Samurai Shodown Review – 120 FPS of samurai-led fighting on Xbox Series X

The SNK classic fighting franchise, Samurai Shodown, is back with some Xbox Series X exclusive enhancmenets for fighting enthusiasts. Now, it begs the question, is the upgrade worth it or is this merely a side-step to compete with modern titles? Let’s take a look in our review for Samurai Shodown!

+Extremely beautiful graphics and performance ratios that make it stand out against its competitors
+Easily to learn, hard to master, which is expected
+Stays true to its 1993 formula
+Online and local multiplayer are both amazing features and work as expected

-Difficulty ramps in story mode could be a turnoff for some

In 1993, I’ll admit, I was young. I loved fighting games. They were the new challenge having moved from the NES games of the ‘90s ranging from The Legend of Zelda, G.I. Joe: The Real American Hero, Godzilla, and of course, Battletoads; They were nostalgic games, ones I’d spent hundreds of hours on throughout my childhood playing.

Then, came the SNES. A lot of things changed as fighting games began to gain mainstream popularity outside of the arcades I’d grown up in. We’d seen Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and even a new contender – Samurai Shodown shortly after the prior too. This was the first, and honestly, one of the last times I’d ever get to see the series again.

Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but as a youth, I could barely keep my attention on any one single game unless it was something like Bomberman or my NES favorites listed above and the newly discovered title – Bucky O’Hare for the NES as well. Let’s be real, we all knew what took over: Mortal Kombat.

Now, here we are, over 28 years later and an all-new game, one that I’ve somehow managed not to encounter until as of recent. A game ripe with the experiences I had as a kid, but with enhanced graphics, gameplay, performance ratios, and a net code that somehow, didn’t disappoint as some fighting games do (here’s looking at you MK11).

A Fighting Game Rich in its 28 Year Legacy

SNK are no strangers to fighting franchises. They’re honestly one of the best on the market doing what they are. From King of Fighters, Fatal Fury, The Last Blade, Art of Fighting, and Garou: Mark of the Wolves; their legacy is rather large, filled to the brim with solid titles from beginning to end.

Now, here we are, with an all-new experience that was originally released on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 back in 2019. Now, here we are, two years later, and an upgraded version of the game. The amazing thing is, it’s very much the game franchise we knew back in the 90s. It plays – mostly – the same with the added features of a combination system, easier to use special abilities, and the deeply embedded need of knowing how every character works.

However, for those that know how the story unfolds, you’ll need to sit back down in your favorite chairs (let’s be kids again, shall we?) and relearn the story as we know it. This one takes place well before the events of the 1993 release, Samurai Showdown, and gives us a refreshed look at the story we know. As always, two skilled combatants will enter the arena, each for their varied reasons as tensions across Japan grows to all-time highs, and their need to quell the cause behind the raging battles that have consumed the country.

Each bit of the story unfolds as you would assume they would: Battles are slow, at times, but intense. Each combatant will take advantage of the games Rage Gauge, which honestly, is a very welcomed addition to the game, and gives players a chance to use a boost that enhances their strength or gives them a chance to use a powerful – once-per-battle – a special move that can devastate an enemies health gauge if it connects.

Of course, executions do return for those who have been veterans of the series since it started, and will allow players to rip, tear, and maim their opponent. Just don’t expect Mortal Kombat level gore, it won’t happen, which is a nice change as this game feels right at home that way thanks to its arcade-ish offerings.

Enhancements help set this game apart, especially online, and making it an absolute delight

Now, if this was a weekend release back in the 90s, it was one where you would have headed down to the local Hastings Entertainment or Blockbuster, rented a copy, invited a few pals over, snagged a pizza with a couple of soda’s from the local Pizza Shuttle, and beat one another senseless throughout the night.

There’s a reason that sentiment stands: Unlike Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive, or say Street Fighter, this one has not evolved much since its ‘90s offerings. It’s a game that doesn’t change its formula all that much. You aren’t going to land horrific damage-dealing surprise combos that will lock your opponent into a corner.

