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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Samurai Shodown Anthlogy (Wii)

Offering six classic SNK fighting titles on a single value priced disc, Samurai Shodown Anthology delivers solid arcade fighting action to your living room. Each of these titles has a unique battle system and switching between the game offers players the chance to watch the series evolve. Its unique and uncompromising gameplay mechanics give the Samurai Shodown titles a different feel than other fighting games and the unique cast of characters is memorable in terms of design and attack strategy. There are several other SNK compilations on Wii, and this solid release is a solid purchase if you want to enhance or add to your existing collection.

While SNK's Samurai Shodown (known as Samurai Spirits in Japan) has always had a devoted following, it's never received the critical praise lavished on other fighting series. This compilation for Wii is as good an opportunity as any for a fresh look at the games and their impressive evolution over the years. At its start, the series began as a slightly more eastern flavored version of Street Fighter II, with an admittedly derivative approach most evident in the first game. However, as time moved along and SNK tweaked the game, it began to show a unique gameplay personality all its own. Playing through these classic fighting games, you can see the trademark SNK style develop over time, becoming a unique counter-part to the systems and style of Capcom's titles. To take SS on specifically, it's reliance on swordplay over kicks and punches always separated it from the pack, and as its fighting systems became more elaborate and complicated, it developed a feel all its own. The game's vibrantly animated 2D design was refreshingly pure, and for this reason the games have help up well over the years. While the Wii versions animations might not be as smooth as the old AES machines, these translations still look razor sharp on the console. Overall, the developers have done an excellent job bringing these classics games home without losing too much in the translation.

SNK's uncompromising approach to the series saw very few gimmicks seep through, giving the Samurai titles a gameplay purity that the flashier KOF games couldn't achieve. This consistent design made these games feel quite authentic. One key element in its 'otaku' appeal is its use of traditional Japanese instrumentation, which makes for somewhat quieter soundtrack than other fighters and one that sets the atmosphere perfectly. Its this approach that elegantly complimented the action in these titles and make them stand out. It's 1800's time frame also helped to give SS a unique feel, and its antiquated character designs and retro levels made it feel much less modern, and more timeless than other fighting games. A key part of the appeal of SS has always been its characters, who are much more memorable than the somewhat generic fighters that populate other series. Each character in the SS universe radiates a unique personality and fighting technique that makes playing and mastering them more a joy than a chore. As the games evolved, more sophisticated attacks and combos became available, such as slash and burst modes that added layers of strategy to the battles. You have to master each of these techniques and the art of the counter in order to defeat your opponents. The different attacks and gauges in each game can become a bit confusing if you try and play them all at once, but confining yourself to a single game on the compilation helps to reduce this. As you get into its flowing classically styled gameplay, the depth of Samurai Shodown becomes more apparent. It's smoothly flowing, fast-paced action differs dramatically from other fighting games and required more thought and strategy. Figuring out how to counter an opponents attacks, knowing when to unleash special attacks and learning to wait until the rival is vulnerable can be tricky if you're used to the more traditional button mashing style of fighting, but the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment makes any of the included games more rewarding.

The compilation itself is smartly put together, beginning with its streamlined menu system that's easy to navigate and use. Players can select from any of the six titles on the main menu and can also go into the training and practice modes to sharpen their fighting skills. The Wii versions of each game allow you to use the standard Wii-mote or the classic controller if you're so inclined. The game plays fine with the standard wii controller, and SNK deserves credit for not falling into the Wii trap, as they did with the Metal Slug compilation. You don't have to shake your wii-mote to perform special moves, which allows the games' straightforward mechanics to show without becoming overshadowed by gimmicks. For those who want to maximize their gameplay authenticity, using the classic controller allows for smoother movement using the controllers analog pad. This makes performing half-circle moves and special attacks much easier. For players lucky enough to own one, the Wii Joystick is obviously ideal since it's the most accurate way to recreate the original arcade controls. Each game on the disc loads relatively quickly, which allows you to jump right into the action. Samurai Shodown's emulation quality is surprisingly accurate, recreating the fluid pace of the action faithfully. There are a few minor issues with lost frames here and there, but the overall job is quite impressive. As an added bonus, several mini-games are included where you tilt the Wiimote in different directions to catch objects. These are nice diversions but nothing to get excited about. Overall, this is a solid compilation that accurately recreates the arcade classics, offering plenty of action and challenge and serving as a mini-course in the evolution of one of SNK's under-rated franchises. It's a solid purchase for any fans of the arcade games or those looking for the experience without having to shell out a small fortune for the original Neo-Geo carts.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B

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