Samurai Shodown review – a slim, stylish fighter that proves SNK is properly back on song

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Was there any cooler presence in the arcades of the 90s than SNK? There’s always been something about the games from the Osaka outfit, matching impeccable style with deep tech and a serious amount of swagger. It’s no wonder the likes of Garou: Mark of the Wolves and The Last Blade are still spoken about with a hushed reverence.

So it’s also no wonder that when, after years of tumultuous corporate wrangling, the SNK name properly returned back in 2016, there was a frisson of excitement. The King of Fighters 14 was a fine way to mark the occasion, an intricate and expansive spin on the series, and now we have something a mite more ambitious. Samurai Shodown is a reboot of the series that helped forge the SNK brand, in all its steely cool, back in 1993. And I’m delighted to say this new entry is absolutely brilliant.

It helps that it stays faithful to the core tenets of the original, and indeed to many of the games that followed. Over a quarter of a century and multiple entries, Samurai Shodown has always been a series that’s experimented with its systems, but the backbone has remained largely the same; here’s fighting that’s more measured, higher impact and with big consequences for those who make mistakes. Whiff, and over half your health meter can be wiped out by a single blow.

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