru, sensing an evil force rivaling Amakusa, pays a visit on his old fencing master. While Haohmaru relates his story, his master's visage grows unusually grim.
'Stay away. You have undeniably grown stronger. But you must not confront them. Do you understand?'
His master obviously knows more, but grows silent, and besides Haohmaru isn't listening anyway. That night, they share a few drinks to celebrate their reunion after a long separation, and at dawn Haohmaru slips out unannounced to embark on his journey.
An audacious smile plays on his lips."
According to the story, Mizuki was a high priestess in a Shinto temple but she was possessed by the marauding deity.
Following up on the extremely-enthusiastic fan reception of the first Samurai Shodown game, SNK rebuilt the sequel from the ground up, including almost all of its predecessor's cast, adding several new characters, and refining the overall gameplay with more responsive control, more moves, and a substantial number of Easter eggs.
The overall gameplay was expanded to include several movement options: forward and backward rolls, ducking to avoid high attacks, or small hops to avoid low strikes. This game was also the first game to incorporate an offensive blocking technique or "parry" via a command issued at the last second allowing players to deflect an incoming attack and leave their adversaries open to attack.
The new characters added to the roster are:
- Genjuro Kibagami, an addicted man and hired killer who, in the past, killed his mother, a prostitute, and was a disciple, along with Haohmaru, of Nicotine Caffeine. Expelled from the Nicotine's temple, he has a main objective: kill Haohmaru and his old master;
- Cham Cham, Tam Tam's younger sister, travels the world in search of the Tangiers Stone, lost during a game, in companion of his pet monkey Paku Paku (who is Tam Tam transformed);
- Neinhalt Sieger, a Prussian knight and leader of the Red Lion Knights, goes to Japan to face the calamity that plagues the country, fearing that the consequences will reach his kingdom;
- Nicotine Caffeine, an old master and priest of the Koka-in Temple, teacher of Haohmaru and Genjuro;
- Mizuki Rashojin, boss of the game, a priestess who turns into an evil entity and an Ambrosia's servant due to a pact.
Critical and Fan Reception
Samurai Shodown II was even better-received than the original (though it did not sell as well in its home version), and is commonly regarded as one of SNK's finest games ever produced. At the height of its popularity, strategies, tricks and tactics were discussed and debated, and it is arguably one of the most heavily dissected fighting games ever made, with sizable documents being written to support or refute claims of one character's dominance over another's. It also made GameSpot's list of The Greatest Games of All Time and EGM's List of Top Ten Cult Classics. At Game Rankings, it holds the overall rating at 100%. The game is also featured in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) its considerable popularity, the game went for several years without being released on any other system. When it did happen, it was a port of the Neo*Geo CD version for Windows-based PCs. This version did actually get a release in the United States, and can still be found in some game stores. The only other port was for the Sony PlayStation, in the form of the Samurai Spirits Kenkaku Shinan Pack (サムライスピリッツ剣客指南パック), which combined the first two games into one package, and was only released in Japan. However, at the 2007 Tokyo Game Show on September 21, 2007, an Xbox Live Arcade and a Wii Virtual Console port and a Wii anthology containing every Samurai Shodown game were announced.
SS2 is renowned for having some of the most hilarious bits of "Engrish" in the history of video games, even considering SNK's history of questionable translation. Chad Okada, "The Game Lord" and a former visual model from SNK America, stated that efforts to localize the text were stunted as the time and money needed to fix it would have been more expensive than releasing the title in its original state. Some examples are listed below (with spelling mistakes intentionally included):
- The intro: "Long, long ago, there were a man who try to make his skill ultimate. Because of his bloody life, it's no accident that he was involved in the troubles."
- After a fighter is selected: "Time has passed since the last trouble. New battles are going to start, now again."
- During a single-player fight: "Wait a challenger", "No challenger is acceptable"
- All characters: "All creature will die and all the things will be broken. That's the law of samurai."
- VICTORY !!!
- In this game, players can control which winpose they will get by holding certain direction after defeating an opponent.
- The developers' reason for adding the "doll" transformations in the game was to tie in with the series's keychain dolls for the company's crane machines.
- Commands for Haohmaru and Nakoruru's moves from this game also make an appearance in the anime.
- Note 1: With the exception of the debutant characters stages and the Boss Stage (SS1 included), all stages of the first SS return with new versions.
- Note 2: Kuroko appears again as a judge in all stages, besides being a playable character in the game.
