Breaking My Backlog #11 – Samurai Shodown II (With Extra Mini-Review)

Breaking My Backlog is a semi-regular features on in which I attempt to complete my entire backlog before buying any new games. You can read more about the quest and see my backlog here.

When I was a kid in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, there was nothing I loved to do more than head down to the Monument Mall with a pocket of quarters for the Blackout Arcade. My earliest memory of the blackout was a dark dingy place, with rows and rows of classic arcade games. You want the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game? It’s right there on the end. Legend of Kage? It’s in there somewhere, as well. The Blackout was a sweet place to be, embodying all of things I love about arcades, at least while looking back at past decades through rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.

When I was a few years older, the Blackout closed for a bit for renovations. When it finally reopened, it was twice the size. It was well-lit and clean, and there was even a little counter in the corner where you could trade in all of those tickets you won playing Skee-Ball for cheap plastic trinkets.

To be honest, while I do remember the old, darker Blackout, it’s this new Blackout that I remember the most. It was here I played the X-Men Arcade GameStreet Fighter IIVirtua FighterArea 51, etc, etc.

It was also here that I first played Samurai Shodown II.

In the 1990s, the heyday of arcade fighting games, Samurai Shodown was different than its contemporaries. It had hand-drawn characters, which set it apart from the more realistic graphics of Mortal Kombat or the blocky, polygonal graphics of Virtua Fighter. But, it also had blood and fatalities, which automatically made it more hardcore than Street Fighter. Within all of these, Street Fighter II was probably the king with its cast of recognizable characters from around the world, its accessible gameplay, and a movie that features one of the finest performances of any actor of any generation — I’ll leave it up to you to decide which actor that is. It would have been nearly impossible for another fighting game to even attempt to dethrone Street Fighter II, and I don’t believe Samurai Shodown ever even came close. But, as far as fighters go, its sequel Samurai Shodown II holds a lot of great memories for me.

I’ve never been good at fighting games, and Samurai Shodown II wasn’t really any different. I think I lack the necessary coordination to successfully pull off moves and string together combos. I don’t like to button mash, but my fat fingers tend to mash the buttons anyway, and any victory I achieve would showcase my dumb luck rather than any sort of real skill. Any success I’ve ever had in the multiplayer scene at the arcades comes from playing games more than anyone else. Now, this is impossible with a game like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat. These games are so ingrained within our culture that playing them the most is just not a feasible option.

But Samurai Shodown II? That was a possibility, at least at my local arcade. First, it was located in a Neo-Geo 4-in-1 arcade machine, so you had to actually intentionally select the game. This meant that many people probably weren’t even aware the game was there, unless they happened to be walking by when the demo was playing or someone else was playing the game. And the game’s placement within the arcade affected this as well. Like most arcades, the Blackout put their most popular games front and center, and while those of us who love SNK really love SNK, the games never really caught on in my rural hometown arcade. I didn’t even realize that Samurai Shodown II was a thing until I saw a guy I knew named Mike playing it one day. I was immediately interested. The characters were big, bright and colorful like Street Fighter II, but these characters used weapons. This created a new dynamic in my mind as each character could inherently control differently, even requiring different play styles to effectively use the different weapons. Even when I played it, it felt different than Street Fighter II, featuring a slower, more methodical system of play.

The best part? No one else played it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. There were a few die-hard Samurai Shodown II fans at the Blackout, but we were few and far between, and aside from the occasional versus match, most of us just enjoyed playing against the computer. When we did play against someone, we could always tell whether or not they were experienced based on how they played. And those of us that played the game often knew how to win.

I’ve rarely ever won a multiplayer arcade match in any game, but of those I have, the majority have probably come from Samurai Shodown II.

When I received a PC version of Samurai Shodown II in a Twitch Prime giveway bundle a few months back, I got pretty excited. But, then I wondered how well it would hold up. As I’ve written before, nostalgia is a powerful force, and I wondered if I had built up my memories of the game in a way the game could never meet. In times past, I’ve actually avoided the media of my youth because of this very fear. However, since I am determined to play my entire backlog, I installed the game and played it.

And, well… It’s still great.

Don’t get me wrong, I probably still overhyped it in my mind. No game could ever live up to some of the standards I set when dealing with the games of my youth. But, Samurai Shodown II is still a remarkably fun fighter, and its uniqueness in gameplay remains. I sank right back into my fighter of choice, Ukyo Tachibana, almost immediately, and while I was definitely rusty, I could still get things done. I moved through my matches slowly, waiting for the right opening, and striking, my sword sending a jet of blood spraying out of my opponent. I wasn’t always successful, and I still probably lost more than I won. But, I had a blast doing it, and that’s what it’s all about.

Mini-Review: World of Goo

I am not a structural engineer. On the contrary, in my real life, I have no sense of space or volume or size or anything like that. I am clumsy, and I knock the dog’s water bowl over all the time even though it never moves. I’m still pretty good at World of Goo though. I can build gooey bridges with the best of them. Anyway, this is a good, fun puzzle game. You build structures using these little goo balls to try and get as many of the remaining goo balls as possible into the goal pipe. These structures could be bridges or towers or even a wheel. Anything you can build to bridge the gap between your pile of goo balls and the goal. Like most puzzle games, you have a specific metric of success to achieve each level, and if you do, you move on to the next level. If you haven’t played it yet, you should. It’s on all of the platforms, and it’s really well done.

Backlog Update:

Woof. It’s been a while. Some games complete. Some games added. This is an uphill battle.

Total Backlog: 241 265

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