Last week, SNK released its 2019-released reboot of the Samurai Shodown series on iOS and Android through Netflix Games. Samurai Shodown (Free) is a game I’ve enjoyed through its releases on PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Steam quite a bit. I did buy it on Nintendo Switch, but don’t really play that version much because of its tech issues. The fighting game was the first one in the series I spent a lot of time with, and I’m glad I did. I love the focus on weapons, duels, high risk gameplay, and more it brings to the table. Samurai Shodown also excels in its aesthetic and sound design. I was obviously excited to see how the mobile conversion was. In my Samurai Shodown (2019) mobile review, I’m going to cover the game itself, how it compares to other platforms, and what needs to be fixed for it to be worth playing.
If you’ve not played Samurai Shodown, it plays quite differently compared to mainstream fighting games. Having seen the series history through the Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection, I’m glad this Samurai Shodown reboot stuck to its guns and didn’t try and change things up to lose its own character. The weapons, footsies, unique characters, striking aesthetic, and more come together brilliantly, but this Samurai Shodown game has always been lacking in its online and story mode. The core gameplay is great, and I was hoping to see at least that translated to mobile well alongside all the in-game content.
Samurai Shodown on mobile initially feels like the complete game with touch controls, but it has some cutbacks. The first one is visuals. I expected it to look and run better on modern iOS devices given my experience with it on consoles. Visuals aren’t as bad as the Switch version though, and Samurai Shodown on newer iOS devices doesn’t feel sluggish like the Switch version. I also feel like some characters will feel very different here given the on-screen buttons being the only way to play including specials. This just is a very weird decision in what should’ve been a slam dunk port with how much effort went into translating the visuals and everything else over.
The major issues are with the cuts to DLC. Not only are the DLC characters not included in the game right now, but the collaboration characters are completely cut out. As an example, Baiken from Guilty Gear or Warden from For Honor are completely absent here. Not having DLC right from the start isn’t the biggest problem, but the current character selection screen mentions some of the DLC characters arriving as late as July 2024. I get that you want people to remain subscribed to Netflix so you don’t want to release everything in one go, but this is a bit much.
If you’ve never played Samurai Shodown on other platforms or don’t even care about those versions, Samurai Shodown on Netflix isn’t a complete waste. The touch controls aren’t as good as traditional controls on a controller or stick, but the developers did a good job with them here. I just don’t understand why it didn’t include controller support as an option for those who prefer using traditional controls in a fighting game.
For the online, I tested against someone locally over wifi and with Shaun who is in Japan. The netcode held up alright, but it isn’t as good as playing something like Street Fighter 6 or Guilty Gear Strive. For casual matches, it is worth trying, and also has a decent custom lobby implementation. There are also leaderboards for some modes included in the Netflix version of Samurai Shodown.
When it comes to platform differences, the best versions of Samurai Shodown right now for me are the Xbox Series X version for playing on TV and the Steam Deck version for playing on the go. The Xbox Series X version supports 120hz which even the PC version doesn’t have. The PS4 version never got any PS5 enhancements so I stopped playing that version to move to the Xbox version for offline play. On the portable side, I would only recommend the Switch version if you have no other way to play Samurai Shodown and don’t care about online play.
So where does the Netflix version fit into this picture? It isn’t really the same experience with forced touch controls, but it does a better job than the Switch port for sure. I would absolutely recommend downloading it to see how you find the touch controls, but I really hope SNK can add controller support and improve the DLC situation. I don’t expect online to work too well considering the console and PC versions still don’t have decent online netcode. That is coming this month. But in the testing I did, it is serviceable. I played a few games against Shaun who is in Japan and it wasn’t unplayable like certain Switch fighting games we’ve played.
Samurai Shodown, even as the base game with touch controls only, is a great addition to Netflix’s gaming catalog, but it should’ve been better. The lack of controller support and baffling DLC release schedule hold it back in its current state. I’m going to keep it installed in the hope we get updates to address those issues, but right now Samurai Shodown is a great fighting game that deserved better for its mobile release. This is a competent and commendable conversion in many ways, but a very disappointing one in others. Hopefully we won’t need to wait too long to embrace controller support.