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With 26 characters to play with, even if some of them are completely worthless, Samurai Shodown V is a quality 2D fighter from a developer that usually knows its way around a quality 2D fighter. The traditional SNK problems are present here, like character balance, and the hand-drawn art will probably put off polygon-addicted modern gamers. For people like me who grew up on this stuff, this is a solid installment in a quality series, and belongs in the library of every former arcade fanatic.
Samurai Shodown V is not the greatest 2D fighter out there. It lacks the features that keep most casual gamers coming back for more. It's also got some superficial blemishes that will make purists cringe. However, it does offer a solid, enjoyable Samurai Shodown experience. Fans of the series would do themselves a great injustice to let this game pass them by.
The game's audio is decent. The background music includes the original soundtrack and a new instrumental backdrop. The announcer does a decent job though it's nothing exciting. The voice acting is not bad, either. For fans of the authentic game, the Japanese voice work can be used. Samurai Shodown V isn't the best looking or most refined fighter available, but it does work well enough including a fully functional online mode. If you're a fan of the series, you'll enjoy it, but unless you were already a fan, the game probably isn't for you. That classic SNK charm isn't enough.
If I was limited to one word that described Samurai Shodown V, it would have to be unique. From the character designs, to amazingly thematic music, and unique twist on combat, this is a 2D fighting series that may not have gotten the crappy Hollywood movie like some other games in this genre, but it deserved a look then and warrants one now. This is a niche title for a niche audience, but the original arcade experience is available on the Xbox, in addition to some upgrades (some new characters, but most notably Xbox Live support). A package deal with a variety of games from the series would have been a great compilation, but as it stands, fans of this lost era will find their money’s worth in Samurai Shodown V.
You can get used to the uneven production values, though. After all, who knows how many more 2D fighting games we'll see? With that in mind, Samurai Shodown V becomes more tempting. It isn't flashy and it isn't 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't 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'll forgive a few superficial flaws and a methodical fighting system, head down to the store and pick this one up before it's gone for good. You know you want it.
Cheat Code Central
You don't have to be a big fan of the series to enjoy this game but it certainly would help. The no-frills features prompts me to recommend renting this game unless you're content with fighting like-minded fans online for the next few months.
If you like fighting games and are looking for a very light-hearted not overly dramatic fighting experience, then you should check out Samurai Shodown V because it offers just that. This is a game that has both good gameplay and visual values that translate into a fun game. Now this isn't going to compete with games like DOA4 or Soul Calibur, but it is one that if you like fighting games you are going to enjoy this game as well.
Samurai Shodown V is ideal for fans of NeoGeo fighting games who are still keeping the faith after all these years, but its dated presentation and complicated game mechanics probably won't do much for anybody else. The game does work well online, though, so if you want to experience this once-great fighting game series with other like-minded players, the less-than-full retail price of SSV can be well worth it.
The Video Game Critic
The dialogue is in Japanese, which is for the best, considering how awful it is ("Stand by me in spirit!"). The backgrounds look attractive considering their low resolution but they're not terribly interesting. The oriental background music is pleasant enough. If you're a 2D fighter fan who values gameplay over graphics, Samurai Shodown V is definitely worth picking up.
To summarize, Samurai Shodown V is a solid game with a grossly-mistimed release. When you consider that it was upgraded about two years ago, and the series has a new installment; Samurai Spirits: Tenkaichi Kenkyakuden, arriving on the Japanese PS2 this week, it's difficult to look at Samurai Shodown V as anything more than an unnecessary port of an obsolete game. It will satisfy completists (as much as a series can when it has missed two critical North American releases) and those desperate for some new 2D sword-fighting after all these years, but it would have been much better utilized as one half of a double-pack with Samurai Shodown V Special, and it desperately needed much more meat to it before it could be truly recommendable. Samurai Shodown really deserves better than this. Hopefully a more timely release of Tenkaichi Kenkyakuden is on the way.
As much as it pains me to say this, Samurai Shodown V just didn't win me over. Development of the game was actually done by Yuki Enterprises, not the original development team, and I can feel the difference. I had two hopes for this game: that it would raise the Samurai Shodown series up to a level close to the standard that Last Blade has set, or at least return some of the former glory to the SamSho name. SSV absolutely doesn't do the former, and while it has the body of a SamSho game, it just doesn't have the heart. For fans of the series, there's enough fun to be hand in multiplayer and online to possibly make it worth your time. The entire time you play, though, you'll be wishing one of the pervious titles was available instead, or better yet, an Xbox Live-enabled Last Blade compilation.
In terms of ports, Samurai Shodown V is fairly well done. The Xbox is more than capable of handling the 2D sprites and scaling camera effects, with an acceptable level of loading between rounds. The problems lie mostly with the game design, which is enjoyable, yet flawed. While Samurai Shodown V isn't necessarily a bad game, it doesn't quite hold up to previous entries in the series. It comes recommended only to die-hard SNK fans and those looking for a more casual and easy to access fighting game.
