Samurai Shodown Sen is not an awful game. The only way it could be considered “awful” would be to ignore the barely playable fighters that have come out over the last twenty years. The characters perform expected actions whenever I press the buttons, and — aside from plastic doll faces — the graphics are well beyond “PlayStation 2 quality”. I can say this with confidence because I’ve actually played PS2 games. Sure, the static stage design and straightforward presentation may not compare favorably to the Dreamcast’s Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive 2, but those were that era’s Uncharted 2. The point is, it’s obviously an Xbox 360 game and it’s obviously not an awful one.
That being said, Samurai Shodown Sen is not a good game, either. I can only see people enjoying it at parties, and only if they party with nerds who have nothing better to play (and any righteous nerd should have far better games to play). The game is massively screwed from a “serious” competitive sense, but it’s silly enough to warrant a few laughs.
Case in point: Kyoshiro. According to the opening narration, he “believed that his duty in life was to spread the joys of kabuki around the world.”
So he went forth and chopped off peoples’ heads.
“After exchanging fists, the shark let me ride on its back.”
That’s some shark! I really wish I had a picture to go along with that epilogue, but each character’s unique ending has no illustrations. Without even a lame “Ryu walks into the sunset” image, the main incentive to play through the single-player mode is to unlock the bosses as playable characters . . . and to unlock both bosses, you must beat the game with everyone.
I wish I could say the main incentive to single-player mode was the joy of samurai fighting, but Samurai Shodown Sen is designed for degenerates. When I played as the runaway princess Suzu, I found that victory was easy to attain by abusing the triple slash (hold back + vertical slash). It’s like discovering an infinite money trick in an RPG; when challenged, I just don’t have the willpower to avoid using the most efficient “strategy”. So I abused Suzu’s triple slash. When I selected Haohmaru, I abused his throw. Actually, aside from Suzu, I abused everyone’s throw. I beat the game with every character, and I improved my blocking-and-countering, but I don’t feel like I really learned how to play the game.
In retrospect, I probably did discover the best way to play. My “strategy” worked even on the harder difficulty setting — I consistently beat enemies quickly without dying.
When reviewing a fighting game, I would normally describe some of the characters. In Samurai Shodown Sen, they all use the same throw animation, so they’re all the same to me, except that some wear skirts and some wear baggy pants. There’s one exception, one lady who stands apart from the rest. Her name is Angelica, and she’s a leggy Amazon. She’s unusual because her throw is inexplicably weak. She must throw people six times to win, whereas other characters must only throw people five times. After scouring the internet, I actually found a tier list for Samurai Shodown Sen, and Angelica was considered the worst character. But I still like her, because she’s pretty hot.
Creating a balanced but challenging fighter requires an enormous amount of planning, testing, and time. That obviously didn’t happen here; Suzu’s triple slash, Wan Fu’s knockdown-and-keepdown combos, and every character’s throw could have been caught simply by playing against the computer. And then they should have been fixed. Finding these things doesn’t help if they aren’t corrected.
Playing against other people might be fun if other people actually played Samurai Shodown Sen, but they don’t. I can’t recommend a broken single-player experience or a multiplayer game that lacks a competitive community. My best memory of Samurai Shodown Sen was when I paused during Charlotte’s stage and listened to the music for a while; that’s worth something, but it’s not worth $20.