SAMURAI SHODOWN IV
[Editor's Note: Why is it called "Special"? In this version, Cham Cham is a selectable character in Vs. mode.]
I didn't like Samurai Shodown 3. In fact, I downright loathe it. The PSX port made it even harder to find any reason to purchase the import of Samurai Shodown 4. I'm glad I did though, because what I got was a far superior product to any of the previous games. It was a tremendous improvement over Samurai Shodown 3, in terms of both a port and as a game.
With larger than life characters that look exactly like their arcade counterparts, Samurai Shodown 4 excels in the graphics department. Lots more frames of animation grace this game, with better looking backgrounds than previous games, including this nifty sequence where Amakusa shows up and changes the screen to an eerie, ethereal battlefield in the middle of a match. This is a good looking game.
First off, the Bust/Slash system is more refined than the previous outing of Shodown. Controls are noticeably tighter, and moves are a tad easier to perform with vastly improved response time. There is almost no lag in this game, which is a far cry from Samurai Shodown 3. The load times have been reduced from match to match, making it a much more enjoyable experience. There is one oddity thought: in a match, at the beginning of the first round, there is a 2-3 second load time in between the "fight!" and when the action begins. It doesn't occur in any other round... just the first. Strange, but manageable.
Though not perfect, the sound of this game is a definite improvement. Characters voices are more easily understood, and sounds are noticeably crisper than before. Nothing has the washed out quality that strangled the sound in Samurai Shodown 3. The music is appropriate, and every track has a definite "Samurai" feel to it. The slashes and hits sound better in general, and the special moves are believable once again.
Though Samurai Shodown 3 scarred me, it couldn't keep me away from this great title. This is one of the later SNK games that really proved it's gaming prowess by making a good conversion. The improvements over 3 are very noticeable, so just skip 3 and go straight to this one. Fans of Samurai Shodown and fighting fans alike will enjoy this excellent conversion for years to come.
- John Gillerlain
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