Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge (サムライスピリッツ天草降臨, Samurai Supirittsu Amakusa Kōrin, released as Samurai Spirits: Amakusa's Descent in Japan) is the fourth game in SNK's flagship Samurai Shodown series of fighting games. Chronologically the game follows Samurai Shodown III, concluding the interlude introduced between the events of the original Samurai Shodown and Samurai Shodown II, and the fifth game of the original chronology.
The year, 1789.
As frost, floods, fires, and famine play havoc with the world, a sinister castle appears in the land of Shimabara. The lord of that castle is Shiro Tokisada Amakusa.
Having previously been resurrected from the realm of the dead, Amakusa was supposed to have been slain in the midst of his evil designs, but now he returns to subjugate the world of the living.
Having already engulfed the Shimabara peninsula, this castle of evil grows larger day by day. People soon call it "Amakusa Castle" and in their terror begin to revere it, hoping this will save them.
But little did they know that this act of desperation would only summon further misfortune....
Amakusa has returned for more trouble, this time taking over a castle in a jagged wasteland and kidnapping the sorceress-in-training Hazuki Kazama, Kazuki and Sogetsu's beloved younger sister, in order to use her as a power source. The power spreading from Amakusa's work catches the attention of various warriors who head in for a variety of purposes... and even Zankuro Minazuki also has a hand in the story.
After Samurai Shodown III was received more or less poorly by the fighting game community, SNK again went back to address the complaints, and tried to deliver a followup that would hopefully regain some of the magic that had made Samurai Shodown II such a hit.
The most obvious change is visual, with dramatically adjusted color palettes for the individual characters, generally brightening them up and reducing contrast, in the attempt to make the game more cartoonish. Aerial blocking was removed entirely, and the switch around move, which enabled a player to shift quickly behind the other's back, as well as the dodge (Evade; side-step) retained and retimed, in which the move virtually brings a semi-3D environment to the defense in attempt to use each sword more effectively.
Sword clashing now has a tap count indicator, showing who will win the brief match and who loses the weapon beforehand. This visual enhancement has been carried on to later sequels.
Following the same philosophy, some of the older characters were restored, such as Charlotte, Tam Tam and Jubei. The entire cast of the previous game also returns, though some have been retouched to further enhance the cartoonish look.
Joining the cast were the two ninja brothers:
- Kazuki Kazama - member of the Kazama ninja clan specializing in fire jutsu, he deserts to rescue his younger sister, Hazuki, from Amakusa's clutches. This brash action however imperiled his standing on his clan and is consequently branded a traitor marked for death.
- Sogetsu Kazama - older brother to Kazuki and Hazuki who uses water jutsu; unlike Kazuki, he stays with the clan and is ordered to assassinate his brother for leaving.
Overall, the game plays not terribly unlike SS3, but the feel is considerably different. Control has been loosened and more accurately modified, controller motions have been improved, overall damage has been reduced and one can no longer charge his/her own POW (rage) gauge. The off-screen delivery man was omitted entirely from the game. The biggest addition is probably the "CD Combo," wherein a player can press the C and D buttons together, triggering a strike that can be followed up by a sequence of button taps. The single-player mode now has a timer, as well. Only by reaching the final boss within a specified time limit can one see a character's ending.
In a slightly paradoxical move when compared to the brighter aesthetic, SNK also added in a "suicide" move (known in English-speaking fan circles as the "Honorable Death"), wherein one's character sacrifices his/her own life, thus forfeiting the round. The bonus to this is that the one committing suicide will start the next round with a full POW gauge. Certain finishes will also enable a "fatality" move in the vein of Mortal Kombat. This feature has been much-debated for its violent nature.
Critical and Fan Reception
By and large, the game was regarded as an improvement from the obviously-rushed SS3, though it has its share of detractors. Though the game is better balanced, the flow of it is still often regarded as lopsided for some characters, such as Nakoruru, Galford and Hanzo.
Common complaints include:
- There are animation cuts from the previous game (which can be also found in SS5SP.)
- The Upper Grade mode was almost as useless as the Beginner Grade mode was abusive for some characters.
- The lack of individual music themes for each character.
- Many moves from SS3 were inexplicably removed.
- For the first time in the series, the sprites were not redrawn from one game to the next.
In spite of this, it is still well-regarded, and debate over its quality continues in fan circles to this day.
Most commands of the moves were changed to follow a more-universal Street Fighter command format, especially for projectile, anti-air and expansion moves in the game.
Two novels were published for this game. One is written by Akihiko Ureshino while the other one is written by Takako Chizu. The latter is titled Majyo Kourin Amakusa Shinobi Hen (魔城降臨天草忍び変). Short dramas can also be found on the game's arranged soundtrack.
- This became the first Samurai Shodown title whose story prologue was left untranslated. This would be the norm especially in Samurai Shodown V and V Special. Even this game's 'bad ending' was left untranslated from Japanese.
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