Overall, Samurai Shodown V is a 2D fighting game title that will entertain the most hardcore of the hardcore 2D fighting crowd, but there are better, more accessible 2D fighting games to be had elsewhere. For Samurai Shodown fans, the biggest incentives to purchase Samurai Shodown V are its low price tag of $29.99, and its Xbox Live functionality, but those are the only incentives this addition has over other titles in the series. Granted, Xbox Live capability is a great incentive, but considering the pedigree the Samurai Shodown series has of quality fighting games, its biggest fans will come away from this game wanting more.
What kind of market is there for 2D fighters these days? Well, at this point pretty much everyone out there has made up their minds. Either they still play 2D fighters, or they don't. You won't find many twiddling their thumbs, wondering what it's really like to play a sprite-based, side view fighting game. Even if you were one of those fantastical people, you'd still have plenty of other better options aside from Samurai Shodown V. It's got lots of moves, a deep fighting system, and the online play is a big plus, but it really isn't that enjoyable in the end. Many of the characters play very similarly, it looks and sounds like it could have been just as good on a PSone. Even with the augmentations to the version released in arcades in 2003, you can't help coming away from SSV with a sinking feeling about how dated the entire package feels.
Unless you’re a big fan of Samurai Showdown, be careful with this one. Even if you love 2D fighting games, this one is not like Street Fighter or Guilty Gear. Samurai Showdown has its own distinct flavor, and it can sometimes be too sour if you aren’t expecting it.
What it comes down to is that Samurai Shodown V is a competent port of an iffy game in a good series, and the only game in that series available for Xbox. If you absolutely want some SamSho action and don't have a better alternative, then it's probably worth a purchase. However, most people looking for an online fight would probably be better off with one of the better Xbox Live fighters, perhaps even the upcoming King of Fighters Neowave. That should not only be a good port, but will be based on a great game to begin with. That last bit, you might agree, is key.
Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM)
Still, I can't deny that the gameplay - a hodgepodge of elements from the last few games plus some new bits - while uneven and hardly imaginative, can be fun in the right matchup (i.e. no one chooses the annoying or unbalanced characters). And it's nice to have all my favorite samurai together in one game, especially over the surprisingly robust and lag-free Xbox Live game, where you can fight other players of your same level worldwide and even set up tournaments.
Overall Samurai Showdown V is essentially a direct port of a 3-year-old 2D fighting game on a really old (NeoGeo) system. There's not a lot of value here unless you want are a dedicated old school fighting or SNK fan looking for a showdown. This isn't a fighter for everyone because of its slower paced, more tactical, less combo intense fighting system. If you are true swordsman you'll buy this game, but I'd strongly recommend a rental if you are at all interested. The real question is "Are you slave to the blade?"
Rumors about a U.S. release of Samurai Shodown V Special, a more complete version of this game with more fully-realized fighters, have been making rounds at some forums. That might be worth waiting for, because this version certainly isn't. If you own Samurai Shodown IV, this deserves no more than a rental.
G4 TV: X-Play
But with a suggested $30 pricetag, this game is not a terrible deal -- especially if you believe the following: Anime begins and ends with Ninja Scroll; the implementation of the Z-axis was the worst thing that ever happened to videogames; and the Zatoichi films of 60’s Japan are the best movies ever made. In fact, if you believe all that, you probably already own this game -- and you’re probably online right now, battling likeminded Samurais. Others with a wider world view may want to question the price of admission.
All in all, if you aren’t a fan of the series or haven’t delved into the SS series in the past, chances are you won’t take too kindly to the dated graphics and unbalanced gameplay. If you are a fan of the Samurai Showdown series and have fond memories of the old 2D fighter games and want to take a trip to the past on your magic Xbox time machine, then you should at least give the game a rental before taking the plunge on purchasing it.
Samurai Shodown V offers online head-to-head play via Microsoft's Live service, but both times I tried to search for a match, there were no opponents to be found. I can't say I'm surprised; this game is so weak and poorly constructed that I can't imagine playing it online with real people would make it any better. Frankly, spending time examining V was the most unpleasant session time I've logged in a while. Samurai Shodown may have had some clout in the past, but right now it's like a diseased, shuddering relic that needs to be put out of its misery.
It's a different story for the rest of us, though. A tutorial or "How to Play" movie would've gone a long way here. Instead newcomers are left fumbling in the dark, which tends to be more frustrating than fun. Meanwhile, casual Shodown fans will likely find themselves annoyed with the frequent loading, not to mention the issues listed above. As such, Samurai Shodown V is only recommended for those who are not just familiar with the series, but really, really love it.