Samurai Shodown / Samurai Spirits

STORY:  Plagues of unknown origin, strange phenomena, repeated outbreaks of war: these were enough to cause panic and plunge people into despair. But one smiled as he surveyed the unfolding chaos rending the world asunder.  For this "man," once slain by the forces of the Tokugawa Shogunate, hate for the Shogunate is all he possesses along with newly acquired dark powers to bring it down. 

This "man," Amakusa Shirou Tokisada, unleashes his unworldly forces and spreads his false creed in an attempt to lead the world to ruin. But in the midst of such calamities, there were still warriors who put their beliefs to the test. These warriors spurred by different motives and beliefs converge as if drawn together, battle, and make their way to the source of the chaos.


Hattori Hanzooooo!

REVIEWSamurai Shodown (known as Samurai Spirits in Japan) is a 2D fighting game released in late 1993, rivaling the likes of Capcom's long-running fighting series, Street Fighter 2. Instead of fighting with fists, each of the characters of Samurai Shodown fight with a unique weapon. Each fighter utilizes their own distinguishable play style, some of which comparable to other fighting game characters we've seen, but the designs of Samurai Shodown are truly unique (and overflowing with personality). Many of the characters are also based on real-life historical figures such as Miyamoto Musashi (Haohmaru), Amakusa Shirou Tokisada and Hanzo Hattori.


Iza Jin Jou ni... Ippon ne, Shoubu!


The characters of Samurai Shodown are colorful, intricately designed, and play their part very well in this epic little title. The whole roster really comes together as "one" and is very balanced from a design standpoint. Some fighters also have animals that tag along with them, such as Nakoruru's hawk and Galford's dog. Their animal friends can even be used to attack their opponent in the midst of battle... yet another innovative gameplay element to the fighting genre. 

Samurai Shodown
is responsible for introducing the "Rage" gauge (or "POW" gauge) to the fighting game genre (which ended up appearing in several other fighting games, years later). Basically, the more damage your character takes, the more damage they can deal out (for a limited time). The Rage system is a strategic element of the gameplay that can really turn the tide of a battle.


I miss old school 2D blood...


Another distinctive element that stands out in Samurai Shodown are the characters featured in the background who interact with the gameplay. Firstly, Kuroko (the ump) attentively watches the duel from the sidelines. Kuroko doesn't actually play a part in the gameplay besides starting the fight, but he does add to the mood and setting of every stage. However, there is a muslcy bloke from the background (unnamed) who runs across the stage and tosses an item into the foreground. This item ranges from food (to increase a players health) to money or items (for 'useless' points - but hey, it's points).

As colorful and "cartoony" as Samurai Shodown may look, this isn't really a game for kids. Samurai Shodown proudly features "deaths" at the end of duels (if that last move hits just right). Deaths seem random and don't happen every time, but if you win with the right "style," your opponent will be cut in half, or have a fatal wound and drop to the ground after a large amount of blood sprays into the air. In any case, the fatalities at the end of the match are stylish, are done tastefully, and add that extra touch that makes victory even sweeter.


Page Updated: September 8th, 2021
Developer(s): SNK
Publisher(s): SNK
Artwork by: Eiji Shiroi
Platform(s): Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, 3DO, Game Gear, Game Boy, PlayStation, PS2, PSP, XBL, XB1, PSN, PS4, Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo Switch
Release Date(s): July 7th, 1993                      Arcade
Aug. 11th, 1993                NeoGeo
Sep. 9th, 1994                   NeoGeo CD
Sep. 22nd, 1994                  SNES
November 1994                  SNES
Nov. 19th, 1994                  Genesis
1994                                        /   Genesis
Feb. 10th, 1995                   3DO
1995                                          3DO
Mar. 26th, 1998                  PS1 - Kenkaku Shinan Pack
May 30th, 2007                   PSN
Oct. 16th, 2007                   Wii Virtual Console
June 16th, 2008                   Wii Virtual Console
December 2016                 PlayStation 4
July 20th, 2017                   Nintendo Switch
Characters Haohmaru, Ukyo, Galford, Hanzo, Kyoshiro, Gen-An, Earthquake, Wan-Fu, Nakoruru, Charlotte, Jubei, Tam Tam, Amakusa, Kuroko

Featured Video:

Related Games: Samurai Shodown 2, Samurai Shodown (2019), Samurai Shodown 3, Samurai Shodown 4, Samurai Shodown 5, Samurai Shodown 5 Special, Samurai Shodown 6, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown 64 - Warriors Rage, Samurai Shodown Pocket, Samurai Shodown 2 Pocket, Samurai Shodown Warrior's Rage, Samurai Shodown Sen, Samurai Shodown Anthology, Street Fighter 2, Super Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat 2, Fighters History, Fatal Fury Special, Eternal Champions, World Heroes 2

Gameplay Engine  9.0 / 10
Story / Theme  10 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.5 / 10
Animation  9.0 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  9.5 / 10
Innovation  10 / 10
Art Direction  9.0 / 10
Customization  7.0 / 10
Options / Extras  8.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  9.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  9.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  9.5 / 10
Characters  10 / 10

 9.3 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words:

Samurai Shodown really stood out in 1993 among other fighting games at the arcades (even years after its release), which was no easy feat, considering some of the fierce competition. Samurai Shodown's exceptional art style, sharp gamepaly, great music, and convincing theme make this title a true SNK gem... and truly unlike any other 2D fighting game out there.

The original Samurai Shodown was one of the most innovative titles to come from SNK in the early days, paving the way for some some excellent sequels to come. For one, Samurai Shodown 2 built upon everything that was great about the first game... and even more imporessive is that SNK's artists actually updated and redrew the entire cast with new character sprites (unlike Capcom's SF2 series).
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen