Samurai Shodown V / Samurai Spirits Zero

REVIEWThe groundbreaking and iconic Samurai Shodown series has always been what you'd call a "sleeper" hit. The series isn't usually seen in the headlines, but people who can actually say they play Samurai Shodown are most likely fans for life. The long awaited Samurai Shodown 5 doesn't look entirely different from its predecessors, but it does boast the highest number of warriors in the series to date. 

Unlike the more "serious" tone that the last two installments put forward, Samurai Shodown 5 seems to be set in a more "fantasy" realm... as quite a few of the newcomers aren't exactly what you'd call "samurai-esk". In my opinion, and as a huge fan of every installment since the first Samurai Shodown, a few of SS5's new characters arguably "pollute" the more traditional roots of the series and just don't seem to fit in... but I can keep an open mind, and at least most of the classic characters still in.


The 5th installment of Samurai Shodown.


Samurai Shodown 5
looks and plays very closely to SS3 and SS4... which isn't a bad thing, but does the game earn the right to be called Samurai Shodown 5 for only a few gameplay tweaks and a few new characters? (This is starting to feel like KOF, or even the old SF2 days). In a lot of ways, SS5 really is "more of the same," and feels a bit rushed as well. The presentation doesn't match up to that of the earlier incarnations, such as the epic Samurai Shodown 2 or the dark and moody Samurai Shodown 4. The original Japanese arcade version of SS5 features a substantial amount of dialogue in single-player mode, but all of which is strangely emitted when the game's language is set to English. Disappointing indeed. The good news is that the Xbox version restores these scenes and translates them into English.


"I'm tired of fighting sprite clones..."  ~Haohmaru


Nobuhiro Watsuki (of Rorouni Kenshin fame) designed some of Samurai Shodown 5's new characters (possibly all? Not sure). Some of the new characters are cool designs... Yunfei and Yoshitora at least look like legit samurai fighters. On the flipside, a few of the newcomers just don't seem to fit in, namely the huge and disturbingly ugly pot-bellied demon, Kusaregedo. Then there's the anime moe archer-girl, Mina, who some might argue doesn't "fit the mold" as a Samurai Shodown character (but I find a bit more tolerable). Mina is also seriously overpowered in the game thanks to her cheap projectiles (so there's another reason to hate her). Worst of all, there are now far too many "alternate versions" of characters in Samurai Shodown. In a nutshell, there are 2 Nakorurus, 2 Haohmarus, 2 Kazukis, 2 Sogetsus, (plus 2 Ukyos and 2 Genjuros if you count the sub-boss sprite edits)... those damn lazy Capcom designers of the early/mid 2000's, you must've rubbed off on the SNK crew! 


Mina is pretty cool... but so damn cheap.


On the bright side, SS5 still manages to be Samurai Shodown at its core... and it's still pretty fun to play at a "basic" level. Unfortunately, the innovative and strategic Slash and Bust options from the prequels (two versions / move-sets for each character), were taken out.... Booooooo. However, possibly the worst thing is that "Deaths" were taken out of the game entirely. (I can only vouch for the arcade version here, as I have not played the PS2 ports or any other version). The stylish ending of a bloody duel that the Samurai Shodown series was known for, was taken out of SS5. Unforgivable... SNK seldom disappoints me, but they did this time. (This was later fixed in the update, SS5 Special).


Why isn't that dude playable? lol.

Graphically, SS5's colorful character sprites and backgrounds still have their charm... but the returning characters in particular definitely look dated since some of them have been around since Samurai Shodown 3 (1995). Most of SS5's backgrounds are completely new at least and do look awesome. Character animation is still smooth as a whole, and all characters look great in motion (except for that fat, stupid-ass Kusaregedo). Sorry, I just can't get past that ugly piece of crap design. All in all, SS5 isn't a complete disaster, but in some form or another... a disappointment to long-time fans.


If you "like" Kusaregedo, we can't be friends.



Page Updated: April 11th, 2020
Developer(s): Yuki Enterprise
Publisher(s): SNK Playmore
Designer(s): Nobuhiro Watsuki    (New Character Designs)
Platform(s): Arcade, NeoGeo, PS2, PSP, PSN, Wii, Xbox
Release Date(s): Oct. 10th, 2003          Arcade
Dec. 11th, 2003
April 15th, 2015        PSN
Characters Haohmaru, Ukyo, Hanzo, Nakoruru, Genjuro, Kyoshiro, Shizumaru, Gaira, Rimururu, Basara, Sogetsu, Kazuki, Tam Tam, Charlotte, Galford, Poppie, Jubei, Rera, Rasetsumaru, Suija, Enja, Yoshitora, Kusaregedo, Mina Majikina, Yumeji, Sankuro, Yunfei, Gaoh

Featured Video:

Related Games: Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 2, Samurai Shodown 3, Samurai Shodown 4, Samurai Shodown 5 Special, Samurai Shodown 6, Samurai Shodown 64, Samurai Shodown 64: Warriors Rage, Samurai Shodown Pocket, Samurai Shodown 2 Pocket, Samurai Shodown Warrior's Rage, Samurai Shodown Sen, Samurai Shodown Anthology, SamSho (2019)

Gameplay Engine  7.5 / 10
Story / Theme  7.5 / 10
Overall Graphics  8.0 / 10
Animation  7.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  8.5 / 10
Innovation  5.5 / 10
Art Direction  7.5 / 10
Customization  7.0 / 10
Options / Extras  6.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  5.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  6.5 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  7.5 / 10
Characters  8.0 / 10

 7.5 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words:

SS5 might be my least favorite Samurai Shodown installment, which was disappointing at the time since I was really looking forward to it as a big fan of SS3/SS4. The game definitely had big shoes to fill, but didn't live up to any of the prequels... there's no denying that. It isn't a terrible game at its core (when compared to certain other 2D fighters), but compared to SNK's top quality games (and others), SSV is lacking.

I actually played the arcade version of SSV the first week it launched (and abruptly went back to playing SS2 and SS4 online to drown out my sorrows). If there's one thing I like about SS5, it's the new backgrounds... which are quite pretty and nicely drawn. However, you don't judge a 2D fighting game by how pretty the backgrounds are. SSV's music and the art style is also decent, but aren't enough to excuse the gameplay flaws, lazy shortcuts taken, and some of the (weaker) new character designs.

On the bright side, the updated version of this game, Samurai Shodown 5 Special fixed a few of SS5's flaws - making for a more playable and complete experience.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen