Samurai Shodown V Special (Playstation 4 Review)
SNK continue their run of HD ports of their classic titles (which has included The Last Blade 2, Garou: Mark of thee Wolves and Windjammers) with Samurai Shodown V Special, which has been ported by CodeMystics. Although one could argue that SS2 and SS4 would have been better choices, SS5 Special is seen as one of the most balanced and best SS titles for competitive play, and boasts a roster of 28 characters; one of the largest seen in the series.
SS5 Special did away with a common staple of the series which was the Slash and Bust styles, which would alter your character’s move set slightly to fit your playstyle, but in turn introduced a handful of then-new gameplay features. The sword gauge depletes and reduces your damage output when you over-exert your weapon-based attacks. Whilst this does encourage more mindfulness when it comes to your offence, SS5S still has the highly swift pace of matches that the series is known for; and since links and combos aren’t a major part of the gameplay, you won’t be hurting to do damage on your opponent at all.
The classic Rage meter still remains, which boosts your damage output when full, and can be spent on a variety of options. Weapon Flipping Attacks are essentially SS5S’ equivalent of Supers, but as the title suggests, the opponent will also drop their weapon should the WFA successfully hit. Rage Explosions can be used to ward off the opponent, and shift the background scenery to something more menacing as your character gets a significant damage output boost. Concentration One works in a similar fashion, but only happens in more situational circumstances and instead slows down your opponent. The downside to Rage Explosions and Concentration is that your Rage meter will be absent afterwards, even in following rounds, so it’s generally wise not to spend it unless it’s a last resort in the final round.
The last new gameplay feature in SS5S is the “Overkill” attacks, which essentially function very similarly to fatalities in Mortal Kombat; a brutal and bloody display of dominance over your opponent. While some of the animations for Overkills are needlessly gory to the point of being silly, their addition here is more welcome the complete absence of blood like there was in SS6.
Whilst SS5 did introduce a lot of new characters, many of these were altered sprites of older designs like Rasetsumaru (Evil Haohmaru) and Rera (evil Nakoruru), and even the wholly new characters like the overly anime-esque Mina and the downright hideous design of Kusaregedo shows that SNK were struggling to make new characters that fit well into the aesthetic of Samurai Shodown. SS5 is also not the best visually out of classic SNK games, re-using a lot of character sprites from SS3 that look presentable at best in spite of the nice backgrounds. It also has decent score to boot to help embolden the dark atmosphere that the series is known for.
The addition of online to SS5 is a bit moot as matches are only possible via invites or setting up a room in hopes that somebody will find you, so make sure you’ve got some friends to play with who have a copy of this. I will commend it for being able to go straight into online mode from arcade mode and practice mode though. There is also an artwork gallery which can be unlocked from playing Arcade mode, which has a surprisingly competent AI that plays using competitive fighting game concepts of poking, pressure and punishment.
When compared to the other HD ports that SNK, SS5S is not as inspiring as the likes of Garou or Windjammers. Nonetheless, it’s a going at a reasonable price-tag (with PS4/Vita cross-buy too!) and perhaps purchasing it will give SNK some incentive to try bringing to series in a new instalment. Samurai Shodown deserves it as much as, if not more than SNK’s other titles.