Samurai Shodown II / Shin Samurai Spirits


STORY:  Amakusa Shirou Tokisada, cause of the calamities occurring worldwide and driven to resurrect the Dark Deity Ambrosia, was slain by a single samurai whose existence was never recorded by history. This person deeply involved with the resurrected Amakusa, Haohmaru, was suddenly attacked one night. But the one who was up easily defeated was not Haohmaru, but the sinister assailant... Haohmaru's attacker was clearly manipulated by someone or some evil force. The would-be assassin gasps a final promise to Haohmaru. "I'll have your soul one day.... Ambrosia...lives." The evil ones are after him!

Haohmaru, sensing an evil force rivaling Amakusa, pays a visit on his old fencing master. While Haohmaru relates his story, his master's visage grows unusually grim. "Stay away. You have undeniably grown stronger. But you must not confront them. Do you understand?" His master obviously knows more, but grows silent, and besides Haohmaru isn't listening anyway. That night, they share a few drinks to celebrate their reunion after a long separation, and at dawn Haohmaru slips out unannounced to embark on his journey. An audacious smile plays on his lips.


Samurai Shodown 2 character select screen.

REVIEWSamurai Shodown II (known as Shin Samurai Spirits: Haohmaru Jingokuhen in Japan - which translates to True Samurai Spirits: Haohmaru's Portrait of Hell), is the arcade sequel to the hit 2D weapon-based fighting game by SNK. This installment presents updated character and background graphics, featuring completely re-drawn 2D sprites with brand new animations (something that Capcom wasn't doing with the SF2 series). Actually, nearly everything in SS2 shines with "newness," including the stylish character selection screen, amazing in-your-face artwork, moody background music, cool cutscenes, and brand new gameplay systems. SNK wasn't messin' around in '94... that's for sure! 

In 1994, the competition within the fighting genre was downright fierce... but Samurai Shodown 2 came prepared for a battle to the death! There seems to be a "reason" behind every minute detail in the game, and sometimes it takes a keen eye to notice all of these details. With headlining blockbusters like Mortal Kombat 2, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and X-Men: Children of the Atom... it wouldn't have been a surprise for a gamer to have skipped over the brilliance of Samurai Shodown 2, but they certainly would've been missing out on one of the best fighting games known to man.


"Caffuiiiiene Nicotine... versus... Kibagami Gen-ju-ro!"


Samurai Shodown 2
adds new characters to the charismatic roster, including: Cham Cham, Neinhalt Sieger, Caffeine Nicotine, and the badass, blood-thirsty samurai, Genjuro Kibagami. Not only do the newcomers offer impressive new fighting styles, but returning veterans were given a ton of new abilities, including new ultra-epic super moves. Characters like Galford, Nakoruru & Cham Cham bring their "animal friends" with them (which act like assist attacks), and can attack the opponent in numerous ways or even set up combos. SS2's gameplay improves on nearly every aspect of the original, adding a particularly innovative new element - Weapon Breaks, enabling players to "break" their opponent's weapon...

A Weapon Break occurs immediately after a successful Super Move. The character hit with the Super Move will lose their weapon for a brief period of time, forced to fight unarmed. Skilled players can still hold their own when fighting barehanded, and even "catch" an opponents weapon barehanded... but characters will take severe guard damage when blocking without their weapon. If they can survive, a character's lost weapon will return in about 5 seconds, but the character still has to pick it up (even more strategy involved). Weapon Breaks really "make the game" if you ask me, potentially adding an insane amount of drama to the  battle.

