Much like my sorted affair with the weird and wacky world of anime games, I have no idea what’s going on when it comes to fighting games. Leading me into an online match will have me annihilated, with such impressive footwork and stylish juggling that it’d put a circus to shame.
I’m far from a fighting game savant, but picking up Samurai Showdown I couldn’t wait to get stuck in. I was foolheartedly eager to see if this was finally the fighting game I would get and excel at… Or more aptly be able to button mash my way through.
Needless to say, I was taught a swift lesson by even the most basic AI, that button mashing wasn’t going to cut it. Much to my relief, thankfully, Samurai Showdown does have an in-depth tutorial to teach you everything you need to know, no matter how utterly awful you start off.
It’s a good thing it has one too, as Samurai Showdown is devilishly technical and precise, even with a limited move set on the surface.
If you’ve been around fighting games before, you’ll no doubt be happy to see the all-star cast of, light attack, medium attack, heavy attack, and kick, all chaperoned by a rage meter, for to beat your opponents to death with. Unlike other fighting games however it’s not all about button mashing combo’s that’ll have you enemies in pieces, but instead the brand-new world of finger flicking movement combos!
Despite my derision, this change does a lot to shake up how the game is played at an early stage, as positioning becomes vital to landing a hit, let alone securing victory. Pulling off these combos requires moments of standing still while you flick around the pad (or keyboard if you’re a monster) so distance and positioning is more than a question of whether an attack will hit, but if you’ve even got the space to swing.
For these attacks, unique to every character in the modest 16-character roster, the choice of light, medium, and heavy attack, defines more than just damage, as it all comes back to movement. The heavier the attack the more you’ll move during, which can leave you exposed if blocked, on top of the ever-present perils of being blocked.
Positioning and damage being intertwined adds a layer of depth to the attacks you use and elevates skill early on beyond plainly blocking and dodging attacks. It’s incredibly satisfying to master, or even just get to grips with, as the connected motion and combat feels fluid and cohesive in action, delivering spectacular results.
A strong sense of space and positioning isn’t the only important defense when it comes to Samurai Shodown’s combat loop. Blocking, while not as immediately essential as other fighters, is a deceptively simple mechanic, only needing to move in the opposite attacking direction, that takes some effort to master. Or, in my case, get alright at.
Unlike the simple one-button blocks of Mortal Kombat, SamSho rewards pushing through a high skill ceiling; for fighting game novices it may even feel counterintuitive to the intense combat ballet. However, with enough effort and patience, you’ll eventually feel like a true samurai.
[I’d just like to add that playing with an analogue stick feels wrong, as it adds a layer of imperfection to the otherwise precise and demanding controls. Trying to bounce the stick around, between intricate lightning fast movements is impedingly difficult and frustrating, leaving you feeling like it demands a fully-fledged flight stick. Or use a D-Pad.]
Thankfully, outside of intense online battles where blocking feels mandatory, you’re still able to have a good deal of fun with Samurai Showdown, as it has plenty of modes to offer. As you’d expect there are ever helpful training modes and offline modes against different assortments of AI. On top of this there’s also an asynchronous online mode, where you fight AI controlled opponents, trained on player’s fighting style as a wonderful online-lite that’s in some way beatable!
Disappointingly, the story mode Samurai Showdown offers is lacklustre at best. Outside of a brief opening spiel that’s subtly different for each character, and a single rival battle during, there’s practically no story to speak of. With no narrative or explanations to the vague gesturing of a plot, there’s little to separate the dedicated story mode, to any AI bout which is sorely underwhelming. Compared to the fantastic story modes of Mortal Kombat or Injustice, it’s a disappointment.
Even without being a fighting game connoisseur, I can tell that Samurai Showdown is onto something great. Not only does it feel incredible to play, outside of a few gripes, but there’s intricate mechanical depth for mastery, all while offering a new twist on a genre that’s often comfortably samey.
If you like the sound of Samurai Shodown PC, check it out on the Epic Games Store.