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Samurai Shodown V (Xbox) artwork

Samurai Shodown V (Xbox) review

"A casual glance at Samurai Shodown V will remind you of early Playstation games (fitting, considering when this was originally developed). The most impressive elements are the size of the sprites and any background movement. My favorite arena takes is a suspension bridge. Pine trees sway nearby and, beyond them, water cascades down a monstrous waterfall."

Ukyo Tachibana is a wuss without his sword. We were going at it, swinging our blades back and forth. Before I knew it, we were locked against one another, weapons crossed. A circular red icon appeared out of nowhere, and I mashed my attack button. Ukyo coughed and his blade went flying behind me, out of reach. Mercilessly, I pressed him into the corner, swiping my sword until he surrendered to the force of the attack and crumpled to the ground.

When I play Samurai Shodown V, such moments are infrequent. Usually, I知 getting slapped around by little girls with umbrellas or red ogres with slimy tongues and pot bellies. Repeatedly, I fall to the ground while the announcer grunts that the round is concluded.

I blame this on too much Street Fighter II. I知 used to fluid movement in my fighting games, particularly those of the 2D variety. The delay that follows each move in Samurai Shodown V thwarts me at every turn, and I知 not used to how much damage the computer can do with a single, feather-weight punch. I値l jump into the air, sailing like a kite at the beach, and my opponent will watch me for a few seconds as my graceful arc reaches its peak. Casually, she値l toss a knife at me and it will strike. I値l fly backwards then, faster than I壇 been moving before, then hit the ground before stumbling to my feet. Disgusted with how ineffective the air approaches have been, I値l waddle toward her and she値l get me again. By then, the round is all but lost.

Switching characters while in 鄭rcade mode doesn稚 help because the opponent usually changes as a result. That didn稚 seem to have much bearing on my experience, though. The end result is the same with few exceptions: I lose. There are 26 characters to learn, too. That痴 26 move sets to memorize and as many patterns. If off-the-cuff strategies will always fail (and they will), then it痴 all about slowing things down and treating each opponent as a new challenge. You値l want to study patterns and make the most of every punch, kick and special attack available.

As such, my Samurai Shodown V experience soon led me to the instruction manual. I learned that each character has a few special moves that you can execute for increased success. This was no surprise, since they池e a staple of any fighting game, samurai-themed or otherwise. Character-specific specials look kind of cool and are sometimes even useful. For example, you can cast a shadow of yourself, then cut it apart at the torso as you step back. Your disoriented opponent might then hack at the wrong set of legs, giving you time to counter with a clever follow-up blow. Do enough damage and you can press another button to slide into 途age mode.

This special attack will change the screen痴 color palette. If you池e knocking your way about on a stone terrace while flames waver in the background, for example, fire and the glowing night sky assume a bluish hue. As the meter slowly slides away, you値l note that you have access to additional attacks that will decimate your opponent痴 life meter. He doesn稚 move any slower, though, and you haven稚 gained any visible agility. The questionable 努ow factor of a palette swap is lost. My moments of rage looked more like an old lady pushing a shopping cart through the supermarket.

But enough about the fighting itself. Let痴 talk about those production values.

A casual glance at Samurai Shodown V will remind you of early Playstation games (fitting, considering when this was originally developed). The most impressive elements are the size of the sprites and any background movement. My favorite arena is a suspension bridge. Pine trees sway nearby and, beyond them, water cascades down a monstrous waterfall. Another area finds you riding a boat while a cityscape passes in the background. The selection of locations here is impressive (much wider than the quick sample I gave might lead you to believe), and most of them look pretty nice. You almost get the sense that you池e trekking across feudal Japan.

The soundtrack is a treat, too. Most of the music sounds samurai-ish, with the occasional break for grinding guitars that effectively toy with the adrenaline. I like the slower numbers. They lend a lot to the game痴 overall atmosphere. The generic rock might get my blood flowing, but every time I hear it I want it to stop. It feels out of place and detracts from the almost artistic nature of the on-screen battles. I also wanted the voices to go away. Almost every time you press a button, it elicits a grunt or a groan, to the point of absurdity.

Elsewhere, text is a nuisance. Many of the fighters have a history with one another, and will gloat accordingly. You値l want them to all just shut their mouths. The text is displayed in massive letters, all capitalized. [YOU HAVE TO PRESS BUTTONS] [A LOT JUST TO SLOG THROUGH] [IT ALL, SINCE MOST SENTENCES ARE] [SPREAD OUT THROUGH MULTIPLE] [BOXES.] It痴 a shame the developers didn稚 have the time to polish it further.

You can get used to the uneven production values, though. After all, who knows how many more 2D fighting games we値l see? With that in mind, Samurai Shodown V becomes more tempting. It isn稚 flashy and it isn稚 the sort of game most of your friends will want to play (if you have Dead or Alive and Tekken games in your collection, they probably won稚 even care that this one exists). Those seeking competition will generally have to settle for the hardcore online community. Xbox Live is supported. If the chance for some old-school gaming is enough that you値l forgive a few superficial flaws and a methodical fighting system, head down to the store and pick this one up before it痴 gone for good. You know you want it.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (January 21, 2006)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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