Jahanzeb Khan
08 Jul, 2010

Samurai Shodown Sen Review

360 Review | A showdown that will soon be forgotten.
Fighting games are back in style, with names like Street Fighter, The King of Fighters, Marvel vs Capcom and Mortal Kombat making dramatic returns and sending shockwaves as they did over a decade ago. If there is one thing that revived the tried and tested fighter, it’s online gaming. It has given new life to the genre by allowing fighting fans to compete against players from all over, no longer solely rely on their small circle of rivals. Oddly enough it’s the classic 2D fighting franchises that are big these days, and joining this bandwagon is the Samurai Shodown franchise with the recent Xbox 360 release, Samurai Shodown Sen.

The Samurai Shodown franchise is primarily a 2D weapon-based fighter, and holds a reputation of having the most technical and challenging fighting system and mechanics. Samurai Shodown Sen however is a 3D fighting game, and it marks franchise’s 3rd 3D venture.

The game features a reasonably large character roster of 26 characters, with 24 available from the start and the remaining two being unlockable boss characters. It features just about all the fan favourites such as Haohmaru, Ukyo, Nakoruru and Charlotte, as well as plenty of newcomers like Takechiyo, Angelica and Suzu. The cast is diverse with each having their own unique fighting style and being a weapon-based fighting game, every character has a trademark weapon. You will, however, notice that several of them use the classic samurai sword, but thankfully they each use it in a different style and manner. A variety of Eastern and Western weapon classes and fighting styles are covered. One odd case is a new character named Draco, a westerner who was the only one smart enough to bring a powerful rifle to a sword battle. Furthermore, the characters are divided into four classes: Power, Speed, Skill (relatively more challenging to use) and Tricky (such as Galford and Hanzo, who use unorthodox techniques like teleportation). Overall, the roster is satisfying with plenty of different character types, weapons and fighting styles to experiment with.

The character roster is diverse, with plenty of familiar faces.

The character roster is diverse, with plenty of familiar faces.

Samurai Shodown Sen borrows heavily from Soul Calibur, as it has similar elements such as 3D movement, horizontal and vertical slashes, a single kick button and even a similar combo system. That aside, it has some of its own unique gimmicks and the spirit of a traditional Samurai Shodown game.

The trademark Rage System is present in this installment, where you fill up a rage gauge as you take damage. When full, you can then activate a ‘Rage Explosion’. This will put your character into a temporary state that grants additional strength and a Rage Super attack. Another powerful technique is the ‘Desperation Slash’ that can only be performed when the health bar is low and flashing red. This a powerful single-hit strike which deals roughly 80% damage but can only be performed once per round. Speaking of super moves, most of the trademark Samurai Shodown special moves have been retained. For example, Nakoruru can still summon her pet hawk during battle and Haohmaru can still pull off his shoryuken style sword uppercuts . Each character also possess a strong unblockable/guard breaking maneuver. Finally, the game has some fatality kills (similar to Mortal Kombat) which can only be performed if you end the final round of a battle with a powerful special move or heavy weapon strike. As a result, you can chop an opponent's arm or head off or even cut them in half.

Samurai Shodown Sen, while borrowing much its core base mechanics from Soul Calibur, still plays a lot differently. For one thing, the battles require a very calculated approach and where button mashing will do very little to save you. This game is all about well timed and decisive blows, so much that you could end a fight using just 3-4 strikes. It’s a game where good timing and tactics are everything, where every step and strike counts, as one small blunder could spell defeat. Sure, you can string together some fancy and elaborate combos but the game rewards you more on the precise execution of blows. The ‘Desperation Slash’ attacks and the strong sword strikes can quickly change the tide of battle, often resulting in instant victory. All these elements make Samurai Shodown Sen a highly technical weapon-based fighter. What’s interesting is that the combat system and mechanics in place are extremely simplistic and quite easy to learn, especially with every character having the same input command for ‘Desperation Slash’ and Rage Supers, thus putting more focus on battle tactics.

One sharp and decisive blow can change the tide of battle.

One sharp and decisive blow can change the tide of battle.

