When I recently got a PlayStation 4 I had games on deck: Spider-Man, God of War 4, Uncharted 4, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Red Dead Redemption 2 (R.I.P. Arthur Morgan). My girlfriend and I would take turns playing but we both knew the time would come when we’d have to get a 2-player game, which more than likely would be a fighting type. Now, I like to get my fighting a bit different. Tekken, Injustice, and Mortal Kombat are too stiff for me, I need the flexibility of Street Fighter with the big weapon energy tension of Soul Calibur. I considered our options until I saw SNK’s trailer saying Samurai Shodown was back. Yeah, the decision was made for me right then and fucking there.
First off, I remember the original Samurai Shodown on SNK. I liked it but wasn’t great at it, so the trailer for the remake made me want to buy this shit and become a master. My Ronin, they opened the trailer with Haohmaru back on his bushido code bullshit set to an 18th-era remix of DMX and Swizz Beat’s Ruff Ryders’ Anthem. *steps away from keyboard in disbelief* Sold. That’s it, you ain’t even gotta say no more, but Samurai Shodown still had more to say! They gave gameplay and characters’ super moves set to this remix and then had the gall to say, “Focus your mind, draw your blade, and embrace death!”. *slams open palm on table* That’s what I’m talking about! *clenches fist* That’s what the fuck I’m talking about!. That’s how you tagline a video game. This is the type of fight I live for. No guns. No long-ass combos. Just blade-to-blade beef. I gotta be able to #EmbraceDeath to test my blade’s mettle? That’s what winning calls for?! Sign. Me. Up.
Samurai Shodown is ’bout that Hot Girl Summer?!
After I hit the tutorial I’m in versus mode against said girlfriend, Tasha, and she picks this new character named Darli Dagger. Listen, when Darli Thee Stallion stepped out to bust my ass some’n fierce with her big ass saw, I knew she had to be on my main squad. Y’all don’t hear me. My girl is a shipwrecked orphan raised by pirates, coming out here all Black everything with locs, an array of sashes, bandanas, in the fresh ass boots with pearls round the ankles, all while wielding a giant fucking saw named Libertalia? What?! The bad bish energy is over 9,000! SNK made it a point to have Darli be strong as fuck, dark-skinned, and leader of a group of all-women carpenters.
“Giving a large saw to a muscular male character didn’t feel distinct enough, which is why we decided to make the character a powerful and strong-willed female with African roots, a region not usually represented in the Samurai Shodown series.”- Nobuyuki Kuroki
SNK, I see you and you’re doing beautiful work, sweetie. My favorite thing about Darli Dagger is that her saw can turn into a giant hammer. Ugh, the stunt! Darli is who I use to set the pace and get all up in your fuckin’ face with pressure. You see the size of her saw? The crown ain’t worth much ’cause Darli here to whip ya head clean the fuck off, boi. She also has the meanest pose. She fucking stomps her foot down for a barrel of rum to drop, punches that shit open, and takes a swig. Y’all don’t hear me! Darli stomps you out then drives the boat over you.
I. Fucking. Stan.
If you got fear in your heart, you already lost
The best thing about this game is the frustration each round has. There aren’t many combos in this game, so things get technical and when that health meter gets red, it’s hard to keep a cool head. If you wanna rush in and wreck shop, you’re more than welcome, just be sure you know your character ’bout that life as well. This game is about timing, reach, and adapting on the fly, my gamer. Each character has a special weapon-flip move to disarm your opponent, a rage meter to strengthen your attacks or use as a lightning blade attack to cut your opponent’s health, and a super special that can take out half an enemy’s life. Problem is, you can only use these once, and if you miss…thas yo ass. The game comes easy to learn, but ain’t nobody taking it easy on you when it’s time pull the steel out.
If you get anxiety in tense situations, then this might not be the game for you. Round 1 starts out all jokes but you know it’s getting serious when everyone gets real quiet and starts leaning forward. That tension in the air only gets relieved when that fade is achieved. There have been so many instances where I’m fighting friends and they have a damn Horton Hears a Who-sized Whoville speck of life left, but I’m in the red, so now I’m nervous they might use a special to steal the win or embrace death to rally a comeback. You really gotta be one with your deity to play this game ’cause, I’ll say it again, Samurai Shodown will test your blade’s metal. Hence why I got a Big Three for my mains: Darli Dagger Thee Stallion, The Seven Sword Playboy Tokugawa Yoshitora, and Emo Sick Boy Who’s Really Sick Boi, Tachibana Ukyo.