Gairyu Isle, Noon — Haohmaru: In this version, the fight occurs in a sunset. Features shrines, waves crashing, a temple and mountains in the background, highlighting the Mount Fuji. Also can be seen a geisha cheering in the left side. This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), with a new version.
Sukigahara Field — Genjuro: A dandelion field in a November night. Features a red sky, a ladder, in the right side, the mountains, in the background, and a full moon with the NEO GEO's logo watermark. This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), with a new version and name.
Gairyu Isle, Night — Ukyo: In this version, the fight occurs in the nighttime. Features shrines, a temple and mountains in the background, highlighting the Mount Fuji. Also can be seen a geisha touching up the makeup, in the left side. This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), with a new version.
Kamui Kotan, Northern Country — Nakoruru: In this version, the fight takes next to a river, in a summer. Features a wooden and stoned bridge, the animals, the Ainu priestess' family, some burned carpets, a pine forest and a waterfall and snowy mountains in the background. A similar version of the stage can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), with a autmnal air.
Early Winter Bamboo Forest — Jubei: In this version, the stage features snow are more bamboo trees already cuted, besides a new thicket and buds. This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), with a new version and name.
Devil's Island — Genan: In this version, the stage is brown, and features puddles, a grey cauldron and creatures like Genan cooking on it.
- Note: when Genan is defeated, one of the creatures also falls on the ground.
Versailles Palace — Charlotte: In this version, can be seen statues, vases with red roses, golden woman statues, ceramic notches and a potrait with the returning characters of the game facing the boss of the stage. The fireplace disappears.This stage also can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019), with a new version and name.
- Note: the woman statues can be cut by the fighters' blade.
Yamagata Battlefield — Hanzo: In this version, the fight occurs in the sunset and in the left side. Features destroyed new fences, tree trunks and new dandelions.
- Note: a flock of crows can be seen in the first round.
Xian — Wan-Fu: In this version, all the stage items changes of color, and the sky is grey.
San Francisco, Noon — Galford: In this version, there are fewer people, barrels and wooden boxes, and many ships and boats. Also can be seen a hanging shark and a wooden wagon in the stage. A similar version of the stage can be seen in Samurai Shodown (2019).
- Note: when one of the barrels' lid are cut, it's revealed that he keep apples and fishes inside.
Prussia Kingdom — Sieger: The salon of the King of Prussia throne, in a rainy night. Features knights, the Prussian army, standartsa, a giant lion statue, a red carpet, the royal blazon and the King seated in the throne, beside thunders in the sky.
Kabuki Stage — Kyoshiro: in this version, the trees earns an autumnal air, the flags, the lamps and the stage change the colors and a new mythical creature can be seen in the background.
Pacific Railway — Earthquake: In this version, the fight takes next to a train crash, in a sunset. Features grasses, barrels, the train line, bandits dressed like Earthquake and a beam of light coming from the train.
Marsh — Cham Cham: The fight takes next to a river and a wrecked ship, in a sunset. Features native vegetation, mountains with vegetation, Mayan statues in the background, a small waterfall, monkeys, hanging fishes, monkeys and flamingos (some flying over the scene in the first round).
Misty Temple — Nicotine: The fight takes next to a ladder of the Koka-in temple. Features lamps, a mist, trees (one with a skull's stamp), grasses and the temple, in the background.
- Note 1: A small mist moving on the stage can be seen.
- Note 2: the same messenger seen in SS1 is running through the stage.
Himalayas — Kuroko: The main hall of a dojo, in the top of the moutains. Features a green floor, paintings with parts of the human anatomy (one showing The Vitruvian Man, of Italian Leonardo da Vinci) and men dressed like Kuroko.
- Note: the word REⱭЯUM (anagram for MURDER), which can be seen in a plaque in the topside of the stage, is a reference to the 1977 horror novel The Shinning, by American author Stephen King.
Osore Zan Hell: The famous sacred and mystical Japanese mountain.The fight takes next to the main gate of the Bodaiji Temple, spiked in a fan of rocks. Features stones with ropes and Kanjis, skulls, rays directed towards the stones and the Palenke and Tangiers stones, floating under a bad energy, besides an eye in the center. Associated with Mizuki.
- Wii Virtual Console page
- Xbox Live Arcade page
- GOG Store page
- 60 sec commercial
- 30 sec commercial A
- 30 sec commercial B
- Neo Geo CD Gameplay Footage
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