Review by: Chong Lee
This is Saturn version of long awaited and delayed (almost 2 years) Samurai Shodown RPG. The game consists two chapters, Jyatengorin no Sho and Yokatokoku no Sho. Which reflects storyline of Samurai Shodown 1 & 2 respectively. What sets this game apart from the other RPGs is that you get the choice of your main character (you get to choose 1 out of 6 given) at the beginning of the game. Which definitely makes replay value much higher than most RPGs out in the market right now.
Graphics: 8 out of 10
Although this game doesn’t have any CG or Animated intro that people look for in today’s CD games, amazingly detailed handdrawn art more than makes up for it (at least for me it does). All the characters and backgrounds look and animate just like they did in the fighting game (albeit smaller). Especially on the battle sequence, this game shows how well detailed 2D handdrawn game can stand up to 3D polygon or rendered graphics.
Sounds/Music: 8 out of 10
This game doesn’t disappoint in the sound department either. Clear voice samples and sound effects accompany very Samurai-esque BGM. Most of important dialogs are actually spoken, but overall actual speech is not as abundant as in Rayearth or Tengai Makyo. The really cool thing is that SNK actually used most of the seiyu (voice actors) from the Samurai Shodown, so the characters sound exactly same as they did before, except this time they are speaking full sentence!
Control: 8 out of 10
This game controls pretty much same as your typical RPG. You control your character/party with directional pad, A button to talk, B to cancel, C to bring up Stat screen, hold X to run, etc. In the option screen, you can choose between 2 the battle methods so that you actually have to input commands to do the special moves of characters or just choose commands like other RPGs. BTW, in this game there’s no magic, instead characters’ special moves are used as magic. For example, Nakoruru has a special move (down, down, & Z) that restores hit points of a injured character instead of a heal magic. And each special move consumes spirit points (magic points).
Difficulty: 9 out of 10
So far I have played (about 5 hours), this game definitely reminds me of good old style RPGs. Which means this game is no cakewalk! You don’t get much money or experiences from single battle, and enemies are pretty tough! When I first heard about game being just 1 CD, I was worried about the length of the game (having 2 different story chapters and 6 different main characters all in 1 CD?) but since it seems that they devoted most of CD space to actual game rather than FMV sequences, game probably will last long enough.
Ok, now for the problems/complaints. First of all, I definitely CANNOT recommend this game to anyone without decent knowledge of Japanese language (especially written). This game is laiden with Japanese texts and kanji. This game probably has more kanji than any other Japanese RPG I’ve played so far. And since most characters speak old style Japanese (being Samurai), it can be pretty hard even for the people who know some Japanese in some parts. Second, there is just too much loading in the game. I’m not complaining about actual loading time (battle takes about 5 to 8 seconds to load), but the how frequent loading is in the game. Pretty much every building in town you enter loads. Example: You’re in town and going in to the shop, game loads. You buy/sell stuff and exit from the shop, game loads again! It’s almost as bad as Legacy of Kain! I wish they would have used RAM expansion cart to solve this problem, but unfortunately they didn’t.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Despite the problem I mentioned above, if you know some Japanese and love Samurai Shodown characters and 2D handdrawn art, this is very good RPG and I highly recommend it. It might not be THE BEST RPG in the market, but it certainly is one of the best. SNK did great job on the game (although they sure did took the time). Too bad that US version is very unlikely to come out (especially Saturn version). Lets just hope that SNK would follow this with King of Fighters RPG, or better yet, Street Fighter RPG from Capcom!