While all of this sounds very fancy and good, there are several fatal flaws that ruin the game. First off, the game is downright unplayable with the Xbox 360 controller, so if you’re going to play this game, then you need a specialised fighting game controller. Sadly, even with a proper controller the core gameplay feels very stiff and quite unresponsive at times, and it lacks the fluidity and flow that such a fighting game should have. There are many occasions where an input command will not respond due to lack of sensitivity and responsiveness. The move animations and hit detection can be really off at times, making the pace of action disjointed and awkward. As far as character balance goes, the game suffers a lot as most of the new faces haven’t been given the same attention and treatment as the old fan favourites. The new characters feel a bit rushed in terms of their move set and overall design. Some characters have been given an impressive and powerful Rage Super move while some have a Rage Super that looks like a standard strike, so it would have been nice if everyone had been given the same treatment. These are some really glaring flaws that ruin an otherwise competent fighting experience.

A special mention goes to the final boss character, Golba, which is without a doubt one of the most retarded names we have ever heard. The boss himself is as moronic as his name, with his lame design and infuriatingly cheap tactics. SNK video games have always featured severely over powered and cheap final bosses, and Golba joins the ranks as one of the most annoying of the lot. You will despise him with all your heart.

Graphically, Samurai Shodown Sen is underwhelming. The graphics are too dark in general and the animations are choppy, the textures are weak, the arenas are dull and the character models are plain ugly and bland. It looks almost like a late Dreamcast game and not even one of the good looking ones. The soundtrack is forgettable, with generic oriental music and some really out of place wild west music.

Far too many shortcomings ruin an otherwise decent fighter.

Far too many shortcomings ruin an otherwise decent fighter.

As a package, Samurai Shodown Sen is as bare bones as it gets. Game modes include story mode, survival mode, versus mode and a practice mode that doesn’t really help. There really isn’t much content and the main unlockables are the two boss characters. Also available is an Xbox Live mode with the ability to record and save matches. Unfortunately, this remains untested as we could not find a single soul online to play against, which goes to show that this game has a non-existent community as everyone is obviously busy playing the fantastic Super Street Fighter IV.

Samurai Shodown Sen is far from being a failure, but at the same time it’s even further away from being great. The game does a lot of things right with its large and diverse character roster as well as its highly technical and interesting gameplay, but there is a clear lack of polish as the gameplay suffers from several glaring flaws. As a package, it’s as bare bones as a fighting game release can get as it is lacking in any substantial content. Even with an online mode in place, there is virtually no community for it, meaning that you won’t be playing this game for long. New comers are better off getting the excellent Samurai Shodown II off Xbox Live Arcade, for an authentic Samurai Shodown experience.
The Score
Samurai Shodown Sen is a competent weapon-based fighting game with some unique gameplay mechanics. Unfortunately, it suffers from far too many shortcomings to make it worth recommending. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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3 years ago
Loving the thumbnail, Jahanzeb.

PALGN wrote
First off, the game is downright unplayable with the Xbox 360 controller
It's my opinion that most, if not all fighting games are unplayable on the 360 controller because of it's shocking D-Pad. (I'm an Analog nub.)

Samurai Showdown has so much potential. If they made Samurai Showdown in the same manner as say... BlazBlue - 2D with large drawn sprites, I think SNK would have a winner on their hands.
3 years ago
It's my opinion that most, if not all fighting games are unplayable on the 360 controller because of it's shocking D-Pad. (I'm an Analog nub.)
Correct, but 3D fighting games are generally quite playable with the Xbox 360 pad (Tekken Soul Calibur and DOA especially), and this game is by far the most difficult one to play using the Xbox pad.

Yea a new Samurai Shodown game that uses the BlazBlue..or even the new KOF engine, would be amazing. I recommend getting Samurai Shodown II off XBLA or better yet, try getting Samurai Shodown Anthology (PSP, PS2 and Wii). That one has all the 2D ones, including my personal favourite Samurai Shodown IV.
3 years ago
They style just isn't Samurai Shodown. They should have a) made it 2D and b) made it a digit title.

Ah well, at least KOF XIII is looking promising.
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  4/1/2010 (Tentative)
  All Interactive Entertainment
Year Made:

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