Samurai Shodown launches for PS4 and Xbox One in June, Switch in Q4 2019 and PC later; 44 minutes of gameplay and staff interview

Gematsu goes hands-on with the weapons-based fighter reboot.

Samurai Shodown

Samurai Shodown will launch worldwide for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in June, followed by Switch in Q4 2019 and PC at a later date, publisher Athlon Games and developer SNK announced. It will feature Japanese voice-overs and support English, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Pan-American Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese subtitle language options.

The Unreal Engine 4-powered fighting game is a reboot of the classic series set between the events of Samurai Showdown V and the original game. It will feature 16 total fighters, including 13 returning characters and three brand new characters. Additional characters will be released via post-launch downloadable content.

Here is the official fact sheet:

About

After more than a decade, Samurai Shodown is back! SNK is rebooting one of its most successful series, carrying on the legacy of past titles with a new game that retains the same thrilling battles of past titles in a graphically advanced package. Samurai Shodown’s gameplay is driven by the tense atmosphere of being one strike away from death, and the exhilaration of defeating an opponent with overwhelming power and attacks. Taking place between the events of the original game and Samurai Shodown V, the new game carries on the legacy of the one true weapon-based fighter.

Key Features

  • Exhilarating Weapons-Based CombatSamurai Shodown carries on the legacy of the tense battles the series is known for, where players are always one strike away from death, and one powerful attack away from victory.
  • Evolving the Presentation – Using the power of Unreal Engine 4, SNK is able to modernize the unique atmosphere and setting of past titles in a gorgeously artistic package that achieves a detail and graphical quality like never before.
  • Unique Cast of Returning and New WarriorsSamurai Shodown welcomes back iconic characters from past iterations, including the swordsman Haohmaru, his rivals Ukyo and Genjuro, the shrine maiden Nakoruru, and fan-favorite Galford. The starting roster will include a total of 16 characters—13 veterans and three newcomers to the franchise.
  • All New Gameplay – Carrying on some of the key fighting mechanics that made the series popular, such as the Rage Gauge, Rage Explosion, Sword Clash and more, Samurai Shodown will also include several new techniques, including a powerful, one-time use attack from each character called the Super Special Move.
  • Revolutionary New AI System – Titled Dojo Mode, SNK has developed a proprietary AI system that learns from player patterns and creates a specific Ghost clone from that data. With this system, players can fight against their own Ghost or take on the Ghosts of top players in mock battles.

The public will be able to go hands-on with the game for the first time at PAX East 2019, which runs from March 28 to 31 at the Boston Convention Center. SNK will also host a panel, “Samurai Shodown: Resurrecting a Legend,” on March 30 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. ET featuring producer Yasuyuki Oda, director Nobuyuki Kuroki, original Samurai Shodown director Yasushi Adachi, and several other staff members from SNK.

Get a new trailer and 44 minutes of Gematsu-recorded gameplay footage below, as well as our preview of the game and interview with producer Yasuyuki Oda, director Nobuyuki Kuroki, and game designer Joshua Weatherford. View a new set of screenshots at the gallery.

PAX East 2019 Trailer

44 Minutes of PlayStation 4 Pro Gameplay

Navigation

  • 0:20 – Story Mode Introduction: Galford
  • 2:04 – Story Mode Battle: Galford vs. Earthquake
  • 4:49 – Story Mode Battle: Galford vs. Haohmaru
  • 8:05 – Story Mode Introduction: Haohmaru
  • 9:48 – Story Mode Battle: Haohmaru vs. Galford
  • 12:09 – Story Mode Battle: Haohmaru vs. Genjuro
  • 17:02 – Story Mode Introduction: Nakoruru
  • 18:52 – Story Mode Battle: Nakoruru vs. Jubei
  • 21:27 – Story Mode Battle: Nakoruru vs. Jubei (Rematch)
  • 24:35 – Story Mode Battle: Nakoruru vs. Earthquake
  • 29:13 – Battle Mode Battle: Haohmaru vs. Genjuro
  • 32:42 – Battle Mode Battle: Earthquake vs. Charlotte
  • 36:42 – Battle Mode Battle: Genjuro vs. Jubei
  • 41:39 – Battle Mode Battle: Galford vs. Charlotte

Preview

I played about an hour or so of the new Samurai Shodown and it felt good—really good. I have stated this in the past, but I am not big on fighting games. I am generally not good at them and tend to only play for fun with friends. That being said, I went into playing Samurai Shodown without really caring much about it. But after some hands-on time with the weapons-based fighter, I am actually kind of hyped?

