You could say that Samurai Shodown! 2 is technically the first game to have kicked off the Neo Geo Pocket Color selection range on the Nintendo Switch. It was, after all, originally bundled in strictly as a pre-order bonus for the latest rendition of Samurai Shodown released earlier in the year. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case, as the 20-year-old fighter recently contained as a marketing ploy finally makes itself available to everyone on the Nintendo eShop.
This Neo Geo Pocket sequel retells the events of Samurai Shodown 64: Warriors Rage, the second instalment of the 1997 Japan-exclusive arcade series that ran on the Hyper Neo Geo 64 system board – which also happens to be the first 3D fighter SNK ever released. The plot, in short, revolves around a mysterious genderless puppeteer with the dark ambition to collide both the demon and human world into a utopia of evil. As you would expect, It’s up to our cast of brooding cornfield-dwelling combatants to ensure that doesn’t happen. It’s a bit like Devilman Crybaby crossed with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its own little way.
In the same fashion to other fighting games on the Neo Geo Pocket Color, Samurai Shodown! 2 does an excellent job at faithfully recreating the combat structure set by the series it derives from. However, unlike many other fighting games that are often tailored with combo-heavy escapades in mind, the Samurai Shodown series tends to steer towards being a more cautious and meticulous type of fighting game.
Of course, there are some attack string possibilities, especially when taking advantage of a universal, “Samurai Combination System” to keep the opponent on the ropes. But the overall main focus here is to make every single attack count or leave yourself completely wide open to meet a warriors demise.
Each of the 15 characters on the select screen has a choice of two fighting styles. The first is known as Slash – otherwise known as Chivalry – which keeps the character faithful towards their own familiar moveset. Bust – or Treachery – on the other hand, completely changes up most of the move list of the character to represent a more aggressive, often unhinged version of themselves.
In some cases, the changes can also cause a quite drastic transition to the way a character handles. Take the popular hawk-welding Nakoruru as a prime example, who will swap out her famous bird of prey ally in favour for the wolf Shikuru when employing the Bust style.
Overall, the game is a more simplified version of the Samurai Showdown experience yet still manages to stay consistently reliable to series. While Samurai Showdown has never really been about complicated combos and fancy pressure tactics, there is still usually a deep and often overwhelming combat system to learn.
That’s not to say that Samurai Shodown! 2 is a slouch when it comes to technical execution, because it certainly isn’t. You can snag your opponent to tip them off balance, throw them in either lateral position and even counter an incoming attack to set up some rather brutal responses. In fact, the diverse possibilities available are incredibly impressive when taking into account that there are only two action buttons and a d-pad to rely on.
While the combat system provides plenty of mileage to master, the single-player options can struggle to run the distance. Outside of collecting special art cards that can be used to assign extra moves and ability perks before combat, there is very little else to do outside the standard story arcade mode and firing up the difficulty level. As with most good competitive fighters, though, the multiplayer mode will be the place where like-minded friends will probably spend the most time bearing grudges and settling scores.
Without going into too much detail (as I have covered this topic enough in my previous reviews) the excellent emulation process and user interface handled by Code Mystics pretty much replicates the exact same features you will expect to find in both the SNK Gals’ Fighters and King Of Fighters R-2 ports on Nintendo Switch. That basically means you can expect a variety of skins, multiplayer accessibility options, a scanned manual and an optional screen filter mimicking the Neo Geo Pocket Color LCD screen.
Which inevitably leads us to the CONCLUSION! Samurai Shodown! 2 is yet another slice of gaming history that few will fondly remember, some may have completely forgotten, and others will have no clue about whatsoever. One thing for certain is that the Nintendo Switch now officially doubles up as a Neo Geo Pocket Color which is awesome. And for what it’s worth, so is Samurai Shodown! 2.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by SNK Corporation