Samurai Shodown Anthology PSP Review

Most of SNK's franchises have already gotten their due with compilations (World Heroes, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury), so it's about time that the company's finest one to date, Samurai Shodown, appeared in the spotlight. If you haven't had a chance to play these games, there's no better time to get acquainted than with Samurai Shodown Anthology.

Almost all of the Samurai Shodown games are here and accounted for, save for the extremely rare (and hard to translate) role-playing game for Sega Saturn. Six are available, from the original SNK Neo-Geo game that started it all to the seldom-seen Samurai Shodown VI. You can choose from such characters as the spiky-haired sword slasher Haohmaru, the bird-summoning Nakoruru, American swordsman Galford and his faithful canine, the green-colored claw-wielding Gen-An and fart-happy Earthquake (yep, he grabs your head and lets loose with a brown cloud), among others. Most of the games are still good, although Samurai Shodown III is the weakest of the bunch because of the unbalanced gameplay. Some characters kill you in two attacks. Two!

While fighting, you have your quick slashes, strong slashes and kick attacks. A power bar fills over time, giving you limited access to even more devastating moves. Grapple moves are also available, including our personal favorite, Gen-An's power drill technique. For the most part, gameplay works reasonably well in these games, although there are two things worth noting. First, the uncomfortable d-pad makes pulling off complex maneuvers a chore, and you should expect sore thumbs. Second, the game suffers from annoying slowdown. Considering it runs just fine on the PS2 and the Wii, it's odd that SNK couldn't iron out this issue on the PSP.

At least the slowdown doesn't affect the mostly beautiful presentation. SNK has always paid close attention to the game's art and it shows. The original, with its beautifully drawn characters and zoom-in/zoom-out camera technique still looks great. So do the other games, but Samurai Shodown VI is the best of the bunch. Its vividly detailed backgrounds (they're in full 3-D) and explosive visual effects will brighten your PSP screen. The ambient music, consisting of Japanese-themed battle tunes and strums, is elegant and faithful to the Samurai theme.

The single player mode will last you a while and you'll enjoy experimenting with various characters. However, we really wish SNK did more to resolve the slowdown issue. It not only hampers single-player action, but multiplayer too. You can hook up with a friend in AdHoc combat, but the game takes so long to load and run that it's almost pointless.

Because of these hiccups, Samurai Shodown Anthology isn't as sharp as it should've been. Still, for fans seeking a quality portable fighter, it earns a modest recommendation.

What's Hot: Only five of the six games are worth playing, ambient music and terrific graphics, slow-paced matches will test even the best fighting fanatics.

What's Not: Slowdown causes unneeded interference, multiplayer takes forever to connect, d-pad makes some moves near impossible, Samurai Shodown III is weak sauce.

3/5