My Unusual Relationship with Samurai Shodown (Samurai Spirits)

The storied-yet-dormant Samurai Shodown franchise is back! Recently revealed at Tokyo Game Show, the news of the franchise’s return got me to jump out of my chair. Uusual for me to elicit a response to a series that I’ve barely played and am horrible at.

My history with the franchise began under odd circumstances. In the mid-90s, my mom was going to night school out of town. Since it didn’t make sense for my dad to drive my younger brother and I back-and-forth, we would wait for my mom at the mall nearby. We spent a lot of time hanging out in random stores or in the arcade, but one of my favourite spots was the now-defunct store Compucentre.

At the front of the store was a 3DO display. Had the opportunity to demo a bunch of games on there, from Super Street Fighter II Turbo, to Road Rash, to Captain Quazar. During that time, the game that really made an impact on me was Samurai Shodown.

I was just getting into fighting games and Samurai Shodown struck me as being the coolest thing. It was essentially Street Fighter with weapons, which was a fairly novel concept at the time. I would always choose Galford, as he fought with a dog sidekick that could be used in special moves. Adding to the cool factor was the fact that it was on a $700 console that I was never going to be able to afford.

Samurai Shodown would get a port to the Super Nintendo, but I wouldn’t pick it up until relatively recently. I knew it existed back in the day, but I have no clue why I passed on it at the time. Granted, the SNES port is not great, but I bought way worse games during that time.

After the 3DO display was taken down, I still loosely followed the game’s progress. In particular, I loved reading about Samurai Shodown II in GameFan magazine. In screenshots, the game looked phenomenal. To this day, I haven’t played it or any other game in the franchise.

It always felt like the franchise was just out of reach for me. Never really saw the games in the arcade. Never had a console that could run the games perfectly. But I always wanted to get further invested into that world, those characters, and that combat. By the time Street Fighter IV set my fighting game hype ablaze, Samurai Shodown was just entering its decade-long hiatus.

More than 20 years removed from playing 3DO at the mall, my chance to finally give Samurai Shodown an honest try appears to be coming next year. I have the skills now to push farther than I ever did with the original and the hardware to run the game. Besides being a new entry in the series, this one scores bonus points for seemingly taking a lot of visual cues from my favourite fighting game Street Fighter IV. Can’t wait for this one to drop in 2019!

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