Just like in Street Fighter 2, air blocking doesn't exist, so players will experience good-old "anti-air mind games"... and due to the captivating projectile "variety" of the characters, there are plenty of epic and fun projectile wars (and strategies) to be had. Every character in the game has their clear strengths & weaknesses, and each of them can definitely be used effectively. As in the first game, the animation becomes delayed (AKA slow motion) when powerful attacks connect, which actually effects gameplay and the timing of combos... plus it looks really really cool. On that note, when compared to other 2D fighters, some may think SS2 is "slow"... but I would disagree. The prolonged jumps and delayed hit confirms (as I'll call them), only add more gameplay options and give SS2 a very unique pace" No other fighting game at the time felt like Samurai Shodown 2, in large due to its steady pace.


The most stylish samurai battles... to the death!


The Rage system once again adds a strategic (and unforgiving) element to the core gameplay. Landing a single attack in Rage Mode, at the right time, could potentially take off 50-60% life in Samurai Shodown 2. In addition to dealing greater damage when the Rage Meter (A.K.A. POW Meter) is full, Power Special Moves can now be performed when the meter is at 100%, and most of which look nothing short of spectacular when they connect. Also, commands for Power Special Moves are conveniently shown about the Rage Meter when they're able to be performed... nice touch SNK! SS2's Rage Mode is one of the earliest "comeback mechanics" ever to appear in a fighting game, as the tide of the battle can turn at any time. A skilled player can literally win against a full-life opponent with a 3 or 4 hit combo, while in Rage. (And considering these warriors are using razor sharp blades and dangerous weapons, you kind of have to respect that!) Dizzies can also occur pretty randomly, adding even more potential ways to make epic comebacks.

In addition to a near-perfect traditional 2D fighting game formula, SS2 even features quite a few "hidden" gameplay nuances, such as taunting (and taunt canceling, too). Every character has 2 different taunts, which can be canceled with a normal, special, or super move (it's strategic I tell you)! Ohh, and if you taunt the CPU AI, it taunts you back... how epic is that? Also worth noting is that these are not ridiculous or senseless taunts... they make sense, flowing with the pace of battle, and bring out each character's personality onscreen.

Epic cutscenes and presentation for the time.


Samurai Shodown II also has a random funny Easter egg where characters can turn into "chibi" versions of themselves during gameplay (and quickly change back to normal). Another fan-favorite secret of SS2: Kuroko (the ref) will jump into battle and challenge the player randomly during an arcade play-though. Like in the prequel, random "buff" dudes will commonly run onscreen and throw food and/or bombs, which again can change the pace of battle (but still offer a strategic element to the gameplay)! There's even a parrying system in SS2, as blocking at the last possible moment will cause the attacker to freeze for a few seconds. All of these systems and "hidden" elements to the gameplay come together beautifully to make Samurai Shodown 2 a truly "standout" fighting game.


Samurai Shodown's characters ooze personality.


The visual presentation of Samurai Shodown 2 is rivaled by very few other fighting games of the era. Everything about the game is just so damn epic. Like in the prequel, a well placed finishing strike at the end of a battle can split your opponent in half, or even give the winning fighter a shower in their opponent's blood.... Beautiful stuff. Not only does SS2 play like a gem, but the art style and distinctive "mood" of SS2 is beautiful, inspiring, and simply badass. From the charismatic character designs and brilliant artwork, to the lively music & sound effects, to the unforgettable voice acting & charismatic narrator, to the elaborately designed, gorgeous hand-drawn backgrounds (and interactive background elements) that place you right into the heart of ancient Japan. Samurai Shodown II is a work of art and one of my ALL-TIME favorite 2D fighting games.









