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Please note that the
views expressed in this review are those of the writer and not of A.P.I
I've been a fan of fighting games for many years - 2D, 3D, you name it. Among the many fighters I've played, Samurai Showdown 2 holds an especially high position for its wonderful atmosphere and superb gameplay. So when I was in the market for a new fighter, and since Street Fighter EX+ is still a ways off, I decided to give Samurai Showdown III a spin. Unfortunately, $40+tax and an hour later, I feel extremely jilted by SNK and Sony, who seem to have decided that a "nearly flawless translation", as the back of the CD reads, can contain half (or less) of the animation frames, muddy graphics and sound, and unbearable load times. It seems "nearly" is a very broad term in their book. First of all, the first two Samurai Showdown titles were known for their beautiful backdrops, attention to detail, and fluid animation. The PSX version of the third title strikes out in all three categories. The backdrops are low-resolution nightmares. The subtleties of SS2, like Genjuro's frog and Gen-an's hopping cohorts in the background, are gone. And the animation is unspeakably poor, to the point of not being able to comprehend what's happening at some points. For example, Haohmaru has a finishing animation in SS2 where he tosses up his sword and spins his sheath, with the sword eventually falling and sliding nicely into the sheath. In this version, the sword disappears, the sheath spins (in about two frames of animation), and the sword just reappears in the sheath! SS2's sound effects were great. The sword slashes and kicks were crisp and exciting, and the background music counterpointed each character's atmosphere nicely. Nicotine's background in particular had wonderful ambient sound effects that added a lot to the atmosphere. SS3's sound effects are muddy and clipped. In fact, with all the animation frames cut out, you sometimes hear a sword slash and don't even see one on screen! The music tracks are repetitive, annoying, and sometimes silly. (Rimururu's background music sounds like big band.) The music cuts in and out like mad. SS2 incorporated cut-scenes into the gameplay very nicely. Every three victories or so, you see another scene from the story line; they're fun to watch and provide a nice momentary break from the action. SS3 had only a few cut-scenes, but you almost wish it didn't have any. Not only does it take up to twenty seconds just to load them, but they're very clipped, to the point of not being able to understand what's happening. There isn't even an intro; the game takes you straight to a menu. The previous Samurai Showdown titles distinguished themselves with great gameplay; it played quickly and cleanly, and each character had a coherent strategy. SS3 has lost all of this. The missing animation frames make the gameplay fast, but you have trouble following your character's and opponent's actions. Strategy? Well, I beat the game the first time through on the highest difficulty, without a single continue, using Haohmaru's hard slash alone. Yup, SS3 is just brimming with strategy. But my biggest complaint overall is with the load time. For the life of me, I can't understand why a game with such low-res graphics and badly sampled sound effects could take up to thirty seconds - yes, you read right, THIRTY SECONDS - just to load the next match. (In contrast, Soul Blade takes three or four, max.) Once a match ends, it can take up to twelve seconds just to show a still shot of your character saying his/her winning phrase. And it can take up to fifteen seconds just to load the character select screen. I just don't get it. My first play though took about twenty minutes, and about three-quarters of that was load time. I'm very surprised that a release this poor exists for the PlayStation, let alone a sequel to a popular series by a reputable company like SNK. If you're a fan of the Samurai Showdown series, I'd recommend renting it and considering if paying $40 for a nice-looking manual and an unplayable game is worth it.