Samurai Shodown series
Retro Coin Op Synopsis
One-on-one fighting gamers had already been treated to special moves, hidden characters, team bouts and fatalities by 1993, but the start of SNK’s Samurai Shodown series gave them a brand new toy to play with—a shiny, sharp, pointy toy. It seemed like a simple step, but the addition of katana swords and other weapons gave Samurai Shodown a literal edge on the competition. Add to that a compelling story, intricate graphics and music, a dozen playable characters, animal pals and the addition of a new “POW” meter, and SNK had a major hit franchise on its armed, bloody hands.
Like most fighting games, Samurai Shodown had characters from several regions of the world. Some, like samurai Hattori Hanzo, were real figures from Japanese history. Others, like the extremely obese Texan ninja Earthquake, probably didn’t have any historical counterparts. But regardless of their background, these guys and girls came well-armed and well-trained.
The standard SNK NEO-GEO one-joystick, four-button control system allowed players to execute three levels of slash attacks and three levels of kick attacks. Used in the right combination, these controls unleashed a variety of powerful special moves, hacking and pummeling opponents into submission.
One of the more revolutionary aspects of Samurai Shodown was that the weapons behaved like actual weapons, not just extensions of the character’s body. They broke, they got knocked from players’ hands, and if a hand got chopped off in the heat of battle, the weapon went with it.
Samurai Shodown also introduced the idea of the “POW” meter, also known as the “rage gauge.” Set at the bottom of the screen, the meter filled up as players took hits or blocked attacks. When the bar filled up, that character’s strength was doubled, allowing nearly-dead fighters to battle back from the brink of elimination.
As always, players battled through fighter after fighter, working their way up to challenge the final boss, a warrior named Amukasa. After every few battles, a brief animated intermission moved the story along, giving players more of a reason to fight than simply, “Must win tournament to be champion.”
Samurai Shodown’s graphics, sound, features and play control were all praised by fighting game aficionados, who managed to tear themselves away from their Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II machines long enough to turn this SNK game into a genuine hit. The series continued through the rest of the 90’s, with each game adding new players, fancier moves and other innovations.
Samurai Shodown III introduced selectable character alignments of “chivalry” or “treachery” for each character. Fighters behaved differently under each alignment, effectively doubling the number of playable characters in the game. This third installment also allowed players to select their level of expertise—novice, intermediate or advanced—giving a little bit of extra help to those who needed it.
The next major revision came in 1997’s Samurai Shodown 64, the fifth arcade game in the series. Following in the footsteps of Virtua Fighter, Tekken and many others, the game now switched from 2-D to a polygon-based 3-D fighter. As always, new moves and new characters were added as the Samurai Shodown series continued on toward the close of the decade and beyond. And as long as kids still dream of being sword-wielding ninjas, samurai and other warriors, this popular series won't be bidding sayonara anytime soon.
Arcade Machine Release History1993 - Samurai Shodown
1994 - Samurai Shodown II
1996 - Samurai Shodown III: Blades of Blood
1996 - Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge
1997 - Samurai Shodown 64
1998 - Samurai Shodown: Warriors Rage II