After being reminded how fun Samurai Shodown 2 is thanks to my time with the Neo Geo Pocket version, I decided to jog my memory with the original arcade Neo-Geo game. And you know what? It's just as I remembered it, one of the best 1-on-1 fighting games of all time.
Everything about Samurai Shodown 2 shines, from its stunning backgrounds to the amazing character animations. In fact, the characters themselves are worth playing the game to see. Characters have a sort of anime look to them, but unlike later installments (such as the recently released Samurai Shodown V) it doesn't look awkward or silly. Even the most over-the-top character is presented with such style that it's hard not to love him. Everything about the game's visuals just glow, even a decade later.
Unlike a lot of games of the era that cribbed off of Street Fighter II, Samurai Shodown 2 had a feeling all its own. The game has a slow pace to it, but it's not boring or dull. The pace seems deliberate, it feels like you might expect from those old samurai movies. Although many moves are slow you will never feel like there's a delay or lag in the control. Samurai Shodown is one of those games that looks as good as it plays.
One of the best aspects of Samurai Shodown II are the backgrounds, fully realized worlds that are unlike anything you've seen before. A lot has been said about Street Fighter II's backdrops, but they pale in comparison to what you get in Samurai Shodown II. Better yet, the more you play the game you more stuff you see in the background, it's really just a masterpiece from beginning to end.
But it's not perfect. For one thing the game isn't very balanced. Some might not see this as an issue (since most of the weaker characters are rarely chosen), but it would have been nice if more attention was given to this aspect of the game. This is a solid fighting game, still the best in the series.
Samurai Shodown II is the real deal; it's your best bet when it comes to a fighting game on the Neo-Geo. This is one game with almost limitless replay, an amazing sense of style, and some of the best music you'll hear in an SNK game. Samurai Shodown is simply one of the best games ever made, there's no reason you should not have this in your permanent collection.