Samurai Shodown is being treated as a reboot to the long-running series. Story-wise, it is set in 1787, after the events of Samurai Shodown V in 1786 and before the events of the original Samurai Shodown in 1789. While the Kansei reforms have been enacted by the newly appointed Matsudaira Sadanobu, a mysterious dark force is looming on the horizon, prompting the warriors of Samurai Shodown to gather and set out on individual journeys and fight for their own beliefs. Each character character has a different story.

The game has a roster of 16 characters, 13 of which are returning from previous games. They are Charlotte, Earthquake, Galford, Genjuro, Hanzo, Haohmaru, Jubei, Kyoshiro, Nakoruru, Shiki, Tam Tam, Ukyo, and Yoshitora. The other three are completely new characters who have yet to be announced. I played as a few characters during my session, including Galford, Haohmaru, Nakoruru, and Jubei. As for stages, the stage selection screen appears to offer 13 total options.

Playing round after round of Samurai Shodown, I learned that no two characters are alike and that a single strike has a ton of pull, as one hit can deal massive damage and significantly turn the tide of battle. The game is built atop various mechanics, starting with the “Rage Gauge,” which fills up the more you are hit. When the Rage Gauge is filled entirely, your attack power increases, special moves become stronger, and you can use a “Weapon Flipping Technique” to disarm your opponent. You can also deplete the entire gauge to activate a once-per-match “Rage Explosion,” which enables the use of a “Lightning Blade” attack in which the character leaps forward and uses a quick strike that deals heavy damage. Each character also has a “Super Special” attack that, like Rage Explosion, can only be used once per match. Each Super Special plays out a character-specific scene that reflects their personality or style. Nakoruru’s, for example, captures her resolution to protect Mother Nature while also illustrating her displeasure of fighting. The commands to activate these techniques are simple and the same across every character, which means that there is no need to memorize complicated commands for different fighters. Finally, there are also “Sword Clashes,” which occur when two attacks perfectly clash, prompting you to mash the attack buttons to retain your weapon and send the opponent’s weapon flying.

I picked up on the game’s systems quite fast as I played, and even went toe-to-two with producer Yasuyuki Oda. (Though, I think he went easy on me.) The systems are incredibly easy to grasp, but the real challenge comes in utilizing them correctly while timing your strikes and preventing your opponent from dealing significant damage. It felt like there is quite a lot of strategy involved, and it is something that I found myself wanting to learn and master. Playing as Galford, I got the upper hand on Oda in our first match as he was so used to Galford’s behavior when playing against game designer Joshua Weatherford that he did not expect me to react in certain ways. (Or at least that is what I was told. I still just think he went easy on me!)

In terms of game modes, Samurai Shodown offers the classic Story Mode, an offline Battle Mode (which in itself includes modes such as Survival), an Online mode to compete against players across the world, a Practice mode (which includes Tutorial and Training modes), a Gallery Mode to view player-unlocked movies, artwork, and background music, and a new Dojo Mode in which you can upload and fight against your own “ghost data” or the download and fight against the ghost data of other players.

Dojo Mode is an entirely new asynchronous online mode, which according to SNK utilizes “deep learning technology” to have the game’s artificial intelligence learn from your techniques and habits during offline mode gameplay to create a “ghost AI” character that both you and other players can fight against online. An “Ironman Challenge” mode in which players can try to fight 100 ghosts in succession is also being implemented. SNK even has a patent pending for Dojo Mode. Unfortunately, SNK is not saying more about Dojo Mode for the time being, one of the reasons being that the mode is essentially built off player data, which the team does not currently have.

Visually, Samurai Shodown is an eyeful. From graphics to menus, everything is decorated in a traditional Japanese aesthetic—as is appropriate for its Edo period setting. That setting and visual design make the fighter stand out as something truly unique from the rest of the crowd.

Samurai Shodown is by no means the most well-known name in fighting games, but with the release of this spectacular-looking reboot and its participation as a main title in the upcoming Evo 2019 tournament, I really hope that it gets more recognition. I really want to pick this one up and learn its ins and outs.

