| paleface [sys=PS2; cat=Fighting; loc=JPN] |
|The part of the title after the colon babelfishes as "Public One Sword Customer Transmission." So yeah, I don't know what that really means, either.|
I like this game like I haven't liked the Samurai Shodown series since the seminal SSII (see entry 246). Maybe it was the additional horsepower of the Atomiswave arcade hardware that inspired SNK--I don't know. All I know is, this game has special fighting spirit. It's perhaps the richest 2D fighting game I can remember playing; and by that, I mean it's just packed to bursting with sights, sounds, characters, and gameplay techniques.
Let's start with the simple stuff: the graphics. The Atomiswave hardware finally allowed SNK to do real transparent effects, so all the special move effects get a big boost in this latest version of the Samurai Spirits series. Then they also went and put in high-resolution win-screen, backgrounds, and character portrait art. The lively backgrounds, set all over the world (the White House one is particularly amusing), have real personality with all their animation and characters. Yes, I suppose they might look a little odd being twice the resolution of the main character sprites, but that type of disparity is nothing new (see entry 813, Capcom vs. SNK: Millenium Fight 2000, for instance).
Most of the old character sprites hail from the old SS3, or thereabouts. They look pretty decent, though I always preferred the grittier look of SS2. Anyway, the point is that the newer characters, from SS0 (see entry 718) or this latest game, look even more cartoonish than the SS3 sprites. But what with all the effects they throw around during the fight, you probably won't have much time to notice little details like that.
Considering all the high res goods in here, it's just a shame that the game, unlike most of SNK's recent PS2 ports, doesn't have support for progressive scan screen modes. Weak. I mean, they give that option to older games that have no high-res art at all, and they can't get it right or their lates,t high-res baby? Pfft.
The sound effects are good and sharp, but I particularly want to mention the fully orchestrated music. It's nice. Some of the tracks even feature vocals, and these are top-notch, too. Very unusual to get a soundtrack this ornate in a fighting game, thanks SNK.
Oh, yeah, the characters. There are a bunch! And a lot of them are pretty zany, like this new puppet stand thing. I'm not kidding, she's a puppet stand, and if she catches you, you appear as a little superdeformed puppet, dancing on her stage. And then there's the poster girl, a chick with pendulous bosoms and skimpy French maid outfit. Eh, not really samurai gear in even the loosest possible way. But still, they're not all too bad, and the older ones are pretty good, and nearly all here, so overall the character selection is a big plus.
And once you choose a fighter, you go and choose their fighting type. This is similar to Street Fighter Alpha's "isms," or to style selection in the Capcom vs SNK series (see entry 814, 813), for instance, only here there are six modes! Woo! Although I don't like them all, particularly the two that allow that stupid "rage explosion" thing or whatever it was from SS3 or 4. My favorite so far is one that gives you a super-powerful slash (press weak slash and medium slash together), and no supers, but just more damage when your rage meter is built up. Nice and old-school.
Apparently there are a good deal of fighters hidden away, but I'm unlikely to unlock them as it requires beating the game, and darn me if that final boss (at least I hope it's the final boss) is, typically of SNK, just no fun at all to try to beat. Still, you can play as far as you can get through Arcade mode, and that, along with little story segments in Japanese, should give you plenty of characters to choose from and to fight.
One surprise is the lack of gameplay modes aside from Arcade mode. There are Practice and Color Edit modes--but no Survival? Weird.
I'm not fond of SNK having to use five buttons in all their games now that they've moved to the five-button Atomiswave hardware. The fifth button here is sort of a dodge thing--depending on what fighting style you chose. The old-school one doesn't use button five at all, yay!
Each character has the usual mix of special moves. Unfortunately, for the non-English speaker at least, the in-game move list is completely bewildering, seeming to list five or six times as much stuff as it needs. I keep having to turn to the concise movelists in the back of the manual. Like the progressive scan thing, this is an unfortunate design decision that really had no need of being made.
Oh! The special items. The judge throws out little items during the fight: bombs, food, coins. You have to run up to them and press two buttons at once, and then your character will pick them up. They're pretty wacky, and not nearly as useful as your normal attacks, but they add yet another layer of panedmonium to an already visually complicated game.
Well, so, despite some of the oversights in the porting of the game, I'm really enjoying this one. SNK has finally done the SS series proud again.
|Whoops! Hey, stupid, Survival mode is unlocked after you beat the game once. Looks like I'd better work on my skills (or just lower the difficulty level...). Plus there's color edit mode, lots of characters, and even animal characters (?) to unlock. I gotta get crackin'.|
|Download added: charlotte_map.gif (169564 bytes)|
"Took me a while to realize this was a world map, just one with a super-big Japan in the middle."
The final boss is still a whirling tornado of death on even the lowest of the eight skill levels...until you find his weak spot. It took me about two hours to getting thrashed to find it, because I'm dumb. Still, it would be nice if SNK's bosses could be just a bit tougher than the semi-final fight, instead of about ten times harder than anyone you've fought previously. Bleh.