Samurai Shodown! 2

Release: April 30, 1999 | Size: 16megs 

Author: M.E. Williams

This follow-up to 1998's Samurai Shodown! is a demake of the prior year's Warrior's Rage on the Hyper Neo-Geo 64. This surprisingly robust entry in the series is a fan favorite for good reason.

Arriving not even five months after the first Samurai Shodown! on the black & white Neo-Geo Pocket, Samurai Shodown! 2 came screaming onto the scene shortly after the Pocket Color console was released. Unlike other games in the Pocket Fighting Series which are de-makes of a Neo-Geo MVS game, SS!2 is a de-make of a Hyper Neo-Geo 64 release: Samurai Shodown 64 2: Warriors Rage. I remember the quality of the game surprising many in the Neo fan community back in the late 90's, and it became an instant favorite among us die-hards for its fast action and charm. While the game was never really designed for competitive play, there is a surprising amount of depth in its systems. It even retains almost all move sets and features from its 64-bit big brother.

Despite being on far less powerful hardware than its source game, Samurai Shodown! 2 has a surprisingly large roster of 16 playable characters. If you count the Slash/Bust versions of each character as a unique entry, that number jumps to 32 playable characters. The only other Neo Pocket fighting game with this much variety is SNK Vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium. 

The gameplay tempo is similar to the prior year's offering, but there were a host of changes introduced into this game to make it more like the Hyper 64 release. Unlike the first SS!, there is no dedicated kick button. Rather, the A button is weak or hard slash depending on how long you hold it, and the B button controls the dodge and parry mechanics. Pressing B while the stick is neutral will do a dodge, and holding a direction on the stick while pressing B will do a high or low parry. The B button is used to perform some of the special attacks as well, so it has a few different functions. While the game retains all the wall bounces and zaniness of the first game, the action is a bit more snappy. It really feels great to play.

Due the core game being little more than an arcade (story) mode, SNK added a Collection mode to help pad the gameplay. If certain match conditions are met you will receive a card. There are eight cards per character, and each card has a piece of art for you to collect. Additionally, you can equip these cards to slots on your character to boost the stats of a particular special move, which adds some customizability to your game and favorite characters. 

It's not far removed graphically from the first game, although sprites were updated to match the outfits worn by the characters in the Hyper 64 original if they were significantly different than the old sprites. Certain moves and animations were also redone to better match the source game. Because this game was designed from the ground up for the Pocket Color hardware, it has a much more broad color pallet. That said, the sprites are still comprised of only four colors with most of the color details being relegated to the background plane. 

As with other games in the Pocket Fighting Series, SS!2 sounds fine with the limited audio capabilities of the hardware. Still, it does a good job reprising the beautiful soundtrack from the Hyper 64 game for what it's worth.

Samurai Shodown! 2 is a well-rounded pocket fighter with a good amount of depth, a fun way to customize your characters, and enough panache to remain a hidden-favorite among the older fighting game community. Younger generations are finally getting a chance to try some of these classic Neo-Geo Pocket fighting games through modern releases on the Nintendo Switch. Thankfully, if you want this game on original hardware it's not terribly expensive. At complete Japanese copy with snaplock case will run you between $30 and $50. The game will even display in English so long as you have your Pocket Color set to that langue in the system options. The European snaplock case edition is much more expensive. A bare cartridge from any region will run you less than $25. That said, the Switch release is probably the best way to go here for modern audiences. Although, there really is nothing like playing on the Neo Pocket's trademark "clicky" thumb-pad. Either way, you're in for a good time.