-----Samurai shodown 4 is probably the most misunderstood representant in the occidental fighting game history. I said the western part of the world because the game did got a considerable amount of follower in asians countries, and was still played competively in 2003 (most recent tournament date at my knowledge). There could be several reasons to explain this, and the most obvious would probably be the fact that the neogeo system wasn't very popular here. The first installment of the series did became pretty popular, but this is mainly due to the fact that it was ported to a considerable amount of video game consoles. With Samurai Spirit II, the game definitely got several dedicated followers in the arcade scene but could never really get out of the shadow projected by the the street fighters series. With capcom taking over the western fighting game industry, not only in arcade but also by porting their game on every popular home game console, they were also shaping the direction of what would become the standart in fighting game. People playing it would then make those standart their own, and use them as rock solid arguments in countless rethorical debate all around the scene. This isn't something bad in itself, despite the fact that it greatly shrink the idea on how should be made a fighting game. This is a well know fact that the followers of the samurai shodown series got splitted in half after the third installment, and even more with the fourth. This is also due in part by the same reasons. Being accustomed by the native gameplay introduced with the first samurai shodown, they were likely to get lost and felt uneasy toward such a drastical change with the later games. This phenomenal also occured in the street fighter series, but since the gameplay mechanic changes introduced with the alpha series wasn't such a drastical change compared to what happened to samurai shodown, the transition goes pretty smoothly (the previous following of the series (super turbo) were already introducing notion like combo and super). Of course, there was also a group of peoples with a particular aestesic sense that were outraged by issues like the shading level of the sprite, and for that reason they still considered samurai shodown 3 as a better game. Each have his own taste, I'm fine with that. Anyway, time passed by, newer game flooded the market and samurai shodown 4 came to be forgotten.
-----Unlike the reflexes of most people accustomed to a certain style of gameplay, I won't use comparaison with this game aspect versus this one, but I think that amakusa's revenge is a game that came ahead of his time. I have nothing against peoples who like to keep things simple (term I'm not using there to refert as something that is less "deep") and that's also what still kept me attracted to the earlier samurai shodown games. The basics are easely learned, and the rest is up to each player skills to exploit it at it's maximum. But things are slightly different with amakusa's revenge, as there are many aspects of the game that only shows themselves after playing it very extensively. It don't mean that the game isn't less enjoyable before knowing them, but some characters or tactics quickly become so effective that it broke the gameplay, and eventually the fun of playing it. But when acquiring the knowledge of some obscur aspects of the game, the tiering drastically change as previously despised characters acquire new strenghts and are now able to stand against the previously abused ones. Sadly enought, the only place where people could get that knowledge were a few messages boards located on the other side of the world (both physically and linguistically). Being not asian myslef (and also unable to read the language), I also had to build my knowledge of the game from the ground. I'm not having the pretention of saying that I have dig everything from a hole, but that would be true for the most part. That's probably why many peoples I have played underlined my unique way of handling the game.
