Samurai Shodown 64

System: Neo-Geo 64


Game Type: 3D Fighting
Vaguely like Toshinden in play style. Uses standard 2D movements and blocking style, but adds the use of a 3D Escape button for dodges towards or away from the screen. Some arenas have walls you can knock your opponent against, or edges for fighters to topple off of.

Gameplay: 40/100
As far as I am concerned, this is not part of the Samurai Shodown series. The SamSho games represent the pinnacle of gameplay, which this game is definitely not. The pace is horribly sluggish, the moves are awkward, and the characters are totally imbalanced. Sure, all the usual extras are here - powerful super moves, two different sets of special moves for each character, the ability to catch yourself if you fall off a ledge, etc, etc. But if the basic play is total garbage, all this effort is for nothing.

Graphics: 50/100
If you were only to look at still shots this game might show some promise graphically. The backgrounds are colorful, the character designs are of course extremely cool (except that the polygonal versions look rather blocky), and the moves are of course as flashy as ever. During fights floors sometimes collapse, dropping you into a new area. There are even 2D cutaways for some of the more powerful attacks, showing the attack in pencil drawings or colorful brush paintings. (The effect is quite cool.)
If you try to impose a weak graphic engine on all this wonderful artistic design, though, you wind up with a mess. The backgrounds have very little detail, and wind up looking more like cardboard cutouts than anything else. The framerate is quite poor, maybe 15-20 frames per second by my estimation. Seams between the polygons are quite evident, especially where vertices meet. (The characters often look as if they have a bad case of dandruff.) SNK's graphic artists certainly tried, but they could have done far better with a 2D game.

Sound: 80/100
Some of the new musical scores are quite impressive, mixing a classical Japanese flavor with cool modern beats. Voice samples as usual abound, although the quality is slightly lower than in previous games. Overall the audio is a far more worthy effort than the graphics or gameplay.

Overall: 40/100
There may be a better way to play this game than pure button-mashing, but in playing for two hours I didn't find it. It was random guesswork as to whether a given special move would be effective at any given time, and eventually I just chose one or two of my best moves for each character and started repeating them, to great effect.
Of course, even if the gameplay were decent SS64 could never stand up to comparison with the graphics of Virtua Fighter 3 or even Tekken 3 and Soul Edge. (Which run on Playstation hardware, for Pete's sake!) I find it unbelievable that SNK was willing to release this game into arcades in its current form.
Of course, the first effort on any new hardware isn't going to take advantage of all its capabilities. I'm sure the new architecture is (partly) to blame for SS64's sorry state. So Neophytes shouldn't give up on the Neo Geo 64 just yet, especially since I hear it has some nice 2D capabilities. I sincerely hope SNK will use these for their next Samurai Shodown game.


Copyright © 1997 Jay McGavren. All Rights Reserved.