The great trouble with a lot of SNK games is that due to the exorbitant cost of the Neo Geo consoles and cartridges, pretty much no one got a chance to play them when they first came out. It’s only now, through downloads and retro compilations like this one, that many of us are getting our first taste – and for many titles (such as the uber-bland King of Fighters) it’s just come a little bit too late. Thankfully, Samurai Shodown remains unique enough to be worth a second glance. With a memorable cast, rich mythology and some ginormous, detailed sprites that don’t look half bad today, the series has held up surprisingly well against the ravages of time.
It’s a fairly generous package, containing Shodowns I-VI, although extra content is limited to a single truly awful minigame and the standard gallery and soundtracks that no-one really cares about. The first two games are really more like embryonic versions of what the series, from part III onwards, would become. As such, they’re hardly worth your time. Later entries are deeper, prettier and feel more balanced. The disc is almost worth it for series highlight Samurai Shodown IV alone, although we’d be happier recommending it without the ridiculous price tag.
It’s not the best celebration of the franchise’s 15th anniversary, and it’s not the title that’s going to bring the series out of the periphery and into the limelight – that’ll have to wait for the likely HD remake – but the quality of the included games transcends our mostly petty concerns. Except the one about it being too pricey for what you get.
Mar 25, 2009