-----I recall the moment when I almost stopped playing the game completely after fighting an experienced player who was using galford, and who kept grabbing me when I landed on ground. When you start playing the game, you realise quickly enought that unlike in samurai shodown 3, you can't connect just like that a strong blow or even most special moves after throwing your opponent. When people bwecome aware that Galford can connect his ducking C pretty easely after a successful throw, he become pretty popular amongst the cast. In addition, beside Nakoruru, he is probably the character with the highest grab priority, but unlike him, nakururu's way to retaliate after she throw isnt as obvious. Also, when I managed to zone him and try to build some kind of offence, he kept teleporting his dog from above and Immediatly follows with galford reverse replica attack. Those two moves mixed together are probably one of the trickiest combinaison in the game. While puppy is dropping from above in front of you, galford also appear above but on the other side, throwing you in confusion as to which way to block. Of course, now I can handle this situation. But when I started playing the game, I was mostly using Slash Haomaru, and the only way I could avoid being grabbed while landing on ground was by doing his low uppercut. Despite being quite effective, it still a risky move as if your opponent decide not to go for a throw and stay still, you'll end up wide open for him to strike you as soon as you touch ground. Despite my considerable effort, I was thrown around right and left. It was the first time since I started playing that I ever got beated so badly. I wouldn't usually got beaten more than 3 time in a row. I was probably not fighting experts, but since I wasn't one myself it made it pretty even. As his win count kept raising until 7, I was wondering what the hell was going on. When we stopped playing, he left without a word. Since it's defenetly not like me to cry out loud about cheapness, I swallowed my pride and start thinking how I would manage to find a way around this tactic. The guy never gave me any clue, so I reviewed what I already knew and try to build something upon that. The next time I saw him, he select galford once again. I realised by then that it was useless to block against him, so I might as well play as upper grade. As expected, as he see that I've lost my ability to guard, he's going for more risky move, trying to do his ducking C without throwing me first. This gave me more opportunity to jump safely in air and landing several strongs slashes. As he tries his mixup with his dog, I'm just dodging in instead of wondering which way to block. That day I could anticipate his move pretty well, and I kept mixing Haomaru ducking kick with his overhead special move. The match ended 5 win for me and 2 for him. Somehow, I managed to beat him while still not knowing how easy it really was to avoid being thrown. This make me think about another reason why I decided to put this site up. I beleive that a good match require that both player have a sufficient knowledge of the game to be able to use it's character near it's full potential. This will bring the two player on the same potential level, and the outcome will result not on a player abusing somekind of secret magic, but on the talent of each player to do with the possibilities that his chosen character have to offer. Of course, the choice of applying this notion is purely subjective, especially upon a game that just came out. In this situation, the player that his smart enought to find those tricks could deserve to win, and eventually use it to gain fame or the money prize in case of tournament. But for game like samurai shodown 4, which have been out for such a long time, tournament involving a considerable amount of gain are not likely to occur. And beside, since many of it's gameplay mechanic have been found and discussed, most player starting to play it nowaday will much likely mimic those techniques, which invalidate the point that they actually deserve anything out of the pretty effectives tactics they used against someone that is not aware of them. The question upon which variable to isolate to defining, and eventually gratifying a player for it's skill if far from being settled. I guess it have to do with each one ways to look at the world. Some beleive it is a never ending free for all story, making their way by seizing any opportinities they can to met their selfish desire, while other restrain themselves upon morality and are building the elaborate schemes of honor, chivalry and fairness they would apply on their lifestyle (and eventually gamestyle). This is like a never ending story, and those variables could never be absolute due to their nature itself being subjective. They do can become standarts if a community that's sharing them have enought influence. Allow me now to bring back my previous example related to that galford player to go on with my next point.
-----Another possible reason that would explain why amakusa's revenge did hit country like Japan, Korea or China but wasn't popular here would be the dedication of asians players reguarding fighting games. Like I said, I am not asian myself (and don't seek to be one), altought I may be one of the few players here dedicated enought to really got into the game. I've never been here, can't read the language as well, and my assumption are made reguarding the informations I gathered so far. Like I said earlier, samurai shodown 4 isn't a game that is likely to show it's full potential when it is played for the first time. The game offer an incredible amount of possibility for set up, mind games, and the timing required for certain combination is quite challenging. There is a huge misconception about the multislash feature introduced in samurai shodown 4, making people beleive that it's the key to becoming good at the game. The 14 hitter is actually only usefull with a restrictive set of characters. Of course, it's actually a pretty flashy move, but keep in mind that it does less damage than a standing medium slash. It usually connect at a very short range, and unless doing it after a throw with characters that benefit greatly from being powered, it result into a wasted opportunity of inflicting a much more interesting amount of damage. Mindlessly trying to connect the 14 hitter in every opportunity and sonely rely on super moves won't get you very far in that game. Despite what people may think, even if the combo counter reach ridiculous number, the most effective combination have nothing to do with the multislash.
