Samurai Shodown V / Samurai Spirits Zero

REVIEWThe groundbreaking and iconic Samurai Shodown series had an incredible start, but has arguably been a "sleeper" fighting game series in recent years. After the first two games, Samurai Shodown III and IV presented a brand new style of 2D sprites and a "darker" tone. Samurai Shodown V continues the same visual style as the two most recent prequels but presents somewhat brighter and more fantasy-like vibe. The long awaited fifth installment of the series doesn't look entirely different from its predecessors, but it does introduce a great variety of newcomers and the largest number of playable characters in the series to date. 

Unlike the more serious tone the last two installments put forth, Samurai Shodown V seems to push the "fantasy" element of the series. Quite a few of SSV's newcomers aren't as much "samurai" as they are cartoony / anime / or just plain odd. While newcomers like ladies-man samurai Yoshitora and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon-inspired Yunfei are cool additions, others such as Kusaregedo and the Enja / Suiji sprite-clones make it almost feel like I'm not playing Samurai Shodown anymore. In my opinion, and as a huge fan of every installment since the first Samurai Shodown... most of SSV's new characters "confuse" the theme of the game and arguably pollute the more traditional roots of the series. 


Samurai Shodown 5 Character Select Screen.


Samurai Shodown 5
looks and plays very closely to SS3 and SS4... which isn't a bad thing, but does the game earn the right to be called Samurai Shodown 5 for only a few gameplay tweaks and a few new characters? (This is starting to feel like KOF, or even the old SF2 days). In many ways, SSV really is "more of the same," and feels a bit rushed as well. The presentation doesn't match up to that of the earlier incarnations, such as the epic Samurai Shodown 2 or the dark and moody Samurai Shodown 4. The original Japanese arcade version of SS5 features a substantial amount of dialogue in single-player mode, but all of which is strangely emitted when the game's language is set to English. Disappointing indeed. The good news is that the Xbox version restores these scenes and translates them into English.


"I'm tired of fighting all you sprite clones."  -Haohmaru


Nobuhiro Watsuki (of Rorouni Kenshin fame) designed some of Samurai Shodown 5's new characters. While some fit the bill, a few of the newcomers just don't seem to fit in, namely the huge and disturbingly ugly pot-bellied demon, Kusaregedo. Then there's the anime moe archer-girl, Mina, who some might argue doesn't "fit the mold" as a Samurai Shodown character (but I find a bit more tolerable). Mina is also seriously overpowered in the game thanks to her cheap projectiles (so traditional SamSho fans have another reason to hate her). Worst of all, there are now far too many "alternate versions" of characters in Samurai Shodown thanks to the "sprite clones". In a nutshell, there are actually 2 Nakorurus, 2 Haohmarus, 2 Kazukis, 2 Sogetsus, (plus 2 Ukyos and 2 Genjuros if you count the sub-boss sprite edits). I respect SNK for trying to add many new faces to the roster... but the end result just seems LAZY. 


Mina is a cool character... but so damn cheap.


On the bright side, SSV still manages to feel like Samurai Shodown at its core... and it's still pretty fun to play at a "basic" level. Unfortunately, the innovative and strategic Slash and Bust options from the prequels (two versions / move-sets for each character), were removed.... Boooooo. Another missing element are the trademark "Fatalities" which were removed from the game entirely. (I can only vouch for the arcade version here, as I have not played the PS2 ports or any other version). The stylish ending of a bloody duel that the Samurai Shodown series was known for, was taken out of SS5. (This was later fixed in the update, SS5 Special). Removing such an iconic visual element of the series is pretty unforgivable and just kills the excitement and suspense of bouts. SNK seldom disappoints me, but they definitely disappointed me with SSV.


Why isn't generic samurai dude playable?  T__T

Visually, SSV's colorful character sprites and backgrounds still have plenty of charm... but returning characters in particular definitely look dated, especially since many of them have been around since Samurai Shodown III (1995). Most of SSV's backgrounds are completely new, at least, and do look rather nice. Character animation is still smooth as a whole, and all characters look great in motion (except for that fat, stupid-ass Kusaregedo). Sorry, I just can't get past that ugly monstrosity. I want to stop playing the game as soon as Kusaregedo is on the screen. All in all, SS5 isn't a total disaster, but in some form or another... will most likely be a disappointment to many long-time fans.

If you like Kusaregedo... we can't be friends.



Page Updated: March 17th, 2023
Developer(s): Yuki Enterprise
Publisher(s): SNK Playmore
Designer(s): Nobuhiro Watsuki    (New Character Designs)
Platform(s): Arcade, NeoGeo, PS2, PSP, PSN, Wii, Xbox
Release Date(s): Oct. 10th, 2003          Arcade
Dec. 11th, 2003
April 15th, 2015        PSN
Characters Haohmaru, Ukyo, Hanzo, Nakoruru, Genjuro, Kyoshiro, Shizumaru, Gaira, Rimururu, Basara, Sogetsu, Kazuki, Tam Tam, Charlotte, Galford, Poppie, Jubei, Rera, Rasetsumaru, Suija, Enja, Yoshitora, Kusaregedo, Mina Majikina, Yumeji, Sankuro, Yunfei, Gaoh

Featured Video:

Related Games: Samurai Shodown V Special, SSV Perfect, Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 2, Samurai Shodown 3, Samurai Shodown 4, 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, The Last Blade, The Last Blade 2, Samurai Shodown (2019)

Gameplay Engine  7.5 / 10
Story / Theme  7.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.0 / 10
Animation  7.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  8.5 / 10
Innovation  5.5 / 10
Art Direction  7.5 / 10
Customization  7.0 / 10
Options / Extras  6.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  5.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  7.5 / 10
Characters  8.0 / 10

 7.5 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words:

SSV might be my least favorite Samurai Shodown installment, which was rather disappointing at the time since I was actually looking forward to this game when it was announced (as a huge fan of SS2, SS3, and SS4. The game definitely had big shoes to fill, but didn't even come close to living up to any of the prequels since it reused so many aspects and didn't deliver much in the way of new. SSV isn't a terrible 2D fighting game at its core when compared to certain other 2D fighters, but when compared to SNK's top fighting games, SSV leaves much to be desired.

I actually played the arcade version of SSV the first week it launched (and abruptly went back to playing SS2 and SS4 online to drown my sorrows). If there's one thing I like about SSV, it's the new backgrounds... which are quite beautiful and nicely drawn. However, you don't judge a 2D fighting game entirely by how pretty the backgrounds are. SSV's music and the art style is decent, but aren't enough to save the game from its lack of innovation, gameplay flaws, lazy shortcuts, and mixed bag of new character designs.

On the brighter side of things, the updated version Samurai Shodown V Special fixed several of the original game's major flaws, making for a far more playable and enjoyable 2D fighting game. Check out my full review of SSV Special for more!
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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