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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits Bushidō Retsuden

A relatively obscure offshoot of the Samurai Shodown/Spirits series, it also holds the distinction of being the only RPG released for the Neo-Geo CD, as well as one of the very few RPGs from SNK (the only other I'm aware of being the cult classic NES title Crystalis).  Story-wise it's a loose retelling of the first two Samurai Shodown games (divided into a separate chapter for each game), giving you a choice of six starting characters as they embark on their own journeys, eventually joining up at the end to vanquish that respective chapter's main baddie.  The overall plot remains the same, but each character gets some unique dialog and scenes to view, lending it some replayability.  The core gameplay is fairly standard turn-based RPG fare, having you purchase items, upgrade equipment, get into random encounters with various foes and earn experience to level up, though there are some small twists - you can block enemy attacks or inflict extra damage with timed button presses, and special moves can either be selected from a menu or executed via fighting game style action inputs.  Characters also keep their trademark weapons throughout the game, gradually upgrading them at blacksmiths as the story progresses and optionally infusing them with elements to inflict extra damage to certain types of enemies; not completely unlike the weapon forging in the Suikoden games.  As ever SNK's gorgeous animation and beautiful spritework is a joy to behold, and the moody music and voiceover lend it a nice edge over may other RPGs of the time, but it shows SNK's forte really doesn't lie in the traditional RPG genre - the slow action (even on the fastest settings), frequent encounters and drab dungeons are definitely a detriment to the experience.  Die-hard fans of Samurai Shodown's characters and lore will probably find a lot to like here, but if you're looking for some visceral and captivating fighting action in isolationist Japan, I'd say play one of the fighting games instead.

Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Released: 1997
Platforms: Neo-Geo CD, Sega Saturn, Sony Playstation