There are far too many video game publishers that leave their classic titles to rot, but SNK is not one of them. In fact, it could be argued that SNK relies too heavily on its back catalog, as the company has released just four new console games since 2010. Still, SNK’s desire to repackage its greatest hits for new platforms is admirable, especially when the company pairs with the excellent video game preservationists at Digital Eclipse. The Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection, the companies’ follow up to the delightful SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, contains all the SamSho games that appeared on the original Neo Geo, plus production art, SNK staff interviews, and a true surprise—an unreleased title that only briefly saw a location test. Overall, Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection is a wonderful piece of playable history, with the only blight against the PC game being its mediocre online components.
What’s Included in Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection?
Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection bundles all six SamSho fighting games that appeared on the Neo Geo arcade machine and home console: Samurai Shodown (1993), Samurai Shodown II (1994), Samurai Shodown III (1995), Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa’s Revenge (1996), Samurai Shodown V (2003), and Samurai Shodown V Special (2003). The collection contains both the English and Japanese versions of each game, but that’s not all.
In a surprise announcement made shortly before the collection was released, developer Digital Eclipse revealed that it unearthed the rumored “lost” SamSho title that’s packaged here as Samurai Shodown V: Perfect. This update to Samurai Shodown V Special tweaks the game balance and adds extra story elements.
Before the Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection, Samurai Shodown V: Perfect only made a brief location test appearance (think of it as an arcade machine’s public beta). So, if you’re buying this collection for your favorite SamSho game, know that you’re also receiving what would’ve been the last, true SNK release for the Neo Geo hardware. That’s awesome from a games preservation aspect.
With the Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection, I’m adopting the same approach that I took when reviewing Capcom Beat ‘Em Up Bundle, Contra Anniversary Collection, and Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection: Judging the package mainly from a games preservation and historical documentation angle.
That’s not to say that gameplay is unimportant. The weapon-clashing Samurai Shodown games are just as fun now as when they first appeared on the big, red upright. In fact, revisiting these titles will make many people admire SNK’s game-to-game mechanical experimentation. The development team was unafraid to radically alter the gameplay as the series progressed, which makes each game worth sampling.
The package contains more than 2,000 music tracks, 2,000 pieces of production documents and images (including some never-before-seen character designs), and two hours of SNK programmer interviews. If that isn’t enough, the compilation also has high-level SamSho esports matches. In other words, if you want to know how the SamSho series came into existence or how it should be played, this collection gives you nearly everything you need to know.
Of Swords and Specs
The Samurai Shodown games contain some of the best sprite-based video game artwork of their time, but their beauty doesn’t demand much horsepower. In fact, you need a gaming PC that has at least a 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 CPU (or AMD equivalent), an ATI Radeon RX 560 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 900 GPU, 8GB of RAM, 11GB of storage space, and the 64-bit Windows 10 operating system. The game maintained a silky 60 frames-per-second gameplay on my gaming desktop, a rig with an Intel i5 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti GPU.
You can tinker with the pixel resolution, play the game in full or windowed mode, activate Vsync, and enable HD Scaling. In addition, Digital Eclipse gave the titles fresh touches to please contemporary players. For example, the games are in HD, which makes them suitable for playing on a modern monitor or television without using a potentially expensive upscaler like the Framemeister. As with many other retro game compilations, Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection lets you apply scanlines to the graphics if you prefer the retro CRT look, adjust the aspect ratio, and select one of several borders.
Epic and Steam Crossplay
Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection debuted in Epic Games Store, but it’s also available for purchase from Steam. In a nice touch, Digital Eclipse has enabled crossplay between the two versions.
However, this isn’t a seamless, Street Fighter V-style crossplay. If you play Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection via Steam, you must create and log into an Epic Games Store account to play Epic players. Otherwise, you’ll only play Steam heads. That’s a bit clunky.
In fact, “clunky” is the best way to describe the Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection’s overall online play. You can only go online with the English language versions, and the collection lacks lobbies and spectator modes. On the upside, Digital Eclipse patched the netcode so that the game’s now playable online; at launch, Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection suffered lag and dropped connections. The standalone Samurai Shodown V Special, a game featuring Code Mystic’s excellent rollback netcode, is still the SamSho online gold standard. Yes, the historical aspect is the hook in this collection, but the game’s online stumbles should still be noted.
Ripe with production documents, historical information, professional match videos, developer interviews, and well-emulated games, Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection is a must-buy for anyone who loves the series’ distinct swordplay. Those elements alone would’ve made the compilation an essential purchase, but the inclusion of the previously unreleased Samurai Shodown V Perfect is the icing on the cake. Despite its online issues, Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection is an excellent way to experience SNK’s premier weapons-based fighting game.
For more Steam game previews and reviews, check out PCMag’s Steam Curator page.