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Samurai Spirits Shinshou
  opened by paleface at 07:53:50 02/24/08  
  last modified by paleface at 08:16:39 02/24/08  
  paleface [sys=PS1; cat=Fighting; loc=JPN]
The full Japanese title is something like "Kenkaku Ibunroku - Yomigaerishi Soukou no Yaiba - Samurai Spirits Shinshou." It came to the States as "Samurai Spirits: Warrior's Rage." Apparently it isn't a port of the NeoGeo 64 arcade game, but rather a sequel, taking place 20 years later. Anyway, the story's silly. Mostly you just fight people, which is good.
SS Shinshou does thinks quite a bit differently than, well, most other fighting games generally. The characters are 3D, and fairly low-poly even by PS1 standards; the backgrounds, on the other hand, are fairly high-detail 2D; surprisingly, the backgrounds and 3D foreground mesh almost seamlessly--it's quite impressive, really.
Fights don't have multiple rounds, but each character has three life meters, each shorter than the last: when one is depleted, the next appears. There's a pause when this happens, and sometimes some trash-talking by the other fighter. The pause is a little long, and then there's this sort of annoying zip right back into full action, where the AI will get the drop on you if you aren't holding block during the pause.
Characters still build a "Rage Meter" as they fight, as in some of the 2D SS games. Once it's charged up, you can hit the three attack buttons (two slash buttons, and a kick buttons; there's also a fourth button for sidestepping an attack) to blow up your Rage Meter, turn the background all dark grey, and...uh...well you get a short time of something, I'm not sure what, exactly. Maybe doing more damage. Then the normal background comes back, and you have no more Rage Meter for the rest of the fight.
The Rage Meter can also be used for super moves, I think, but I wasn't very good at finding the input combinations to activate these, even though the controls are pretty much traditional 2D fighter controls.
The moves are quick and responsive, though, and aside from the supers, I guess, most of them felt pretty intuitive to me. One thing that I think is particularly nifty is that your fighter will go into different stances depending on what moves you've just done, and from that stance it's slightly different how they go into further moves. It adds to the intuitive feeling of the control, and makes the animation of the fight more organic.
The character roster isn't huge, and most of them, well, heck, actually all of them are new characters. SS staple Haomaru is here, but two-decades older, and pretty fierce looking for all his grey hair. Most of the other character designs are pretty memorable, and not too freakish or hipsterish or anything. I'm not a big fan of the weirdo with the big hand, or of the sort of generic old guy / invisible guy final boss, but other than that, they did a pretty good job with this cast. One particularly weird one is the Amazons; you might have to take out up to five of them (maybe more on harder difficultly levels, I dunno) in a single fight! And they come in different bright, skin-tight, black-fringed colors. Bizarre, but still kind of neat.
Except maybe for the washed-out, grainy CG cutscenes here and there (only the main character, a young samurai, has a CG intro of his own, I think, which is probably a good thing), the game, even when low-poly, has a real stylish flair to it. The character designs, the amazing 2D backgrounds, the voice clips, the 2D character art in the menus and loading screens, the move animations and victory poses, all have very artful presentation.
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