Nakoruru Samurai Shodown
--The website dedicated to all Samurai Spirits fans--~ver5.0~

January Editorial

The Unrecognized Pioneer
by Daniel Martz(Default)

Ever since Street Fighter II struck the arcades with a blow so powerful as to change the course of gaming history, fighting games of all sorts have come out in every shape and size imaginable. Throughout the last few years, we've seen some very unique stabs at creating the ultimate fighting game, with each gaming company desperately trying to conjure up what gamers want to see most. However, not every company or gamer has agreed harmoniously on a single style of gameplay. There is no game which is perfect, and no game which cannot be improved in some way or another. Everyone has different tastes, and stemming from that truth was born many different legends in the fighting game industry. From the first stones laid down by Street Fighter II, a handful of titles would follow shortly thereafter, each of them creating a legacy of stories and characters which would flourish and grow over the following years. One the smaller, less popular titles, was a game based on SNK's Neo-Geo known as Samurai Shodown.

Featuring concepts which had never yet been seen in the fighting game universe, Samurai Shodown quickly drew a loyalist following into its Japanese, anime-based world. Created in 1993, it had the advantage of being one of the first games to follow Street Fighter II, giving it room for creativity and the chance to develop truly original gameplay. Some of its first-ever features to the gaming industry included: the ability the fight with weapons, the ability to run forward or hop backwards, and the ability to do more damage based on a power meter. It was the innovator of many new ideas and concepts, most of which would continue to shape and mold themselves into traits only found within the Samurai Shodown saga.

After a year, the sequel would arise with a similar combat engine, bringing with it more characters, more playability, and most of all, more strategy. By this time, Samurai Shodown 2 had so many features and elements of play which turned it into a "thinking man's game", that fans of other, more popular fighting games (such as Street Fighter II), found it difficult to make the transition between their genre of fighting, and the Way of Samurai Shodown. The forecast for SNK's hit title seemed to be a total success, and for a while, that seemed to be the case.

When Samurai Shodown 3 took root in 1995, it featured a totally redesigned combat engine with a vastly different feel and pace. At first glance, the only recognizable features from Samurai Shodown 1 and 2 were a few of the characters. Removing many features which were incorporated into the previous two titles, "Blades Of Blood", as it was named, offered many "replacements" to the missing quirks and concepts which initially made its predecessors so successful. One of the biggest disappointments to veteran Samurai Shodown players, was that many of the characters from the previous titles were not included in Blades of Blood. It seemed to many fans that with this new game engine, the series was headed downhill. Yet, there were still a few fans who saw potential in the engine which SNK was trying to popularize. The huge delays and massive recovery time seemed to take away from a lot of the action, but upon further inspection, appeared to be an even more innovative idea concerning fighting strategy. Attempting to focus on the more strategic levels of a fighting game, rather than the action-oriented, pattern-fighting, Blades of Blood incorporated a huge variety of stun times and delays for even "normal" attacks, so that any move which could potentially cause fair damage, could be countered in some way if it was blocked. This experimentation wasn't entirely successful, but it did pave the way for a "potentially" fantastic fighting game to take advantage of this strategically oriented game engine. SNK was in a difficult position, and began work on what they hoped would bring back honor to the Samurai Shodown name, and reclaim the fans who had gone ronin.

By 1996, the Neo-Geo was an ancient relic, and badly needed replacing. SNK had to work desperately with space limitations and inferior technology, trying its best to compete with the ever-growing technological giants, such as Capcom and Midway. Unlike the other game companies, SNK's lack of popularity did not allow it to afford a new game system every two years or so, and thus had to rely on its creativity and wits alone. And yet, still based on the few Neo-Geos left on the planet, in the dusty corner of a handful of arcades, Samurai Shodown 4 made its first appearance.

With its title named after the final boss in the first Samurai Shodown, "Amakusa's Revenge" brought with it a number of missing characters from the past, and added a whole array of new features while removing a few of the horribly disliked ones. Retaining the strategic game engine which begun in Blades of Blood, Amakusa's Revenge attempted to correct any unbalanced game flaws, and emphasized the stun times and delays like never before. SNK made the attempt to go all-out-strategy as far as fighting games go, and while this move cost them a few of the older fans, it rekindled the samurai passion inside many of the others, even bringing along some newer fans who were intrigued by the strategic uniqueness of the game. Despite the technological inadequacy, 4-button limitation, and overall inferiority of the Neo-Geo, SNK was still able to create a game which set itself apart from every other fighter-type out there, by using innovative ideas and artistic creativity. It is with this title, the fourth addition to the Samurai Shodown series, that SNK created a new genre of fighting game: the strategy/fighting game.

This would be the last chapter written on the Neo-Geo.

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