Nettou Samurai Spirits: Zankuro Musouken

Game Boy Nintendo

Nettou Samurai Spirits: Zankuro Musouken

熱闘サムライスピリッツ斬紅郎無双剣 || Takara 1996
Original Post Date: September 18, 2019

While the numbering was dropped from its title scheme, Zankuro Musouken was the third installment to the Samurai Spirits series. Retaining the basic conventions that made the series famous, this game added a number of tweaks to the formula which were retained in its Nettou form.

These include the ability to air block, and nerfing anti-air as an option. Also new is the ability to charge your rage meter on a whim, rather than solely letting in build-through damage taken. The most significant addition is the ability to select from two different versions of each character, each resulting in a different moveset, essentially doubling the amount of characters one could learn.

The control scheme was changed to fit what had become the Nettou series standard by this point, versus that of the original Samurai Spirits – you are given pressure-sensitive slash and kick buttons to determine your attack strength.

The character roster is perhaps the most notorious aspect of Zankuro Musouken, and that is no different in this edition of the game – many of the fan favorites from the early titles were given the boot.

Perhaps even more tragically, two characters from the base roster were cut from this port, those being my two favorite warriors, Kyoshiro and Gaira. To compensate, SamSho OG Jubei was brought back as an extra boss, who is of course playable by use of a code. You’ll also encounter a Kuroko encounter in the middle of the single-player mode, which is really just a glorified mirror match.

When compared to the original Nettou Samurai Spirits, there’s no denying that this installment does a much better job at capturing the unique style of the series. The astronomical damage output is in full force, making each strike hurt as brutally as it did in the arcade.

The graphics are also some of the best I’ve seen in a Game Boy game, with dazzling Super Game Boy enhancements aplenty. However, its controls are not nearly as responsive as its predecessor, and it suffers from the same problem as its arcade counterpart: A severely neutered character roster. A remarkable handheld achievement nonetheless.

Rating: 8/10

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