Let's face it, the majority of SNKs existence is based around their unrelenting quest to come up with a fighting game for their system that could stand toe-to-toe with Capcom's immensely popular Street Fighter II arcade game. Samurai Shodown has the unique distinction of being the fighting game that finally gave SNK a seat at the big boy table in the fighting game family. With the success of Samurai Shodown, there was never any doubt that SNK would create a sequel to the game, and as great as Samurai Shodown was, Samurai Shodown II was that much better.
SNK knew that they had a winner in Samurai Shodown's combat system, so they obviously didn't make too many changes to their winning formula. They basically added in four all-new characters, each with their own unique style of fighting, and then added in a few new moves to each of the returning characters to add a little flair to the overall package. They then took the combat system from the first game and added in a few new techniques to give the game some added depth. The dynamic fighting system basically added new offensive and defensive techniques, such as rolling and ducking, to the mix to add even more playability to a fighting game that was already chock full of it. Each of the new characters got their own unique background, and many of the backgrounds of the returning characters also got a few touch ups here and there. As if all of these new additions weren't enough, the game got a host of new musical tracks to round out the sequel.
You now have your choice of 15 characters. The majority of the combat in Samurai Shodown II revolves around the use of weapons, and each characters has his/her own distinct weapon and set of special moves to go along with it. Much like Street Fighter 2, special moves are performed by rotating the joystick around in certain patterns coupled with the pressing of four specific action buttons. Each character has a ton of moves to choose from, ranging from a light weapon attack to a spine-crushing heavy weapon attack. There's also a kick button for those times when you just don't feel like splitting your opponent's skull with a weapon attack. Thankfully this button is generally used more as a set up for the stronger attacks at your disposal. As with the original Samurai Shodown, you'll periodically be tossed out power ups from time to time that you can pick up to help you out along the way, but occasionally there will be bombs tossed at you which can do serious damage to your character. This is yet another thing you'll have to keep your eyes on during combat.
The play control feels pretty much exactly like the control in the original Samurai Shodown, so fans of that game should immediately feel right at home with this sequel. There are a few game play tweaks here and there, such as the new rolling and ducking moves, and it seems to be a bit easier to pull off some of the trickier special moves this time around. Other than that, it's basically more of the same, which is obviously a good thing since there was really nothing wrong with the play control in the original game. It's basically just more hack-n-slash goodness.
Visually, Samurai Shodown II is a definite a step up from the original. There's much more detail in the backdrops this time around, not to mention more background animations taking place. Even the stages that make a return have been given some added graphical upgrades, some more extensively than others. The characters themselves also show more depth and detail, not to mention the fact that their animations are a bit smoother in this game. The entire visual presentation shows that SNK wasn't content to just rest on its laurels and decided to go all out with this sequel. The end results speak for themselves.
Just like the visuals, SNK really outdid themselves with the music and sound effects they added to Samurai Shodown II. All of the new music tracks sound fantastic, and the new character sound effects are a definite improvement as well. The soundtrack in the first Samurai Shodown title was one of its standout features, but this sequel somehow manages to step it up another notch or two. Even the character voices sound much clearer in this sequel compared to their muffled predecessors.This is definitely one you'll want to crank the sound up on while you're fighting it out.
While many companies would have been content to only make a few minor upgrades here and there and call it a sequel, SNK ignored the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" approach and went all out for their follow-up to Samurai Shodown. The result is one of the best fighting games ever made, and easily the pinnacle of the outstanding Samurai Shodown series. If you love fighting games, this one should be at the top of your Virtual Console wish list. And even if you don't like fighting games, this one's so good it might just make a fighting game fan out of you yet. If you only own one Samurai Shodown title, make sure it's this one.