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CONSOLE: Xbox 360 DEVELOPER: SNK Playmore PUBLISHER (NA): XSeed Games
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 30, 2010 GENRE: Fighting
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

From the makers of Cheese Grater: Sore Testicles and Knife In The Toaster...

SNK Playmore's Samurai Spirits has been extremely popular in Japan — and the original Samurai Shodown has got to be as old as Street Fighter II. I remember playing it on the Genesis and, even in my youth, I could see just how beautiful it is. It is a series of fighting games set primarily in Japan, with characters based on historical figures or characters directly descended from them.

It has a distinct look and feel, as a series. Just by principle this is one thing that, if missing, would result in a terrible game. It is a shame, because the very distinct look and feel IS missing in Samurai Shodown Sen. Much to my dismay, this is the first widely available game in the series that uses 3D graphics. Why does this bother me? Because the last attempt, Warriors Rage, didnt sell well for a reason! The reason is, it sucked! Speaking of which, Warriors Rage used to be the lowest point for this series...

With Samurai Shodown Sen, a lot has definitely been lost, visually. No, scrap that. Honesty is the best policy—this game is hideous. The description on Amazon.co.uk says, "This is the Samurai Shodown you've been waiting for! Its intricate graphics crafted to the minutest detail and brimming with realism are a must-see! Your pulse will pound to the thrill of true battle with images rivaling the latest in game machines." No. No they don't.

If these graphics indeed rival then current day arcade standards, then they need to go back to Lunar Lander and start over.

Sen's biggest issue, where graphics are concerned, is with character faces. They're jagged, sharp, and barely resemble their mugshots at all. And beautiful Nakoruru... what have they done to you?! Nakoruru does not resemble her sprites from the earlier games at all—her mugshot and character model, there's a huge difference between them. With such a distinct painted visual style going on with the artwork, would it have hurt to apply a similar filter to the characters and environments?

Perhaps I've been a little bit cruel about these graphics, and it's mainly because I'm so pissed off with the game itself—but just how bad can it be? Each of the 24 main characters has their own story and their own reason for travelling through Japan. Ten new characters join the fray, but several old characters return, such as Haohmaru and Nakoruru, Charlotte, Galford, and a few others. Each story results in having to fight a Nazi-esque European general named Golba and a shotgun-wielding bloke called Draco. BOTH BATTLES SUCK.


I feel like the hiccupping man in The Simpsons — HURK! KILL ME! HURK! KILL ME!

The controls are dreadful to the point where the simplest combo is very, very hard to pull off. Not to mention the massive pauses between every attack, deliberately lining up with the AI's moves perfectly at every possible opportunity. Playing on any difficulty other than Beginner, you will get your arse handed to you without a moment's notice. The L/R trigger slash moves can take a clean half-bar without any trouble whatsoever—and whereas the computer more or less always blocks these, I seem incapable of doing so.

The result? Less than five seconds of battle, and half a minute's loading. I don't understand quite what it has to load every time a battle begins, or why it can't be loading all of this from when you pick your character (as opposed to waiting a few seconds before doing so). This just isn't the right way to handle it.

You can squash the loading times down to about 10-15 seconds by installing the game to your hard-drive. But why dedicate space to this?! Also, just a small point. If your fighting game does not contain an Arcade Mode, then DO NOT offer CHARACTER CHANGE after choosing to continue.

One thing I do agree with is the returning ability to amputate various parts of your opponent's body with your final blow. Land it correctly, and you may chop their entire body in half or decapitate them rather cleanly. There are no incentives to try to go for removing their head, but it is satisfying when you succeed in doing so. After spending more time on loading screens than actually fighting, it is satisfying when your finishing blow against the final boss takes his head off, and a geyser of blood spills everywhere.

Although I say "play on Beginner", this won't save you from regular death. The final bosses are overpowered (like screen-sized Onslaught in Marvel vs. Capcom). This game makes me want to kill someone, but with controls like these, that's impossible.

This ugly beast should never have crawled out from under the rock it came. I'm surprised this game even got released outside of Japan; it just seems publishers license the wrong Japanese games, and then refuse to license the right ones. This game is best left where it belongs, on the shop shelf getting ignored in favour of "actual" games.

Its redeeming features are slim, and its appeal is low. For fans of the genre, there are far better games out there. Save yourself the time spent cursing and keep your root beer money for what it is supposed to be used for.

Sorry SNK, but you did a boo-boo. Try harder next time.


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