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Samurai Shodown V, known as Samurai Spirits Zero (サムライスピリッツ零 Samurai Supirittsu Zero ) in Japan, is the eighth game in SNK's Samurai Shodown/Samurai Spirits series of fighting games. It was one of the last ever games to be released on the Neo Geo. The original Japanese version of the game also has a great deal of dialogue in single-player mode, but all of those scenes are simply left out when the game's language is set to English. The domestic Xbox version of that release restores these scenes and translates them into English. The game was also ported to the PlayStation 2, which was released in Japan and Europe.
Following the revitalization of SNK after its collapse in 2001, the company decided that it would be worthwhile to create another game in the largely-defunct Samurai Shodown series. As part of their reorganization, development duties were given over to the relatively-unknown Yuki Enterprise, which had mainly only created simulation and board games for the Simple 2000 series of PlayStation 2 games in Japan, and had no experience in developing fighting games.
In spite of this, SNK managed to raise excitement by announcing that Nobuhiro Watsuki, the creator and author of the Rurouni Kenshin manga and anime series, was hired to design some of the new characters, and they were gradually revealed by way of silhouettes on the official website, and slowly showing the official artwork. Word finally got out that the game was to be a true prequel to the rest of the series, taking place two years before the first Samurai Shodown game. This created its own issues with the series timeline.
The gameplay was sped up slightly from Samurai Shodown IV, and the button layout was changed again.
The Slash/Bust system of the last few games was done away with, and each character now only had one version, though in several cases, the Bust mode was replaced by a new character of very similar setup.
The most significant addition to the fighting system, is the "defense" button. This button—depending on the position of the joystick—allows the player to duck, quickly jump back, quickly jump forward or roll. This gives more tactical possibilities and balances the player with more evasive moves, rather than loading the buttons with attacks. Clearly, Yuki's strategy game experience was shown in the new fighting system. Brought back from the original two SS games, is the combination of the A and B buttons to create a fierce slash attack rather than having its own button, like the last two SS games. The C button is once again a kick.
SS5 was a modest success, though not a smash hit. Those who were familiar with Samurai Shodown 64: Warriors Rage also noted that the new, alternate characters tended to be heavily watered-down versions of Bust characters in that game (Enja and Suija in particular). It is currently most commonly seen as a competent, if unexceptional, fighting game.
- Japanese endings translated to English at VGMuseum
- Official Samurai Spirits Zero Website at SNK Playmore