SNK's weapons-based fighting series Samurai Shodown turns 30 today.
Released in arcades on July 7th, 1993 in Japan (where it goes by the title Samurai Spirits), the Neo Geo one-on-one brawler quickly established itself as one of the leading rivals to Capcom's Street Fighter II. The core development team for the game was made up of SNK veterans and ex-Capcom staffers, which goes some way to explain why it made such a massive impact at the time of release.
Set in the late 18th century, Samurai Shodown differentiated itself from the competition by making use of traditional Japanese musical instruments for its soundtrack. The 'zoom' feature made famous by SNK's Art of Fighting and Fatal Fury series was also utilised, allowing the camera to pop in and out of the action. Finally, the copious amount of blood on display also ensured the game gained a sizeable audience; Samurai Shodown was Japan's sixth highest-grossing arcade game of 1993 and made the top five list of highest-grossing arcade conversion kits in North America the following year.
Samurai Shodown was followed by Samurai Shodown II (1994), Samurai Shodown III: Blades of Blood (1995), Samurai Shodown IV: Amakusa's Revenge (1996) and Samurai Shodown V (2003) on the original Neo Geo hardware. Samurai Shodown VI was released in 2005 on Sammy's Atomiswave arcade standard, followed by 2008's Samurai Spirits Sen on the Taito Type X board. In 2019, SNK rebooted the series for modern systems with the critically acclaimed Samurai Shodown.
The series also made its way to the Game Boy and Neo Geo Pocket Color, as well as other systems. The RPG spin-off Shinsetsu Samurai Spirits Bushidō Retsuden was released on the Neo Geo CD, PlayStation and Saturn in 1997, but was never released outside of Japan (it is currently in the process of being translated by fans).