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Page Updated: January 21st, 2024
Developer(s): SNK
Publisher(s): SNK
Artwork by: Eiji Shiroi     Promo Art / Character illustrations
Senri Kita
     PS1 Box Art
Platform(s): Neo Geo, Neo Geo CD, Wii, Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation, PSN, PS4, PSP, Windows, iOS, Android, Neo Geo X, Wii Virtual Console, Nintendo Switch
Release Date(s): Oct. 28th, 1994                Arcade
Dec. 2nd, 1994                 NeoGeo
Mar. 26th, 1998               PS1 - Kenkaku Shinan Pack
May 30th, 2007                PSN
July 23rd, 2008                 Wii VC
Aug. 8th, 2008                  Wii VC
Aug. 25th, 2008
               Wii VC
Sept. 10th, 2008
Dec. 18th, 2012               Neo Geo X
June 27th, 2013
             iOS / Android
Oct. 11th, 2017                PS4
Feb. 3rd, 2018                 PS4 / XB1
Characters Haohmaru, Genjuro Kibagami, Neinhalt Sieger, Cham Cham, Nicotine Caffeine, Ukyo Tachibana, Galford Weiler, Hanzo Hattori, Senryo Kyoshiro, Gen-An, Earthquake, Wan-Fu, Nakoruru, Charlotte Colde, Jubei Yagyu, Kuroko, Mizuki Rashoujin

Featured Video:

Related Games: Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown 3, Samurai Shodown 4, Samurai Shodown V, Samurai Shodown V Special, SSV Perfect, Samurai Shodown 6, Samurai Shodown (2019), 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, Street Fighter 2, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, World Heroes 2 Jet, Art of Fighting 2, The King of Fighters '94, Darkstalkers, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Primal Rage, Kizuna Encounter, Golden Axe: The Duel, Mortal Kombat 2, Killer Instinct, Tekken

Gameplay Engine  9.5 / 10
Story / Theme  10 / 10
Overall Graphics  10 / 10
Animation  10 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  10 / 10
Innovation  10 / 10
Art Direction  10 / 10
Customization  8.0 / 10
Options / Extras  9.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  9.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  10 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  10 / 10
Characters  10 / 10

 10 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words:

At the time of its release, Samurai Shodown 2 raised the bar on so many fronts, not only attempting things never before seen in a fighting game... but succeeding with flying colors. SS2 is remarkable, innovative, and incredibly polished 1994 fighting game that remains timeless to this day. Samurai Shodown has always marched to the beat of its own drum, and it's never been so apparent as it is in SS2. The memorable characters, artwork, backgrounds, music, and the intense, yet classy & stylish samurai battles to the death are simply unforgettable (especially for those of us who played it at arcades in the mid 90's when it was nothing short of revolutionary for the time).

As you can see from the TFG vlog above, Samurai Shodown 2 is indeed one of my "TOP 10" favorite fighting games of all time. In fact, I'd say that it's in my TOP 3. When I was 11 or 12 years old, I was racking up win streaks in this game in 1995 and loving every second of it. I can still play a mean Genjuro (and Earthquake, and Ukyo, and Cham Cham, and Galford) after all these years.... Doriyaaah! Seriously, the characters are just so damn fun to play (and watch) in this game. Aesthetically and technically, Samurai Shodown 2 is near perfection.

What more could you want out of a fighting game in '94-'95? ...or now even? Because if a fighting game was ever balanced, you're looking at it... every character in the game can destroy opponents in seconds (with so much style)
. Some might think the damage in SS2 is a bit too drastic, but it's not unreasonable considering the subject matter (we're fighting with razor-sharp bladed weapons here)! The high damage output and Rage mode also enables the possibility of epic comebacks. Also worth mentioning, the CPU AI is particularly challenging and fun to fight against in Samurai Shodown 2. If you're not careful against the computer, the CPU will style on you, taunt at you, and cut you in two with no mercy. Say goodbye to them tokenz.

As you can tell, I can't really say enough good things about Samurai Shodown 2. It's one of the best 2D fighting games ever made. And rightfully so, I'd still throw down in some SamSho2 any day of the week, for life. When you can say that about a fighting game, and truly mean it, it's pretty special. For the record: Samurai Shodown 2 and Samurai Shodown 4 are my top 2 personal favorites of the series. In many ways, Samurai Shodown 2 is a masterpiece and deservingly takes its place in the fighting game history hall of fame.
~TFG WEBMASTER | @Fighters_Gen

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