Samurai Shodown 2: Shin Samurai Spirits
Samurai Shodown II (also known as "Shin Samurai Spirits" in Japan) was the sequel to the original Samurai Shodown. It was released in 1994, and featured a colorful cast of characters that included many returning characters from the first game, as well as a handful of new characters.
The sequel is known and loved by its fans as having much more fluid gameplay than the first game, as well as for having lots of "personality." The game has tons of secrets and references, both to previous SNK games (such as Fatal Fury character Kim Kaphwan making a flythrough in Galford's stage), as well as to modern pop culture (such as the alien monster from Aliens appearing in the stew-pot in Gen-An's stage).
The game is also remembered for its occasionally hilarious mistranslations from Japanese to English (including the most infamous quote from newcomer Cham Cham, "Shit, you really make me mad!").
CHANGES AND GAMEPLAY ADDITIONS
Despite featuring many characters from the previous game, Samurai Shodown II made many changes, and had a completely different fighting engine and control scheme with many more movement options. In addition to letting players send their character into a full run by double-tapping, then holding, the joystick forward (and also double-tapping the joystick backwards to back-dash), Samurai Shodown II also had forward and backward rolls (performed by double-tapping the joystick down-forward, or down-backward, respectively). Players could transition directly from a forward dash to a forward roll. The game also had ducking (double-tap the joystick down) and backward hop dodges (press B+C).
Samurai Shodown II also had a much more fluid pace and cleaned up most of the nagging hitbox issues that plagued the original game. It also totally rebalanced the characters, most notably making Earthquake, who was one of the most powerful characters in the first game (in addition to having a bizarre hitbox when performing several of his attacks, Earthquake could not be thrown in the first game), one of the weakest characters in the second game. Nakoruru also saw a similar de-powering, going from the top tier of the first Samurai Shodown to becoming arguably the weakest character in the sequel. Samurai Shodown II's faster, smoother gameplay was also much more conducive to performing standard "2-in-1" combo attacks (normal-sword-slash-comboed-into-special-attack).
The sequel also added a few gameplay features to make the action seem more dramatic. Most seem to be performed at random. For instance, if a character successfully blocks an incoming sword attack at the last possible moment, that character's opponent may randomly be briefly stunned after the screen flashes white, just barely long enough to perform a very, very fast counterattack. Also, like in the first game, characters may randomly perform a weapon clash (where the two characters meet in the middle of the screen and lock weapons, and each player is encouraged to mash the buttons to win the breakup). In Samurai Shodown II, sometimes the breakup ends with one character kicking the other away; again, this result appears to be totally random.
In addition to having a cleaned-up fighting engine, Samurai Showdown II also had plenty of quirky, wacky features and secrets that gave the game lots of personality. The sequel was the first game in the series to feature character taunts, and all characters had two different taunts that could be performed by pressing either A+C or B+D. In addition, each character had a "doll move" that let them transform themselves into a "chibi" (superdeformed) doll version of him/herself. There were also a handful of other "hidden" secrets for each character, such as the ninjas' (Galford and Hanzo) ability to turn invisible; Nakoruru's multi-hitting "Kamui Ryuse" cape attack, and Haohmaru's "hidden" Tenha Fuujin Zan sword attack. Perhaps the most memorable, and completely insane, Easter Egg in Samurai Shodown II was the "hidden" boss fight with Kuroko, the black-suit-wearing referee. Kuroko could be fought at certain points in the game if very stringent time and lifebar restrictions were met. However, the character was ridiculously overpowered. Kuroko was actually a playable character in versus play only, accessible via a DIP switch setting.