Even though the Street Fighter II series dominated the arcade scene during the 1990s, SNK delivered more hardcore and satisfying 2D fighters with the Samurai Showdown series. The 2D weapons-based fighter is unlike anything else at that time with diverse characters, and a gameplay system that offers intense moments throughout fights. Samurai Showdown II is considered the pinnacle of the series improving everything the first game had and having the gameplay as balanced as possible even though there are high-tier characters and strategies any player can go with. It finally makes its appearance on Xbox Live Arcade a year after it was announced as SNK Playmore's 3rd game on the service. Despite the price mix-up when the release date was announced, this 2D fighter is still worth the money if you loved it back in the day with great online play.
As a 90s fighting game, Samurai Showdown II still holds up today with great fighting and a good amount of characters to choose with from favorites Haohmaru, Genjuro, Ukyo, Charlotte, Galford, and more. The original arcade cabinet had a four button setup of slashes and kicks as pressing both slashes as an example counts as a heavy slash. This XBLA version can map heavy slashes and kicks to any button to ease control. The POW meter on the bottom of the screen plays a major role in the action as the more damage you take, the more red your character gets allowing to unleash more damage on your opponent. When the meter is full, a character is allowed to do a super move when it hits an opponent, they are weapon-less for a limited time even though they can still attack with punches and kicks. The random elements like health items or bombs dropping and doing Super Deformation moves make fights more intense and dramatic as one mistake can lead to defeat. As with any 2D fighter on XBLA, there is also the issue of the 360 controller with its d-pad, so if you're having trouble executing some of the moves, an arcade stick is recommended especially for purists. With learning specials and supers for the characters, SamSho 2 has the depth to be one of the greatest fighting games in existence.
As with every SNK game that has appeared on Xbox Live Arcade, the amount of modes and presentation are pretty much bare bones. The single player game is there and still as challenging as ever especially the annoying last boss, Mizuki. The border surrounding the game screen is pretty bland, but not that big of a deal. At default settings, the single player game is limited to five credits, but that can be changed to your preference along with difficulty especially if you're playing local versus games. Online play is the version's biggest feature with ranked and quick matches that are easy to access. As long as the game runs at a ping of less than 200 ms, matches will run smoothly with minimal lag, which is great for a fighting game like this. Of course the competition especially against other human opponents makes the online truly worth it as most of the characters will be used including the hidden character Kuroko.
Graphically, Samurai Showdown II looks great on the 360 with the optional enhanced filter. Some people were a little worried that this version would be censored like Metal Slug 3's release earlier this year, but SNK Playmore released the proper version with blood and the characters being sliced in half fully intact. For purists, you can turn off the enhanced graphics to play it the original way, but it is not that much of a difference. The sound as well is great with minimal problems during laggy online matches. The music is very moody according to the stages from duel-like tunes at Genjuro's stage to more themes from Charlotte and Cham Cham's stages. The good thing is that this port is not toned down at all staying pure to the original.
For 800 Microsoft Points (ten dollars), this XBLA port of Samurai Showdown II is totally worth playing if you're desperate to play this game online and just a fan of the series even though 400 Microsoft Points would have been better when the release date was announced. Then again, there are other retro based fighting games on Live Arcade like Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 available for the same price point of ten bucks, so it is not that big of a deal that was overblown by complaints. Anyway, the gameplay still holds up in today's world of fighting games and the online play performs significantly well. With other consoles having this game at a different price point or in a compliation that will be released later this year, the XBLA version of Samurai Showdown II is perhaps the best of the bunch especially if you're craving to play it online on a console rather than a PC.
Score = 7.5/10
- A true port of SamSho 2 with nothing toned down.
- Great online play with minimal lag.
- Gameplay still holds up today.
- Still one of the greatest fighting games in existence.
- Bare bones presentation with limited modes like the rest of SNK's games on XBLA.
- Price point maybe too steep for some.
- An arcade stick is recommended if you're having trouble executing some of the moves on the 360 controller.