Well what can I say? The fourth instalment in probably one of the best and most popular fighting game series on the Neo Geo. So, the most important question: is this a good game? You bet!
First off, a fair few things have changed since Samurai Shodown 3. Although it retains the same control system as its predecessor, with 3 slash buttons and one kick button, they have dispensed with some of the more annoying/least liked aspects. Most noteworthy is the removal of air blocking and ability to charge up your power meter at will. Most importantly, attacks don't seem to take off as much as they did in SS3, and the characters now have two energy bars meaning fights can last a little bit longer. There are also lots of cool little additions as well, like the ability to kill yourself (!) and forfeit a match, being able to throw your weapons away and taunt your opponent, which is always funny, especially in two player mode when you kill a friend without your weapons (good gloating potential)
There are now some new Mortal Kombat style fatalities too. There are certain conditions for doing these (see the below FAQ), but when you get the opportunity you have to tap in a small button combo to perform it. Some of these are quite cool, but perhaps not everyones cup of tea and I'm sure some SS fans aren't too fond of having the game compared to the MK series in any way. There are no longer any objects like bombs and food thrown into the arena anymore either.
All the fighters from the last game have returned, and have been joined by some new (and old) faces. These include Kazuki and Sogetsu, not to mention Jubei, Charlotte and Tam Tam from the first two games. I think it is kinda cool that Tam Tam is back, but I would have liked to have had Cham Cham back as well, but never mind. This brings the cast of characters up to 17 and is reflected in the fact that the megabit count is a fair bit higher than the last game. Add to that the fact that you can still pick either bust or slash versions of the fighters and you have a very respectable selection of fighters, certainly way better then in the previous game, that's for sure!
The graphics here look as great as they did in the last game and then some! The animation is great and basically the characters stages and special effects look excellent. This time around, there are fewer stages and many are shared by different fighters, but this is mainly to do with the storyline because as you pass through each stage you get closer and closer to Amakusa's (the final boss) castle. Having said that, I do prefer the backgrounds in SS3 to the ones in this game, but only just.
Sound effects & Music:
Once again, a great job has been done on the sound, with some great music and nice ambient noises and the same great sound effects that we are used to.
Many people thought that Samurai Shodown III was a bit of a let down because it messed around with things that shouldn't have been touched in the first place and because it felt slightly unfinished... almost like a pre-production beta that wasn't quite there and could have done with a couple of months more development time. As I mentioned, many of the things that were disliked have been removed in this game, and in general many of the other bad things have been put right. This makes for a very good game, and one that is considered the best in the series by some fans.
As I said in my review of Samurai Shodown II, I don't like to compare the first two games to the third and fourth too much, because they are very different styles of game; if I had to compare them all I would say is that I am split between it and Samurai Shodown 2. For me personally I think SS2 edges it, especially considering the amount of time I've put into that game and the fact that I still play it even today. It's best to give them all a try and make up your own mind… nevertheless this game kicks ass and deserves a place in every 2D fighting fans collection.
Graphics: 9/10 Sound: 8/10 Game play: 9/10 Replay Value: 9/10
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