Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits: Bushidou Retsuden (真説サムライスピリッツ武士道列伝), is a 1997 computer role-playing game for the SNK's Neo Geo CD system, and was also ported to the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. It was never released outside of Japan but a fan-translated English release is in development.
Main visuals and character designs were done by Shirou Ono. The insert song "Samurai na Yasu" was performed by Asuko Yamaoka and the ending song "Sora he" was performed by opera singer, Ken. A drama CD and two novels written by Rei Isaki were also made for this title.
The development history of the game is fairly storied. It was announced for development at the height of the Samurai Shodown series's popularity in 1995, and underwent many delays in the process, finally being released a few years later. For some time, rumors abounded that it was never going to come out.
As originally envisioned, the game was to be split into three episodes: one for each of the three games in the series. For a while, it was to be a Neo Geo CD exclusive, but developmental and financial pressures caused SNK to also release it for the other two current systems. In a somewhat inexplicable marketing move, SNK decided that each version was to contain only two of the three episodes, thereby necessitating a player to buy two copies of the game in order to get the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, this plan resulted in a significant backlash from fans, and was discarded.
Eventually, as development ground on, the executive decision was finally made to scrap the third chapter entirely, and focus solely on the first two, so as to allow the game to be released sooner. This may, in fact, be the only reason SNK's original two-chapters-per-version plan wasn't put into effect. Finally, it was released in mid-1997, to generally mixed reviews. While it was praised for its striking animation and 2D visuals, it was hampered by excessive load times. Despite this, speculations were made of a possible localized US release by Working Designs, but rumors proved false.
The basic setup of the game is very similar to most console RPGs, such as Final Fantasy. Your characters roam an overworld, enter towns and dungeons, and get into battles, which occur on a separate screen. The menu options enable equipping of armor and accessories, as well as use of items.
At the outset, the player is given the option to choose from six characters to be the "main" character of the story. They were Haohmaru, Nakoruru, Genjuro Kibagami, Galford D. Weller, Ukyo Tachibana, and Cham Cham. The basic outline of the plot did not diverge greatly for any of them, but each had different dialogue ingame, and each also had unique special scenes which would go into greater detail of the character. In addition, to better adjust to character continuity, certain stories were modified slightly based on the selected chapter. Over the course of the game, two other characters could also join your party (unless the hero is Genjuro who only gains a partner in his second story). The secondary characters who could join you were Charlotte Christine Colde, Rimururu, and Kyoshiro Senryo, as well as other "main" characters whom the player did not select at the outset. In addition, the second chapter also introduced a new character, a warrior by the name of Shippuu no Reon (疾風の鈴音), whose name translates roughly to "The Ringing of the Gale Winds." All of the first four Samurai Shodown games' characters make an appearance in Neo-Geo CD version, either as a temporary helper, plot device, and/or enemy. Other ports only include characters from the first two games.
From a game-mechanics standpoint, combat is not unlike Final Fantasy in most respects. Its most significant deviation from formula is that there is an option which enables the player to input the joystick motions for the various special moves manually, just as they were done in the arcade games, rather than simply selecting the moves from a list. For example, to do Haohmaru's Senpuu Retsuzan, or "Cyclone Slash" (旋風烈斬), one could do the standard "quarter-circle forward" motion of pressing down, down-right, and then right plus the attack button in sequence. This, combined with the overall speed of combat, makes for fairly engaging gameplay, as it requires one to remember the motions for a character's moves.
Tactically, the game ranged wildly (but steadily) in its overall difficulty. The second chapter is notably more difficult than the first, and the standard "attack" command is rarely useful, in comparison to the ubiquitous special moves. The characters are given an ample supply of "spirit points" with which to do these moves, and they are always needed, as they are typically the only things that are effective against most foes of equal or greater strength.
While armor and accessories could be bought and equipped, there are no weapons for sale anywhere. Each character has the same weapon throughout the game, and players could visit blacksmiths in the game to temper their weapons to make them stronger. These smiths could also infuse the weapons with one of the game's various elements, which would make the weapon's normal strikes and select special moves more effective against certain enemies, depending on which was chosen.
The various dungeons and overworld maps tended to be small in size, which compensated for the extremely high encounter rate. On average, in a dungeon/overworld, fights would begin every 3-5 seconds of movement (slightly more frequent while running). By playing through both chapters with a single character (not including load times), total game length was roughly 20-25 hours.
While the core gameplay is largely similar between the versions, certain aesthetic and gameplay differences between the Neo Geo CD and PlayStation/Sega Saturn versions suggest that the development may have been handled by two different development teams.
- The Neo Geo CD version has considerably more animation in the combat sprites than the Playstation and Saturn, including unique idle stances for each character, and specialized death animations for monsters.
- The Neo Geo CD version has more ornate and colorful menus, where as the Playstation and Saturn versions have fairly blank, purple-and-green menus instead.
- Motions in the Neo Geo CD version have a smoother look and feel than the others.
- In the overworld map, the Neo Geo CD version uses a scaled-down version of the dungeon/down character sprite. The Playstation version uses a new sprite entirely.
- The Neo Geo CD runs in its native resolution of 304x224, whereas the Playstation and Saturn run in 320x240.
