If you’re not keen on learning by jumping into the fray and taking your lumps, Samurai Shodown likely won’t do much for you. But when there’s another player facing you down, Samurai Shodown’s bouts are a fantastic mix of fighting disciplines. It’s accessible, nuanced, and flashy, and the ways it asks you to bet big to win make matches as exciting as they are tense.
And it's the fighting where Samurai Shodown really shines, delivering a spin on the series that's approachable, deep and full of flair. Put the package next to the likes of Mortal Kombat 11, or Street Fighter 5 in its complete edition, and Samurai Shodown comes up seriously short. It has style in excess, though, and a swagger that is unmistakably, winningly old-school SNK. What a glorious thing it is.
For as much as Samurai Shodown manages to successfully modernize the classic fighting series and recapture the tension of its high-stakes duels, in other ways it remains woefully in the past. The archaic story mode and long load times are a bummer, but in the areas where it matters the most, Samurai Shodown shines as a fundamentals driven fighter that can appeal to players of all skill levels with its easy to grasp combat, wonderful cast of characters, and deep mechanics.
Above all, Samurai Shodown proves that SNK still has its fighting spirit. King of Fighters XIV wasn't an accident and it seems like any future games won't be, either. Now we just need to get Capcom back on track.
In the age of undying media, when everything is recycled forever to keep an overwhelmed audience committed, sometimes even good work has to be mercenary. In calling its new game simply Samurai Shodown, SNK has made an honest declaration rather than a crass attempt to curry favor. This game is not a Samurai Shodown remake, nor is it truly a soft reboot. It is an old warrior returned after years of pilgrimage, its name newly earned and seasoned, its skills acuminated to a point so fine it’s invisible to the naked eye.