Unlike the Metal Slug series, SNK’s popular Samurai Shodown hasn’t seen much representation on mobile. A bit over eight years ago, Dotemu did a mobile version of Samurai Shodown II for SNK. A solid choice, as it tends to be the most popular installment. As part of its opening line-up of mobile Arcade Archives, Hamster has opted to bring us Samurai Shodown IV ($3.99), another series favorite.
Considering the reliable nature of some other SNK series, Samurai Shodown has been remarkably inconsistent. As such, it’s rare to find anyone that loves every entry in the series. Samurai Shodown IV‘s popularity comes from a few improvements over its predecessor. Some characters cut from the third game make their return, the visuals were given a more cartoonish look, air blocking was removed, and a tide-turning Rage Explosion move was implemented. When used, it sacrifices your POW meter for the remainder of the match in exchange for a boost in strength. You can also commit seppuku, which not only denies your opponent the satisfaction of victory but also starts you off the next round with a full POW meter. Oh, and there’s also the Fatal Slash, which can flip the script in one fell swoop.
Compared to other one-on-one fighters, matches in Samurai Showdown games can be swift and brutal. Samurai Showdown IV leans into that, and as a result matches are fast-paced and lively. There’s a particular flavor to this series that few others share, and it’s what keeps players coming back even twenty-five years later. Is it well-suited to mobile? Well, that’s another question. Virtual controls and fighting games don’t always mix well, and some of the motions required in this game are particularly vexing on a virtual pad. To make matters worse, multiplayer is local only and requires you to have an extra external controller.
If you’ve read my review of Metal Slug 5, all of the options and features mentioned there apply here. You can play both the Japanese and Overseas versions of the game, try a one-credit score attack, or go for a Caravan run to see how many points you can rack up in five minutes. You get save states, and a wide array of options for difficulty, button layout, video and audio, and more. There are online leaderboards as well, which is the only real online interaction with other players on offer here.
The game has support for external controllers, and it makes a huge difference for those that use them. Otherwise, you’re stuck with the virtual controls here, and they’re about as good as they can be. There are lots of options for customizing them just the way you like, if nothing else. But unless you have an external controller or two, you’re most likely playing Samurai Shodown IV using virtual controls against the CPU opponent. It just isn’t the best way to go about experiencing this one. The price is reasonable and the package is good, but the transition to mobile hits this game harder than it might some others.
Provided you’re used to playing fighters with virtual controls (or have some external controllers) and don’t mind that you’re most likely going to be confined to single-player battles, you probably won’t find this to be an unpleasant pick-up at all. The game itself is excellent, easily one of the better fighters from a console where that statement really means something. But it’s just difficult enough to experience the game the way it’s meant to be played with this particular version to keep me from recommending it with too much vigor.