Rather, this a title that feels freshly released into the arcades, one where players will hear the loud, albeit refreshing, Japanese dubbed announcer demanding that the matches start, letting you know that you’re about to get smacked around if you aren’t paying attention.

It’s one where you may mutter, “this is a PlayStation Port with enhanced graphics,” under your breath. You wouldn’t be wrong either. It’s a classic 2D style fighter where skill, understanding of the game’s core mechanics, and some of the more veteranized mechanics matter.

It’s refreshing, to be honest, and thanks to the power of the Xbox Series X, it transitions well, given the fact it’s a true-to-itself title, one where 120 FPS feels as silky smooth as the game does in 60 FPS at 4K on previous-gen consoles. SNK has taken full advantage of the hardware’s capabilities, allowing for insanely fast load times, silky smooth framerates, and rather steady online connections, which to me, is an absolute must for a fighting game in this day and age

Do note, that these features? They’re Xbox Series X exclusive. They’re ones that SNK has worked on to ensure that fans can get the best Samurai Shodown experience on the latest and greatest piece of gaming hardware from Microsoft.

DLC also carries over, if you’ve bought any, but let’s also talk about how the game feels too

Now, as you are aware, Samurai Shodown feels right at home on an Xbox Series X. Everything you’ve previously purchased carries over without a hitch. All your DLC will be right at home thanks to Microsoft’s Smart Delivery feature. It’s a welcomed change and one we hope Sony takes note of in the future due to how much of a headache upgrading already is on their platform (that’s a topic for another time).

To get an idea of how this game handles in comparison to other titles, we had to dive into the PlayStation 5 build of Mortal Kombat 11. It’s the only title we can draw comparisons to as Sony doesn’t have a next-gen version of Samurai Shodown, so, let’s compare an apple to an orange the best we can thanks to the similarities that the two do have in common.

Unlike Mortal Kombat 11, we encountered a wide array of enhancements made to the game itself. Netcode is solid as can be. There were only a small number of times that any form of lag was encountered whereas Mortal Kombat 11 had a whole host of them. From disconnects to server issues, Mortal Kombat 11 has been known for these issues, and they’ve never been addressed by the developer or Sony themselves, whoever is responsible for them.

In Samurai Shodown, there hasn’t been that issue. Instead, online has been smooth, easy to enjoy, and offering rather abundant matchmaking sessions for online multiplayer. Season 3 for Samurai Shodown also saw a large haul of improvements as well ranging from online enhancements to new implementations such as the Guard Crush, which punishes those that block way too much.

Even local multiplayer is smooth, enjoyable, and a great way to spend time with your family if you need something to offer a change in routine. It’s been a delight to have when spending time with my nephew or even one of my pals when they get the chance to come around. Thank goodness for wireless controllers, right?

The conclusion

Now, it is worth stating, you aren’t going to see a drastic change in what SNK has to offer in the sense of changes to the franchise. Samurai Shodown, for what it’s worth, is a love letter to its 1993 release, and it pays terrific homage to that legacy by staying true to its identity.

You’ll still find that some combos are still available, allowing you to unleash nerve-wracking damage by chaining certain attacks with specific abilities, such as Tam Tam’s MS, crouch MS+K to a special ability, allowing you to take an opponents health bar down in a devastating manner. Just, practice, if you plan on playing the story as it’s a mess and will send you into an absolute fit when you encounter the final boss (there’s actually reddit post, after post, after post, about how to beat the final boss).

Samurai Shodown
 PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Xbox Series X
Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $59.99

For what it’s worth, this is where advanced players come in, as well as a bit of practice needed, to ensure you get there. That aside, this is a title that comes out as a must-have for fighting game enthusiasts looking for a ‘90s-like experience in modern times.

Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.

About the Writer(s):


Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.

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