AKA: Samurai Shodown || 熱闘サムライスピリッツ || Takara 1994
Original Post Date: September 3, 2019
In the summer of ’94, Takara debuted an outstanding series of fighting games for the Game Boy. They are known as the Nettou: Dead Heat Fighters series and each entry is essentially a chibi remix of a corresponding arcade or console fighting game, mostly those on the SNK Neo Geo hardware.
The first game chosen for this line-up was Samurai Shodown, the historical weapon-based fighter released initially a year beforehand.
All 12 original fighters appear in their super-deformed glory, as well as three secret characters accessible via a simple code. The controls have naturally been a bit simplified due to GB’s limitations.
The A button is used for your kick, while the B button is used for your weak slash. Pushing both buttons together will trigger your heavy slash, and thankfully everything here is perfectly responsive, accurately replicating the pacing and precision found in its arcade brother.
Even Neo Geo loyalists will be delighted to find that just about every aspect to SamSho’s iconic gameplay has been kept in-tact. You have your forward and back dashes, the occasional items thrown onto the battlefield, including food for health refills, gold coins, and bombs, they are even kept in the point-blank weapon clashing that’ll knock the blade from a lesser player’s hands.
Part of why Nettou Samurai Spirits is so damn good is simply because its gameplay style is a perfect fit to be represented in the format, without any feeling of being scaled down despite the vast difference in art style.
It’s a given that the Game Boy is hardly capable of the same blazing fast action that could be found in an arcade title – but Samurai Spirits was never about blazing action, to begin with. It is a slow-paced, methodical test of spacing and precision, and that is upheld gloriously in this bite-sized rendition of the game.
Nettou Samurai Spirits was a remarkable opening to a prolific line of handheld fighters. It does the original justice in every way, while actually outshining it in certain aspects, particularly much of the music in this case. A must-play for Game Boy fans and fighting game fans alike.
Its only noticeable downside is its lack of a harder difficulty option. Perhaps Natsume is saving that for Gear Senshi Dendoh Reloaded.