Samurai Shodown / Samurai Spirits (2019)

STORYIt is 1787, the 7th year of the Tenmei era. A newly appointed counsel to the Shogun, Matsudaira Sadanobu, has been chosen to usher in a new age of reform with the Kansei era. However, the land remains beset by fire, ruin, and famine, all while a sinister cloud darkens the air with a foreboding sense of dread.

A true reboot to one of the true OGs... Samurai Shodown is legendary.

ABOUTSNK announced this new installment Samurai Shodown on September 10th, 2018. A long awaited "true 2D sequel" to one of SNK's most cherished and classic fighting game franchises reunites the entire playable roster from the first game, reimagined in an all new 2.5D graphics (a series first) using the Unreal engine. In addition the the original cast, newcomers like Darli Dagger, Yashamaru Kurama, Wu-Ruixiang, and returning fan-favorites like Shiki, Basara, and Shizumaru also join the fray. After a decade-long absence, this long-awaited "reboot" of Samurai Spirits (or Samurai Shodown as we know it in the West) brings the series back into the spotlight with a June 2019 release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Classic match-ups reimagined in the new 2.5D graphics engine.


The initial launch roster included 16 characters: 13 veterans and 3 newcomers. New characters have been added to the game via DLC character packs. SNK surprised fans with a "100% free" Season Pass 1, which added returning characters: Rimururu, Basara Kubigiri, Kazuki Kazama and Wan-Fu. Season 2 has also been confirmed, which features Mina Majikina, Sogetsu, Iroha, and one other (unannounced) fighter. SNK stated early on that if the game sells well and has continued support by players, they will continue to release additional DLC characters, stages, and seasons.

Samurai Shodown (2019) modes include: Battle, Online, Story, Practice, Database, Gallery & Dojo (featuring a new Ghost AI system). The Ghost AI system is said to learn from each player's in-game habits, combos, and strategies. Other players can download and fight against the ghosts of their friends and online players. All characters have a full story mode playthrough featuring several cutscenes and beautifully hand-drawn endings!


Like the old time...


Samurai Shodown (2019)
introduces a brand new style of 3D graphics for SNK, using Unreal Engine 4. Visually, the characters and backgrounds retain the classic look and feel of the original 2D installments of the series. The "pace" and flow of the gameplay also looks and feels very familiar to the first 2 games of the series... with slowed-down attacks (after impact), exaggerated special move animations, large characters who fill the screen, and colorful, detailed backgrounds. Interestingly, Haohmaru's in-game face render even favors early Shinkiro artwork - definitely a throwback for old school SNK fans. 

Updated environments based on the classic stages look sharp as ever!


In the visuals department, SNK seems to have "upped their game" since 2016's style of 3D in The King of Fighters XIV, showing more impressive 3D graphics and animation capabilities. The 3D characters onscreen appear to utilize a variety of "filters" or graphical effects, with strong black outlines, unique textures and shaders, and blood-spatter effects. The overall animation, Ink-blot effects, particle-effects somewhat give off a similar vibe to 2009's "Street Fighter 4", but the vibrancy of SamSho's characters and the attention to detail regarding these classic character designs (and moves) definitely sets it apart from Street Fighter.

Everyone's favorite American ninja is back! Galford, not you... EARTHQUAKE!


Online Mode seems to have average-at-best, but playable netcode on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One (Google Stadia is unplayable so we don't have to talk about that). Samurai Shodown's online interface and features could use more polish and features, but practice mode and the staple options are there. Other modes like Dojo, Survival, and Ghost seem decent (although, the Ghost AI system seems broken and not functioning quite as advertised). TFG's full review is still in progress.

Page Updated: January 25th, 2020
Developer(s): SNK
Publisher(s): SNK
Designer(s): Nobuyuki Kuroki          Director / Art Director
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Arcade, Switch, Stadia, PC
Release Date(s): June 25th, 2019             /   PS4, XB1
June 27th, 2019
               PS4, XB1
Oct. 24th, 2019                Arcade
Nov. 19th, 2019             Google Stadia
Dec. 12th, 2019
Feb. 25th, 2020              /   Switch
TBA 2020                           Steam
Characters Haohmaru, Galford, Hanzo Hattori, Earthquake, Nakoruru, Jubei Yagyu, Genjuro Kibagami, Charlotte Colde, Kyoshiro Senryo, Shiki, Ukyo Tachibana, Tam Tam, Yoshitora Tokugawa, Darli Dagger, Wu-Ruixiang, Yashamaru Kurama, Shizuka, Rimururu, Basara Kubigiri, Kazuki (DLC), Wan-Fu (DLC), Shizumaru (DLC), Mina Majikina (DLC), Sogetsu (DLC), Iroha (DLC)

Featured Video:

Related Games: Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 2, Samurai Shodown 3, Samurai Shodown 4, Samurai Shodown 5, SS5 Special, Samurai Shodown 6, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown 64 - Warriors Rage, Samurai Shodown Pocket, SS2 Pocket, Samurai Shodown Warrior's Rage, Samurai Shodown Sen, Samurai Shodown Anthology, Street Fighter 4, Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition, The King of Fighters XIV, SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, Soul Calibur 6, Granblue Fantasy Versus, Under Night In-Birth EXE:Late[c-lr]
Early Review:

As a Samurai Shodown fan since 1993... I was excited when this was announced, but still skeptical about the new visual direction. I think the 3D visuals are well done, yet flawed in some areas... but when all is said and done, it's still Samurai Shodown at heart. An expandable engine & roster with lots of potential? Check. Is this Samurai Shodown at its very best? I'd lean towards "No"... but SS2019 is still very good in many ways. No, it definitely isn't as pretty as Samurai Shodown 2. (In fairness, there's no fighting game in existence as pretty as Samurai Shodown 2.) As a reboot of more than one of the most beloved SNK fighting games, SamSho(2019) has massive Ninja Tabi Boots to fill. {{Earthquake size}}.

is definitely one of the unsung heroes of the rise of the fighting genre in the 90's. No doubt old school fans from the arcade days have fond memories of this series. Samurai Shodown was always an underrated, yet major part of the genre's evolution, both artistically and technically. Seeing the series finally return to the spotlight in 2019 is another indication that we live in the best time period ever to be a fighting game player (whether you're taking full advantage of it or not). Old school and new school players, welcome back to Japan... it's time to get reacquainted with the Samurai Spirits.

While the series had a strong start in the 90's (with at least 3 amazing sequels), it struggled to stay relevant into the 2000s, with lackluster 2D and 3D iterations. It's been 10+ years since the last true sequel, Sen, which was disappointingly a mess in terms of gameplay, visuals, and other reasons I'd like to forget. That said, no other 2D fighting game series is more deserving of a true reboot right now as much as Samurai Shodown. (No, not even our beloved Garou: Mark of the Wolves. That game is perfectly fine staying 100% 2D.)

It's been a decade since the "rejuvenation of 2D fighters" with 2009's runaway hit, Street Fighter 4. Interestingly enough, Samurai Shodown never experienced a true 2.5D makeover. It's about damn time! While the visuals might seem "dated" in some areas and not nearly as flawless or charismatic as the original 2D spritework, SNK fans can still find much to love about the look of the 2019 installment. The PS4 version on a 1080p monitor looks like a early PS3 game; but the PS4 Pro version on a 4K TV is razor sharp! Even so, if you told me this game was actually made in 2008-2009... I'd believe you. Most importantly, it still looks and feels like a true 2D Samurai Shodown game... and it's fun. While some character proportions, animations, and the overall graphics style is a bit quirky, this 2.5D makeover does retain that nostalgic feel.

Even though I'm having fun with the game... from a technical standpoint, SS2019 lacks depth in my opinion and hasn't "evolved" the forward direction of the first 4 installments. I could go back to SS2 or SS4 and have the same (and arguably more dynamic) matches. Yes, the series always revolved around strong 2D fundamentals and neutral game. The combo system in SS2019 is particularly minimal (similar to SS2), so it's all about single powerful strikes, smart movement and well-timed trickery. It's fun... but it still shows its age in today's era of highly technical fighting games. I hope SNK decides to refine / develop the combo system further by giving characters more options & freedom... because currently, the constrictive combo system hinders the game's fun (and longevity) in my eyes. Do you really want to be limited to the same "3-hit combos" 2 years from now?

"Whatever bro, I just like to push buttons and play neutral game all day." Cool... but I mostly got that out of my system in 1994-1995. I personally enjoy the technical fighting games, with life or death relying on just frames and backdash canceling.   I like to see evolution - even from a classic reboot. For example, in 1996, Samurai Shodown 4 reinvented and evolved the traditional gameplay formula I just described by adding a variety of new maneuvers, attack angles, and longer, deadlier combos. Alas, Samurai Shodown 2019 is a step backwards technically (and some 2D purists would say visually, as well). I also greatly miss the added diversity of the Slash & Bust options of SS4.

For better or worse, Samurai Shodown (2019) has a low skill-ceiling. Players who aren't patient enough to le
arn combos in more technical fighters will probably claim to love this game. (But will they even play it long term? lol.) If you catch my drift, there are tons of long-term benefits for a fighting game that has a deeper combo engine - making those games fun and rewarding for years. I personally don't think I should be able to master a character's full combo potential in under 30 mins, but that's just me. While the mechanics are easy-peasy, the higher skill-level elements of the game are all about reads, calculated decisions, and risk-taking... like the old games. Fair enough.

What do I like the most about the new Samurai Shodown? A lot. For one, SNK put impressive polish into Story Mode... with beautifully hand-drawn character endings & some incredible cutscenes. The boss battle with Shizuka is awesome, and it seems like SNK intends to add more boss battles to the game (which would be sick!) In closing... this installment was respectable game at launch and has tons of potential. Great job SNK. Season 1 & 2 DLC characters are high quality additions so far, and I can't wait to see more! The fact that SNK announced a Season 2 before Season 1 is finished is definitely unorthodox, but also a pretty good sign of things to come. I'd love to see SNK still updating this game 2 - 3 years from now. 
~TFG Webmaster

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