Reviewed in 2012 by Tibe

CRUSH YOUR ENEMIES...

by Tibe

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SNK restarts almost from zero with Samurai Spirits III: the frame, the atmosphere and the characters are retained, but everything else is revised and improved. The intro says it all: game is dynamic, the music still 'Made in Japan' to our delight, and the character design is brand new. The style is more exuberant, heavier, but also more mature. New warriors appear: Basara is a ghost armed with a sharp boomerang, Gaira is the grand-son of Nicotine and is the thrower of the roster, while the sister of Nakoruru, Rimururu, also appears. Shizumaru is a child who is struggling with an umbrella, and the immense Zankuro is the Boss of this edition. Big surprise, Amakusa - Boss of the first game - joins the selectable characters. A shovelful of warriors simply disappears, laying down the roster to twelve fighters. So we've lost five heroes since SSII and its seventeen swordsmen... This is a tremendous setback in terms of choice, but SNK has provided a lot of options for change, able to satisfy the most skeptical. 

For this new episode, the graphic artists re-started from zero
For this new episode, the graphic artists re-started from zero

Each warrior can now be played in two different ways: 'Slash' takes back the move lists already known in the past with new attack and specials, and stands as the 'honorable' way of the warrior. 'Bust' is clearly the dark side of the Force, providing vicious and more risky attacks , in a less academic style. You can also play with three different levels of guard, depending on whether you're an expert or a beginner. Not only the characters have a range of moves wide near the base, but there are now two possible routes. The gameplay has undergone big changes, starting with a button configuration leaving more room for the weapons: A, B and C offer three levels of power with it, and BC performs a guard breaker. The D button is kept for kicks, -> C pushes the opponent, and AB is used to dodge, or turn around when close. The dash and backdash are also present. The game is a bit more technical than Samurai Spirits II, and also features more special attacks and combos, with Disarm Slash replacing Weapon Smash Waza. SSIII is more dynamic than its predecessor, featuring a punchy and accurate animation. 

The Desperation Moves are shown just above the Power bar.
The Desperation Moves are shown just above the Power bar.

The characters are fairly balanced and the difficulty in single mode is high, but not off-putting. Note also that the gore intensity of the first episodes is here sublimated: the showers of blood are more impressive and nicely re-drawn, while cutouts and beheadings benefit from staging more raw than before (we can see both sides of bodies distinctly separating and falling, or an opponent decomposing during a fall). The atmosphere is all the more intense, marked by the staging of high quality with a sublime character design. And of course, there's still the question of the realization, since everything has radically changed. You've seen the screenshots: SSIII is divinely beautiful. There are fourteen varied stages, original and drawn with a remarkable talent. The new style cuts totally with the past. This time, the action takes place exclusively in Japan, in natural settings or abandoned villages or houses. The colors are vibrant and background design of an absolute delicacy... Special mention to the backgrounds of Haomaru's stage (cherry blossoms), Nakoruru's and Gaira's, real masterpieces. 

Some beautiful effects adorn the backgrounds during the fights.
Some beautiful effects adorn the backgrounds during the fights.

The entire game is homogeneous with the backgrounds, and the same goes for the characters: The sprites are large, detailed and colorful. The detail level of these is up a notch and the effects on tissues are bluffing of realism. The animation is not left behind with more decomposition and speed than before, zooms always accurate, fast and powerful. Incidentally, the backgrounds contain many many details as falling leaves, fireflies or even surprising lighting effects, and destructible elements like bamboo, wood, rocks and other objects that will happily get settled during battles! The star attraction is undoubtedly the soundtrack, also 100% new. Quality sampling has improved, and the game features voices, sounds of blades, pitches, shouts and other sounds of environments particularly realistic, even startling. The music is all new and constitute a great achievement, with very inspired compositions played by superb instruments (check out the song played on the flute of Nakoruru). Samurai Spirits III is eyeful and earful, and although it dates from 1995, it has very little dated as it is a splendid game. This episode has nothing to envy its successors, except for a more generous roster... I can't see anything else.


GRAPHICS

98%

Bigger sprites completely re-drawn, new sublime backgrounds: here is the most beautiful episode from Samurai Spirits saga.
ANIMATION 95%
Improved zooms, bigger sprites moving faster and smoother with great details.
SOUND 99%
Themes and musical atmospheres are outstanding, surrounded by great, great effects and vocals. A perfect run!
REPLAY VALUE 90%
The re-drawn roster loses some characters, falling from 17 to 12. On the other hand, each warrior now have two fighting styles: Slash and Bust.
GAMEPLAY 96%
Enhanced with feints, dodges, deflectors and combos, gameplay reaches here a great balance, modernising nicely the series.

NEOGEOKULT

RATE

95%
Unloved episode because of its reduced roster, this third opus deserves all your attention: beautiful, detailled, gore, technical... it has everything to seduce the smarter players.

VALUE FOR MONEY

With only 50/60 euros to spend for a japanese cart, simply take it! It can be easily found and it's a wonderful episode from the Samurai's saga, highly underrated.

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