Samurai Shodown and its cousin King of Fighters were SNK's answer to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat in the 90s. Basically a copy cat of Street Fighter II, Samurai Shodown had bright sprites and swordplay, and even had animals that helped you out. Fast forward to 2010 and Street Fighter is still one of the top franchises in the fighting game genre. SNK’s solution to Street Fighter IV is Samurai Shodown: Sen, their own 3D styled title.
SNK Playmore should have listened to the complaints on the poorly made King of Fighters XII and tried to make Samurai Shodown: Sen better. Instead you get a generic 2D fighter with 3D elements with probably some of the worst detailed characters out of any of the modern fighters. The 3D play field isn’t one that you can openly travel about like in for example, Soul Calibur. It's more of a static plane that if you get hit a certain way the field rotates to match it. The character animations are not all bad though, as some of the heavy slash moves finish off a player with severed arms and in some cases a severed torso, sure to put a smile on your face at first. But when you end up doing the move on 20 different characters and the animation is the exact same thing each time, the gratification for winning slowly fades away.
The gameplay itself is the weakest part aside from the lack of detail in the graphics. Flat out, it’s a boring affair. There are the typical Story, VS, Survival modes that most games currently have. Story mode travels through eight battles per character you choose, for a total of 192 if you decide the game is so amazing that you need to play through with every single character. The first couple of fights are against random characters specific to the story of the fighter you choose. The last three battles are always against the same people, with the same tactics as well. There are difficulty settings from Beginner to Hard, though Hard is actually not so tough as the AI is so poor that you can trick them and heavy slash all day long.
This brings about another flaw in the game. Samurai Shodown: Sen offers a large number of combos and special moves to destroy your opponent. The issue however, is that the combos are pointless. You can repeatedly lose by a large margin and come back with three heavy slashes and win the match. What is the point of having fun combos if the heavy slash is so effective you have no need to combo? It could be a broken game mechanic, or possibly a way to make it so anyone can play effectively at least through the first two battles. Battles three, five and seven are setup to make the CPU much tougher to beat compared to the rest of the matches. That’s right — the end boss is one of the weakest ever, which if you have played Dead or Alive 4 is a blessing.
The load times are not terrible, though they seem to be longer then they actually are. The game will tell you to press Start to skip and it will just continue to play the cut scene even after you attempt to bypass it. It's terrible, just a minor annoyance. The controls and collision detection are decent. There aren’t many of the “I hit you” moments as the impacts are accurate. The controls are sluggish at times as there is a lag when you attempt to make the character run. The jump action is flat out broken. Pressing “UP” on the directional pad is set to let you do said action, with the problem being that it doesn’t always work on a consistent basis.
The title also has online multiplayer but if you want to play this mode often, trick a friend into getting a copy as well. The reason is that there is no online community for this game. After a week since its release, within a 60 minute period of time I noted only three other tags; that’s right….three tags. On another night I tried for 45 minutes and didn’t get one match — not a single one. Needless to say, the online community is dead for this title compared to other fighting games where you will consistently get into a battle. Of the little successful online play that was possible, it was lag free and fairly enjoyable.
Being on the Xbox 360 there are of course achievements to be had, 50 for 1000 possible points. Over half are for playing through the story mode with every character in the game so to get over 50% of the achievements is a simple task. The rest of them involve playing survival mode or ending a match a certain way. This offers a bit of a challenge to the average gamer but the achievements are still obtainable. If you are a guru at fighting games 900 points should be more then possible as long as you have a friend to play against online. Only a couple of the achievements may give you a bit of trouble if you are the latter style of gamer.
Overall, Samurai Shodown: Sen isn't a bad title if you need a quick battle against 3D versions of the characters you may remember from NeoGeo days. Most gamers today will not care to remember that point in time and see how average this game really is.
Samurai Shodown: Sen is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Mild Sexual Themes, and Violence.