That nostalgia hit different in Samurai Shodown
When I told fellow staff member Jordan Calhoun that Samurai Shodown was back, he didn’t lose a step, I could hear his excitement through the screen.
Jordan: Samurai Shodown was my shit, man. Did they bring back Galford with the fucking Husky? And Hanzo?!
Me: You ask questions you already KNOW THE ANSWER TO! And we back. WE BACK!
Jordan: I think Samurai Shodown was the last fighting game that made me cry. This one dude Darshawn from down the street beat my ass. And I was too young, I couldn’t handle it. Told him he was cheating. This was before I was hardened. He beat the shit out of me yo, beat me like 5 times in a row. I walked away changed. “Them 5 shots done created a monster. Hell’s Kitchen coming straight outta Compton…”
Jordan: I sincerely cried, man. The frustrated tears, too. The fucking angry tears. I must’ve been like 12 maybe? Somewhere between 10 and 12 years old.
Me: Accused him of cheating… worst thing you could possibly do.
Jordan: That’s when you’re like, I’ma win this time, and you really mean it, and then you learn there’s some things in life you just can’t control. That was my worst moment of fighting game shame, man. When you accuse someone of cheating. I was so mad, man. I feel like I need to play the new one so I can round it out. Make a connection from the original to the new one. *watches trailer* Sold. 5 seconds in and I’m sold. My eyes just watered at the Hanzo Hattori suplex. That’s how he killed me, man. Fuck that guy, man. I’ma find him.
Clearly, Jordan had some ghosts of his Samurai Shodown past to exorcise. He was over the next day to join Tasha and me. Mans came ready to embrace death. Dude was figuring out the mechanics then entered rage mode to do a super special move and still had time in his rage mode afterward. I had the game for a week and ain’t even thought of doin’ that. Jordan was on some sicko shit… and that’s the beauty of this game! I love seeing the type of fighters that my friends are. It forces me to have to adapt my style of play based on them and who they’re choosing. When playing against Tasha, she will muscle through moves with Genjuro with no fear in her heart whatsoever.
You see this shit?
When she brings Charlotte out, I know she’s in her killer instinct mode. She’ll pick her spots before pouring the pressure on non-stop. I knocked her weapon away once thinking I had the upper hand and that she’d back down… My dude, she came at me with straight up “ain’t shit change” energy. Gave my guy all the high heel action to the body.
Who does that?!
Don’t think I’m not on one out here tho…
Jordan’s fights with Galford like he’s searching for Bobby Fischer. It becomes a very stressful chess match of high or low attacks and blocks to find an opening. I don’t even fuck with chess like that but here I am trying to move my sword to and through G7 and take his rook’s spleen before he does the same.
If we’re being technical or Bret The Hitman Hart about it
No Weapons? No f’n problem!
I’m not even going to try and hide my bias for this game at all. Samurai Shodown brings that tension back to the fighting genre that’s been missing. There’s nothing on the line in these matches but I’m still here getting nervous AF over the ending of each round, thinking, “do I have this or is my opponent going to pull some shit outta shit on me?” You don’t know pressure till you’ve had less than a speck of life and still being in the fight, pulling off a super special move at just the right moment, gauging the distance you can strike from or simply trying to be a step ahead of your opponent’s attack pattern. The options are so finite yet so infinite at the same damn time.
It’s been many moons since a fighting game got my heart racing. That’s how I knew this game was for me. This is the type of fighting I live for, man. The tension, the stress, the giant sigh of relief winning a match, the loud shout of an expletive in defeat! I love this shit. Samurai Shodown encompasses everything I fuck with when it comes to fighting. You know the game is good when win or lose, you jump out of your seat in disbelief or relief. Samurai Shodown has each fight carry a frustratingly beautiful feeling in the heat of battle that’ll have you ready to Embrace Death and unsheathing ya sword for more.
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