Switch fans have had to wait a little longer than their PS4 and Xbox One-owning pals when it comes to SNK's Samurai Shodown reboot, but the important thing is that the game has made it to Nintendo's hybrid console intact – and it's really quite an achievement.
We were fortunate enough to get the chance to speak with the game's director Nobuyuki Kuroki prior to its release. Kuroki began his career with SNK as an artist working on the Fatal Fury series, and would also contribute to games such as Real Bout Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting 3, Samurai Shodown 64 and the legendary Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
When SNK went bankrupt, Kuroki would team up with fellow SNK alumni Takashi Nishiyama at Dimps, where he worked on several Sonic titles, including Sonic Rush and Sonic Unleashed. He returned to SNK in 2014 and worked on SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy and The King of Fighters XIV before assuming the role of Game Director on the Samurai Shodown reboot.
Nintendo Life: Before we speak more specifically about the Switch version of Samurai Shodown, are you pleased with how the game has been received on other platforms?
For sure we are very pleased. As a unique game, we’ve heard a lot of opinions from our fans, and it seems that they are quite satisfied with it.
Kuroki-san, your history with the series goes all the way back to Samurai Shodown 64. How valuable has that experience been when it comes to creating a new entry?
The Samurai Shodown team at that time all cherished our characters. They prepared tons of detailed profiles and illustrations for each one. Above all, their passion and love towards this game were astonishing. As a young and new guy back in the day, I was impressed by how amazing they were. 20 years have passed, and I’m still surprised by the fact that I myself am working on this title. The stories and experiences I learnt from the team definitely helped us when creating this new Samurai Shodown. In particular, the experience of colour design that is usually not heard of in other game designs was helpful in the development.
What was it like stepping into the role of game director for this entry?
As I mentioned above, I have been working with the staff who first made Samurai Shodown. Can this game developed in 2019 surpass the old one created by the staff at that time? Can we develop something that will satisfy those fans who have been playing this game for over 20 years? These questions really put pressure on me. But there is no answer during the development, and we won’t know if any decision is wrong. Therefore, when we found out that our fans are satisfied after the release, and when we were praised by those who first made the title, we were absolutely elated. I felt a great sense of relief when our work had been accepted.
You've used Unreal Engine to create Samurai Shodown. What benefits do you get from using a middleware engine as opposed to creating your own in-house engine and tools?
In particular, it helps us a lot when designing the graphics. We couldn’t make the illustrations we wanted when developing KOF14, but with Unreal Engine, we can now reach the goal. Of course, it was not easy. Unreal Engine is good at realistic expressions, while Samurai Shodown is more like manga, so it was hard for the team to make it less realistic. For programmers, it seems difficult, but for our artists, the engine is easy to use.
How challenging was it to port the game to Switch? What concessions have been made?
The most challenging point was developing the Switch version to run at 60FPS and to make the graphics not inferior to other platforms. I think game developers will understand how difficult it is to increase the frame rate without changing the style of the graphics. Our goal is to optimize the graphics for the Switch without being noticed by our fans. If fans cannot tell the difference, that means Safari Games who worked on the porting process did a great job.
Your colleague, Yasuyuki Oda, has previously mentioned that he is open to the idea of 'guest' fighters appearing in the game. Are there any plans for this?
Sorry that we cannot disclose anything yet at this moment.
Sakurai-san would be the best person to ask.
What direction will the Samurai Shodown series take now? Will we see a full-blown sequel, or is the plan to perhaps focus on reviving other SNK properties, such as Art of Fighting, for example?
We cannot disclose anything concerning the future plans for Samurai Shodown at this moment. What I can say is that the development team is working on King of Fighters 15 as well as DLC characters for Samurai Shodown. Please look forward to our upcoming 2nd season of Samurai Shodown and KOF15. Personally, I wish that we can revive Garou: Mark of the Wolves.
Finally, do you have a message for Switch-owning SNK fans out there who are looking forward to playing Samurai Shodown?
When I saw how Samurai Shodown looked on the Switch, I couldn’t help but cry out in surprise. The amazing graphics moving on the Switch’s screen really touched me. Players can now enjoy the game on a smaller screen with the same excitement as on other platforms. This is something I think everyone will enjoy. We really want players to experience that feeling of exhilaration and tension only Samurai Shodown can provide. Please pick it up and give it a try!
We'd like to thank Kuroki-san for his time. Samurai Shodown launches on Switch on February 25th.