-----When given time, people may come to realise how complex and refined amakusa's revenge really is. Unlike the street fighters series, which is shrinked to signature moves that will barely change from a character to another (like horizontal fireball or vertical anti-air hit), and the reach of the basics hits which is limited at close range (dhalsim being the exeption). I'm not saying this make street fighter a less enjoyable game, whatever game fits a person. Third strike was indeed a huge improvement in the series, introducing possibilities that weren't present in the earlier games. As for samurai shodown, as a weapon based fighting game, there is an incredible variety of ranges and ways to use the 2d space offered by those types of games. The gameplay mechanic of each character is unique, as for the relation he have with it's environment. Some characters will be especially good at short range, other will be able to strike at a vertically 45 degree, then we have teleport moves, duplication to trick the opponent, fireball that is actually moving up and down or others that are vertically extended or lift the opponent in air, powerfull counter move that are requiring a good sense of anticipation, moves like kazuki exploding pants which can be used as both a counter move, bait and teleport, some projectiles are penetrating the opponent from one side to another requiring them to guard for an extended period of time, while others have a knockdown effect. There is also tackles that stunt the opponent and giving the player some delay to perform additionnal combinations, some moves are acquiring differents properties while done powered, the possibility to fight bare handed, ect. In addition to that great variety of moves and ways to use the environment, samurai shodown 4 may have one of the most exhaustive basic system of 2d fighting history, and I'm not even talking about the more obscure notions and characters specificities, like charlotte ability to cancel her taunt or kyoshiro/shizumaru ability to recover their weapon instantly while standing on it and doing a special move. Finally, the game possess an incredible amount of variable factors that can drastically change the gameplay when fighting against different characters. This include the size, the sprite alignment, the time it take to recover on a throw (both different upon throwing or being thrown), the various ways to cancel hits, the range from where a throw can be done and the ability to do them or not while still running. Such inconsistency bring countless of possibily and make an absolute tiering of the game rather difficult (since the range of the different techniques that can be used and their effectiveness greatly varies upon duelling against different characters).
-----On the other side, trying to control such a huge amount of variables and possibilities musn't have been easy to do in a year of development, with shedules to met and limited labour. Beside, the more you try to control those variables, the more you are reducing the possibility that can be develpped by the players, Samurai Shodown 5 being a living example of this. Amakusa's revenge probably lead to a huge amout of things that weren't planned by the initials programmers. This of course both have it's quality and it's flawn. The game must have a hundred amount of infinites (altought the tenth of them are actually effective in a extensive range of scenario). Some peoples beleive that anything can be use or abused in a fighting game, and like I pointed at the beginning of this writing, it's all relate to each one ways of seeing thing, and defining the criteria of concept such as skill or talent. I mean, if someone want to go free for all against me at the game, I sure the hell have my arsenal of tricks. But unlike those peoples, I beleive the players have enought authority to go ahead of the companies and shape their games the way they want, without waiting for the initial programmer to bring fixes or an upcomming tweaked version. Take this last statement with a grain of salt, because it would indeed be really messed up if anyone could take the speech and promote to kill certains aspects of the gameplay just because they consider it apparently broke the game (which can most of the time be the case while a player haven't been playing the game enought to finds ways around upon relying on his skill, without the need of physically modifying the game engine). The cheap argument is just way too abused by certain players. The aspects I'm referring to are those which greatly reduces the range of the possible gameplay pertaining to the game, and thus, the fun of playing it. I'm aware that it sometime impossible to change one's opinion, and it is well known that we, human, need coercitives measures in order to go in a determined direction. And that is exacly the function played by the ones who have authority upon those peoples, which are the government for anything related to laws and lines which are drawn for guiding and putting limits reguarding the way to behave in society, or the game company for fightings games players, who decide to add or remove certain aspects of their game engine. We, the players, obviously don't have the knowledge to do so, so we are bind to accept or refuse it, but not changing it. When two stanger who met in the arcade, they don't signed any contract and if they decide to put their money in the slot, it mean they already accepted totally the rule set by the machine (which is a pretty fair situation). The only measure that is left is to make some kind of compromise and try building a community of peoples that would share similars ideas, and that are generally accepting them. Hell, even here in pubs and bars peoples have made specific rules around the "baby foot" table, and you better watch your sorry ass if you don't follow them. This is no different on how the way societies are build, it's by making compromise. This could also be similar to sports, which are also an enjoyable ways to enjoy competition, but that put a certain amount of restriction upon what you can do and cannot. I mean, whould you kick your opponent in the nuts in order to acheive victory in a match of boxing ? Altought showing similarity with the fighting games scene, there aren't really convention on what can be done or not in the game beside what apply to the native game engine. And since the rules that apply to game are in continuous changes due to the fact of newer games coming out, the players generally wait for an upgrade or a software fix to change their ways.
-----If we now look at the practical way this would apply in the case of amakusa's revenge, I beleive the only thing that would need to be limited are infinites. Unlike games like marvel vs capcom 2 where infinites maintain such a strong bond with the game mechanics (and that actually don't make the game much less enjoyable), it really shrink the gameplay and subtilities present in the case of amakusa's revenge. Unlike most of the asiatic samurai shodown 4 communities, I don't think this would need to be extended upon letting your opponent recover his weapon when he find himself bare handed. Actually, the most powerfull combinations in the game are unlocked while operating a certain move that include recovering your weapon and at the same time, enganging in a pull throw manoeuver (altought in several cases not easy done on a very careful player). There is also the ability to disarm your opponent, which is from my experience too often neglected.
-----We live in a free world (as far as I would like to beleive that such word still bear any meaning), and you are free to disagree with anything stated in this article, starting with the engrish. I know that much that ideas are in perpetuous changes, and we are still several galaxies away from establishing a common ground amongst peoples around the world. But I beleive that if peoples would at least keep an open mind and not being so confined in their own ways, that would be a huge improvement toward a better world. I am of course, not confining this into fighting games. There is really no use hating someone over a game (altought this can lead to a boost of motivation while fighting that kind of person, *grinch*, I'm being evil here), and if you do, well, you are probably not as free as you think you are... Even I can sometime get hyped over a match, but I came to realise that the reason I was hating on someone reguarding the outcome really sucked. I may appear to disgress while making comparisons and metaphors on subject that goes far beyond the theme of fighting games, but it's not like the world itself is splitted into countless separated parts. Anything that is done by human is somewhat related. The modern ways of fightings wars, emerging from the masses and releive ourselves of the daily stress are just wearing another mask. The old days of endless shodown and duels are releived, and a cheap way to live it (and getting out of it alive, heh) is to replace the sword with a stick. While not having the pretention of putting at the edge as much of a human potential that would bring up a real duel, the game still require to put in good use many of the cognitive aspects that it would involve. The nature of the game also determine which of them would be the most relevent in order to perform exceptionally well in it. While most of capcom games like vampire saviors and marvel vs capcom require a very good dexterity and a quick logical thinking, the samurai shodown series would appeal more to notion like anticipation and the ability to see ahead of the game. Altought samurai shodown 1 to 3 are much slower, it is not as easy to "turtle" in samurai shodown 4, putting pressure on the player for him to take calculated risk. This is where the notion of anticipation play such a crucial role. But of course, it is not limited to that and it is up for each player advantage to focus on the talent he think that would be the most usefull for his type of game, which can also be closely related to the character he use. In addition, combining moves in amakusa's revenge (this of course would exclude the 14 hitter) can require an exeptionnal sense of time evaluation, as some moves cancelability only gives you a range of several frames to perform them correctly. It can lead many times to dilemma as if you will take the chance to inflict a more deadly blow at the risk of messing up, or just playing it safe. Altought sharing severals similarities amongs them, each fighting games have it's unique mixt of aspect to explore, each one appealing to a certain variety of functions operated by the brain. And the way of putting them in hiearchy will most likely be the result of each individual preferences, which are themselves a continuity of the standart set by the most popular games of today, and that we have been accustomed to.
|-----Thanks for reading