It used to be that if you wanted to dominate at fighting games back in the day, you’d pick one character and spam a few fireballs into the opposition until victory was achieved. Fighting games of the past may have been competitive, but they also wanted to provide spectacle and power fantasies. They wanted to give a taste of brutality to players with characters who had an overwhelming advantage in high-level play while the rest of the roster was treated as cannon fodder.
These days though? With the rise of online gaming, fighting games prize overall balance across the board as a key pillar within their development. You can look at just about any game in the genre these days and see developers comment on the mythical perfect balance that they all strive for. No one character is too overpowered, gameplay systems are designed to create openings that allow for escape from dangerous corners and the emphasis is on substance over style.
Over in the world of Samurai Shodown, things are a little bit different. Sure the game has a broad selection of characters who all pack a universal wallop in their weapons, but at the highest level possible there’s a small number of favourite characters who stand out. And that’s just the way that Samurai Shodown director Nobuyuki Kuroki likes it. “I feel that if you make everything too flat in a game like Samurai Shodown, it’s going to be boring,” Kuroki said to Kotaku.
There is a lot of character personality, even among how weak or strong they are. There’s going to be some balancing, but we’re never going to make it completely flat.
EVO 2019 was a great example of this mindset, as players gravitated towards characters such as Haohmaru and Genjuro as they fought their way through to the grand finals. Genjuro has proven to be especially popular, thanks to him being a Swiss Army Katana who can dish out a ton of damage from an advantageous safe space within the zoning metagame.
While Kuroki explained that there would be some balance in the near future, it won’t be on the same level as other fighting games. Which might also kill Samurai Shodown’s future within the competitive scene. That’d be a pity, because this resurrection of an age-old favourite is a devilishly charming slice ‘n dice brawler, whose more methodical take on dishing out damage makes for some top tier chess with blades when you see it in action.
Last Updated: August 8, 2019