Samurai Shodown Zero
Before the Tranvestite
was made clear in my SNK feature I wasn't all that fond of the Samurai
Shodown games. Something about hacking and slashing away at Haohmaru's
leg like an over stylized terrier, only to be slashed in half in one
blow turned me off to it. Not to mention the Dr. Wily-like persistence
of a certain cheap, effeminate Christian sorcerer from game to game.
Well, SS Zero is different. It takes place before the other games, when
a General Gaoh was plotting to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate. Forget
all those demon subplots, it's almost totally straight samurai swordplay.
Excusing the fifteen foot cannibal monster who fights with a detachable
arm with splintered bone sticking out of it.
are a lot simpler right off the bat. Instead of Slash and Bust versions
of every character, we get 'dark' counterparts to some of the more popular
characters. For instance, Nakoruru's 'dark' side is Rera, who fights
with the wolf by her side and is supposedly another being who surfaces
when Nako is unwilling to fight. The water and fire brothers are joined
by Enja and Suija, the spirits trapped within their swords. Then of
course, there's Rasetsumaru, your garden variety Evil Twin, who's obsessed
with killing his original. But there are new characters too, and they're
not bad at all. Mina is probably about the most questionable since she's
an archer, and as such is almost totally projectile-based. Even more
so than Bao from KOF. She's also constantly followed around by a bizarre
little imp that yammers in Osakan. The hulking Kusaregedo is the aforementioned
cannibal demon, who was turned into a demon when he died for eating
too many children while alive, which is something I like to think we
can all relate to. He's in the tournament to track down and devour Rimururu,
which might be an attempt to commit suicide by diabetic shock. By far
the coolest is the new hero Yoshitora Tokugawa, sort of the black sheep
of the shogunate who wanders the countryside with an entourage of girlfriends.
He carries seven swords on his back and makes good use of them all.
He's also kind of a 'special guest star' in the ilk of Necrid/Spawn/Link/Heihachi
from SCII, as he was designed by the artist of Rurouni Kenshin; unlike
the aforementioned Soul Calibur fighters he's actually part of the storyline.
He's got crazy hair too, sort of a daimyo style cut minus the loop back,
so he kind of looks like Iori with upside-down bangs.
game feels about the same as ever, but the combat system's been simplified
a bit. Or maybe I just was too busy getting massacred by Ukyo to pick
up on it before. There are only two Slash buttons now, C has become
the Kick button, and D is now sort of an all-purpose evasion button.
The Shodown equivalent of the KOF C+D attack is A+B now. You can do
Rage Explosions, and the hari-kiri moves were brought back (you have
to tweak the settings to get them), in addition there's a 'Meditation'
skill that drops your Rage but makes it possible to enter some sort
of 'trance' state and deliver a stupidly powerful attack. All of the
supers have the same command, quarter circle forward+CD. And like any
good fighting game, these vary between massive, relentless onslaughts
to, well- Mina's. She apparently fires herself into the air with her
bow and lands on the other side of the screen, followed shortly by her
weapons. I've never seen it connect. Maybe it's cool, maybe, probably
not. But she's cute enough to inspire dozens of nasty fanzines before
the game was even released, so I suppose she fulfilled her purpose.
one thing that kills the game for me is the stupid boss fights. The
mid-boss is a bandit type named Sankuro who fights with a hammer, a
flintlock pistol, and most aggravatingly, his trio of sidekicks. The
girl slides in from the side and hits low, the nerd grabs you and leaves
you open, and the worst by far is the huge-armed guy who drops from
the sky and can hit anywhere on the screen. The one thing making this
even more annoying and sadistic than the fight
with Original Zero and pals from KOF 2k1 is that at any time, Sankuro
can eat some sushi and regain upwards of 50% of his life at any time,
usually while you're getting up from one of the Jumping Guy's attacks.
All you can really do is keep the pressure on this guy after landing
a solid hit, and he won't be able to recover or call his idiots.
few rounds after that annoying fight comes a female swordsman named
Yumeji who shapeshifts and copies the signature moves of other fighters.
She's not necessarily CHEAP, just extra strong, fast, and likes to corner
you. So yeah. She's cheap. The final-final boss is Gaoh, who uses a
cross-spear to great effect and starts randomly becoming an invincible
demon in the second round. Yes, invincible demon. As in you can only
try to dodge his insanely damaging charge/throw combinations. Especially
nasty is when he shoots you out of the furnace on top of his head.
SS prequel is definitely a good one, and my favorite of the series.
It's still not as well-rounded as King of Fighters, or as cool as Guilty
Gear, but it can rest soundly in its chair made out of hands and skin
(check out the story faq at gamefaqs- there's some messed up stuff in
that backstory) knowing it outdid the others.
They spelled "Victory" right again. Go SNK!