Interview

This is the first new Samurai Shodown game in over a decade—the last new one being Samurai Shodown Sen for Xbox 360 and arcade in 2008. What was now the time for something new?

Nobuyuki Kuroki, Director: “There are various reasons, one being that when I was at SNK back in the day, I always wanted to work on Samurai Shodown more and more. I did a little bit of work on the Samurai Shodown 64 series. But there’s also just the fact that there has been a major focus on eSports recently, and I feel like this game in particular is very unique and will stand out on the eSports scene. And in general it’s just an iconic series for SNK, and we’ve had a lot of fan requests from the community to bring it back.”

Speaking of eSports, I think it’s safe to say a lot of people didn’t expect Samurai Shodown to be a main title for Evo 2019 in August. With the game due out in June, are you worried there won’t be enough time for players to learn how to play at a sufficient level?

Yasuki Oda, Producer: “I’m a little worried. (Laughs.) I’m a little bit worried that it might not be the top-level play that you’d see. But I also think that the system in general is just so simple and easy to pick up that people will jump right into it. And you might see a lot of people come out of nowhere that haven’t been on the scene before, who resonate with this game that’s so different from other games, and make a new entrance.”

Joshua Weatherford, Game Designer: “I personally think that the systems are not just simple, but also difficult to master. So it’s that perfect balance for me in game design. One thing that we like to point out is that we were very careful to stay as close to the roots as possible for some of this stuff. So you know a lot of times whenever you see modern fighting games, they’ll change the move sets around, cut some of them out—almost none of that happened here. We kept everything in—we just tuned it a little bit to be more balanced for modern fighting games—but there’s very few cases where you have a character that’s lost half of there moves or something like that. So people who know Samurai Shodown from the past, who know a specific character—they’re going to be able to jump right in, in my opinion.”

Moving on to characters, The King of Fighters XIV had a very generous starting roster of 50 or so fighters, compared to the 16-character roster of Samurai Shodown. Do you feel like that might be too little?

Weatherford: “Not really.”

Oda: “We’re not really worried about that honestly, because The King of Fighters is a team-based fighting game—three-versus-three, so you need a full team of three characters. So in my opinion, when you take one-third of that roster, you get about the amount in this game, so it works. Also, there’s not really a single clone character—that’s always been one of the things about Samurai Shodown. Even Hanzo and Galford, two ninjas that should play alike, play nothing alike. A couple of motions might be similar, but very few characters are actually similar to other characters. So all of them really stand on their own.”

And you guys aren’t showing the three original characters right now, but can you give us a hint?

Athlon Games representative: “No! We’re not answering that. (Laughs.)”

Hey, get out of the room! (Laughs.)

Weatherford: “They’re really cool, that’s all I’ll say. All three of them are really cool.”

Woo, big giveaway there. (Laughs.) Anyway, while we’re still talking about characters, given the rising popularity of guest characters, is there a possibility that we’ll see fighters from other franchises appear in Samurai Shodown?

Oda: “Yeah, we’re definitely interested, especially in finding a character that really fits this kind of gameplay.”

Say there were no restrictions on which guest character you could include, who would you choose to add to the roster?

Kuroki: “Oh man, that’s hard… Luke Skywalker.”

Oda: “(Pulls up an image of a Mobile Suit from the Gundam franchise on his phone.)”

Weatherford: “For me, I’d want TOEI Spider-Man. I love Spider-Man and I want something that’d fit this, so there’s actually a tokusatsu Spider-Man—like old school, giant robots—made back in the ’70s… None of these could ever actually be in because of licensing issues. (Laughs.)”

Oda: “If I’m thinking about swordplay, I’d like to put in Aragon from The Lord of the Rings.”

How do you plan to draw in beginners or players who don’t normally play fighting games?

Kuroki: “I think it really just comes from the basic fighting system of the game. Single strikes are so useful and damaging that you could win even if you land a lucky strike against a high level player.”

I think that’s what I did against Oda-san…

Oda: “(Laughs.) Well, we also made sure that all the super moves are the same inputs for each character. So as long as you know one character, you can easily jump into another character. Which is very different from say, The King of Fighters. That’s very difficult to keep up with everyone’s supers.”

Well, that about wraps up our time. Thank you for speaking to me! I wish you all a successful public debut at PAX East 2019!

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