- The Neo Geo CD version also includes a portal to Mizuki's hideout at Mount Osore that can be accessed before the end of the game in the second chapter.
- The Playstation and Saturn versions have significant animation cuts in the characters' walk/run animations.
- The Playstation version enables the player to select the strength of a normal attack after choosing a target, whereas the Neo Geo CD does not.
- The Playstation version shows an Active Time Battle bar, which the Neo Geo CD lacks.
- The Playstation version has higher-quality music than either of the other two versions, owing to higher-quality PCM samples.
The most obvious differences between the three versions are the bonus modes which are unlocked after beating the game.
- Neo Geo CD: A third "mini-chapter" is enabled, wherein the player controls Shizumaru as he wanders around, running into cameos appearances of various SNK characters from other games.
- PlayStation: A "side story" mode is enabled, which enables the player to view non-interactive sequences about many of the series's other characters.
- Saturn: An interview mode is enabled, which enables the player to view a lengthy, non-interactive sequence about the various characters (which frequently breaks the fourth wall). This bonus content is also available in the PlayStation version, by way of a hacked save file.
- Cham Cham - Sister of the Greenhell hero, Tam Tam, who goes to Japan to find the Palenke Stone. She battles Mizuki because she "needs to beat the bad guys".
- Charlotte - optional secondary character. If she joins with Haohmaru as the main hero in the second chapter, they will exchange a special conversation when she comes home to Paris.
- Galford - Upon just completing his training with Hanzo, his mentor's son, Shinzo, is possessed by Amakusa. He leaves alone to deal justice on Amakusa. He intends the same with Mizuki.
- Haohmaru - Whilst in Nicotine's dojo, he is confronted by Amakusa to join his forces. He refuses and gets beaten badly by Genjuro in a duel. When he awakens, he begins to wonder about his own potential, and leaves to vanquish Amakusa and find self-fulfillment. He honors his master's wishes and goes to slay Mizuki in his stead.
- Genjuro Kibagami - Humiliated by Amakusa for his preference for Haohmaru, he sets out to kill him. When Mizuki terrorizes the world, he decides to kill her from pure interest. Due to his arrogance, he is the only hero who does his story solo (the exception being Reon and his non-fighting pet in his party).
- Nakoruru - Much like her original origin story but with Rimururu present. When her father is killed by a wild bear, she goes to slay the source of the evil, Amakusa. Mizuki's revival again stirred trouble for Nature so she sets out to save it.
- Rimururu - optional secondary character. She will have special dialogue if the main hero who recruits her is Nakoruru.
- Kyoshiro Senryo - optional secondary character.
- Shippū no Reon - original character. Appears in Mizuki chapter as the mandatory third/second character. A woman ninja who has discarded her femininity to focus on her family's mission of eliminating Mizuki.
- Ukyo Tachibana - Ill and intending to ease his beloved Kei's worry, he leaves to find the ultimate flower for her pleasure. The flower he finds after Amakusa's defeat was genuine so as a favor for Caffine, he goes to slay Mizuki.
- Shiro Tokisada Amakusa - sorcerer who revives his role as main villain for the first chapter.
- Bizuki - original character; priestess who is eventually possessed by Mizuki.
- Gaira Caffeine - occasional guest party member, will have special dialogue if Haohmaru or Genjuro is the main hero.
- Nicotine Caffeine - sage advisor and occasional guest party member, will have special dialogue if Haohmaru or Genjuro is the main hero.
- Earthquake - minor villain; has special dialogue and scenes if Galford is the main hero.
- Haon - original character; the name of Bizuki's demon dog companion in RPG.
- Hanzo Hattori - occasional guest party member; will have special scenes if Galford is the main hero in the first chapter.
- Shizumaru Hisame - Neo Geo CD version bonus only.
- Kazuki Kazama - Neo Geo CD version bonus only.
- Sogetsu Kazama - Neo Geo CD version bonus only.
- Zankuro Minazuki - Neo Geo CD version bonus only.
- Basara - occasional guest party member in first chapter; optional boss in second chapter.
- Kuroko - cameo as stageman; acts as the "save point" for the game.
- Neinhalt Sieger - occasional guest party member; dies late in second chapter.
- Paku Paku - Cham Cham's pet monkey; in the first chapter, it's established that he is really Tam Tam. In Mizuki's story, it's unconfirmed whether it's still Tam Tam or her actual pet, Paku Paku.
- Poppy - faithful husky companion to Galford.
- Mizuki Rashojin - evil demon who acts as the villain for the second chapter.
- Reppu no Hion - original character; Reon's ancestor and companion of Bizuki.
- Genan Shiranui - minor villain.
- Tam Tam - appears briefly in the first chapter of Cham Cham's story; transformed into Paku-Paku.
- Tokihime - original character; younger sister of Amakusa's lover. Depending on the player's actions, her sister saves Amakusa's soul from Ambrosia.
- Ushiwakahime - original character; servant of Ambrosia but is commanded by Amakusa.
- Wan-fu - occasional guest party member.
- Jubei Yagyu - occasional guest party member; dies early in second chapter.
- Intro sequence
- Neo Geo CD gameplay footage
- Neo Geo CD omake footage
- Demo video of game's fan translation
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