Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Every Tuesday join Cyril as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week.
This week we're looking at a game that should have been awesome. That game is Samurai Shodown III, another great looking fighting game from SNK. But there's something wrong with this 1995 Neo Geo cartridge, something I plan on getting to the bottom of in the newest episode of This Week in Defunct Games!
What Is It?
Last week I complained about the lack of Neo Geo content on the Virtual Console. I guess next time I will need to be a little more specific. This is Samurai Shodown III, the obvious sequel to one of the very best Neo Geo fighting games. As a sequel it delivers substantial gameplay changes, including the ability to fit each character with one of two fighting styles. The graphics and backgrounds were also pumped up, making the aging Neo Geo hardware shine. Samurai Shodown III looked like the game to beat in 1995.
There's only one problem: Looks can be deceiving. Samurai Shodown III has the making for a great one-on-one fighting game, but it pales in comparison to the first two installments. The additions sound good on paper, but they ultimately break the balance of the characters. Worse yet, the control and pacing feels off. The radical changes made to the controls are unnecessary and keep this from being a better game. It's also annoying how few of the best Samurai Shodown I and II characters made the jump to part III. With the possible exception of the 3D installments, this is the black sheep of the Samurai Shodown franchise.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Now that I've spent the better part of this review complaining about what's wrong with Samurai Shodown III, perhaps it's time to talk about what's good. Thanks in large part to SNK's incredible art department; this 1995 sequel still looks amazing. I also like the cast of characters and their unique backdrops. In some ways this is SNK at their peak, knowing how to present a fighting game. I just wish the changes made to the gameplay were as successful as their art design.
Is It Worth The Money?
Looking back at it now, I don't feel as letdown by this game as I did fifteen years ago. At that time I couldn't stand the changes made to my beloved Samurai Shodown, choosing instead to go back to the first two titles. But now I'm more willing to accept the gameplay shifts and the strange pacing. I still say fighting fans should stick with Samurai Shodown II, but at $8 it's worth dabbling with this disappointing follow-up. As long as you keep your expectations in check, you can still have some fun with this week's Virtual Console release.