The fighting game of the year in 1993, Samurai Shodown is finally cutting its way to home systems, courtesy of Takara. The SNES and Genesis are first among the console versions, and surprisingly, the Genesis edition is the better of the two!
Win Some, Lose Some
Because of memory limitations, Takara removed certain elements from the 24-meg cart to make room for others. While it's unfortunate that you have to live without some cool features, Takara made wise decisions about what to keep and what to cut.
For starters, Earthquake was axed completely. He's extremely large, which meant his sprite probably used a lot of ROM space, but he wasn't very popular in the arcades since his attack was considered extremely cheap. With him gone, Takara made the final boss, Amakusa, selectable in the two-player mode. This addition definitely jacks up the fighting action.
Other missing stuff includes the cinematic win screens, the Haohmaru tree-chopping intro, and some background details (especially in Hanzo's stage). Again, these sacrifices were all necessary compromises for large characters.
Large As Life
Just like the SNES version, the Genesis graphics don't scale, they only stay at one size. Fortunately, that size is big, which is a striking improvement on the small SNES graphics. With such large characters, you might assume there isn't enough screen space to fight, but that turns out to be no problem at all!
You'll notice, however, that many animation frames have been removed, especially from the win poses (Gen-an no longer licks his claw). What would you rather have: Small characters with all the animation or large characters with most of the animation? The answer is obvious!
That Samurai Jingle
Music from the dicey Genesis audio chip is always limited, but Takara did a laudable job of reproducing the coin-op tunes and providing a surprising amount of voice. The biggest cut was the removal of the announcement of characters' names.
Speaking of cuts, the blood in this version has been significantly watered down. Although it's red and more prevalent than it is in SNES Shodown, it comes in drops as compared to the buckets of the arcade version. Fortunately, both fatalities appear in this game, though they seem to happen less frequently than they do in the coin-op.
The bottom line is the control and game play, and here Shodown comes through in spades. The button layout using the six-button Arcade Pad is absolutely perfect. Although some of the collision and hit points could've been tweaked more (it's not as precise as the arcade version is), the game play and character interaction is pretty solid.
Like the Neo∙Geo version, there aren't a lot of combos -- but Takara put in some new combos that didn't work in the arcade! Two-in-one possibilities occur more frequently, and jump-in combos seem to work better.
All That Gutters
Shodown has just enough of the spirit and power of the arcade to satisfy frenzied fighters searching for the only true weapons game available. However, this version has enough missing elements to prompt hardcore fans with deep pockets to take a serious look at the Sega CD and 3DO versions.