Samurai Shodown Switch Review: Portable Swords

2019's Samurai Shodown is finally available for the Switch, bringing one of the foundational Japanese fighting games to a brand-new audience.

Samurai Shodown has arrived on the Switch, and it’s made the trip more or less intact. While the graphics have been downscaled for Nintendo's platform, it’s not as stark a difference as you might expect — unless you play in portable mode. As far as the rest goes, it’s still as fast, fluid, and unforgiving as it was last year on the PS4 and Xbox One.

If you already played and made up your mind about SamSho, the Switch version won’t change your mind. If you’re strictly a Switch player looking for something new to do with your fightstick, however, SamSho is a hallmark of the genre for several very good reasons.

Samurai Shodown Switch Review: Portable Swords

Ukyo fights Yashamaru in Samurai Shodown on the Nintendo Switch.

Specifically, it’s a very educational sort of game. The 2019 Samurai Shodown – technically the seventh mainline game in the series, but intended as a franchise reboot – is a high-risk, high-reward fighting game, where every character is no more than one or two big hits away from losing a round.

While this isn’t necessarily uncommon in fighting games, particularly at high levels of play, SamSho takes it to extremes. A single heavy slash can shave off a quarter to a third of a character’s life bar, projectiles do almost no real damage, and most of the attacks in the game leave you wide open for a crucial second if they’re blocked.

As such, SamSho places a heavy emphasis on a lot of the genre’s intangible elements, such as mind games, matchup knowledge, and tactical approaches. None of the characters have more than a handful of special moves, either, so there’s a relatively low execution requirement. Victory in SamSho is mostly about landing one or two big hits at the right time, rather than learning elaborate combo attacks.

You can definitely argue that it’s not particularly casual-friendly, but SamSho is still a really good “gateway game;" it’s a cutthroat, high-impact way to learn fundamentals that you’ll use in almost every other fighting game.

Samurai Shodown graphics on the PS4.

Samurai Shodown graphics on the Switch.Top screen: PlayStation 4; bottom: Nintendo Switch

The Switch port is a little uglier than its PS4 or Xbox One versions, but not distractingly so. I put SamSho on Switch through its paces for a couple of days, then took it online for a few ranked matches, and didn’t run into any problems with framerate drops or slowdown. It didn't quite feel like playing in my living room, but it was a perfectly acceptable online experience.

The Switch port is admittedly a little blurrier around the edges than other versions are, especially if you try to play it in portable mode, but you don’t lose any speed or frames for it.

Most of the flaws the game has are the same as the other versions. While its early problems with character balance (read: Genjuro being head and shoulders above everyone else) have been patched out at this point, the boss at the end of arcade mode is the same kind of frustrating brick wall that SNK loves to put at the end of all its arcade modes.

The Switch version also lacks cross-play with other platforms, which feels borderline ridiculous in 2020, and four out of the five season-one DLC characters still have to be bought off the eShop.

Samurai Shodown Switch Review — The Bottom Line

Haohmaru fights Genjuro in Samurai Showdown Switch.


  • Best stop for getting serious about fighting games in 2020
  • Excellent port of one of last year’s solid releases
  • Low execution barrier


  • Four out of the five Season One characters still have to be purchased separately
  • It’s been 41 years and SNK is still making “SNK Bosses”
  • The load times are still pretty bad, especially since the animated icons love to stop working

Samurai Shodown has managed to make the trip to the Switch without sacrificing more than a little bit of graphical fidelity. If you pick it up, you’ll end up with a game that feels strangely foundational for 2D fighting as a whole, where every round is a tense game of rocket tag even if you have what you think is an insurmountable lead. If you’re looking for something flashy and crazy to play on the couch, it really doesn’t fill that particular bill, but as a fighting game, it’s got a lot of what keeps the genre relevant.

[Note: SNK’s PR department provided a Switch download code for the purpose of this review.]

Our Rating
2019's Samurai Shodown is finally available for the Switch, bringing one of the foundational Japanese fighting games to a brand-new audience.
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch


Published Feb. 26th 2020

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