Set during a civil war, Samurai Riot: Definitive Edition aims to offer a somewhat unique side-scrolling beat ’em up experience.
Playing as either a kunoichi by the name of Sukane or a samurai called Tsuruamuru, Samurai Riot: Definitive Edition challenges you to battle your way through a number of stages, with the order of them determined by the choices you make as you progress. You might be asked whether or not you want to side with a particular faction, for example, or whether to simply investigate a commotion on an alternate path. Many of these decisions have a moral element to them, too: do you want to do what you feel is right, or do what is best for your master?
Ultimately, your decisions will lead to one of multiple endings, but chances are after one playthrough you may not want to go through Samurai Riot: Definitive Edition again. As neat as it is to have a choice-led story, unfortunately the gameplay here just isn’t as fun as it could be. Like in any side-scrolling beat ’em up, you simply make your way from left to right, fighting off enemies as they appear on screen. The levels here feel somewhat empty, however, and while all games in this genre have a habit of throwing large numbers of the same enemies at you, here it’s particularly egregious.
Both Tsuruamaru and Sukane have their own movesets, with the former being strictly a close-range fighter and Sukane being more versatile thanks to her pet fox. She can quickly dodge out of harm’s way while Tsuruamaru has to block, and can command her fox to attack enemies at range. She can even chain up enemies and pull them towards her, a la Mortal Kombat’s Scorpion, before attacking them with a flurry of moves. But even with all this, and some special moves made available by filling a meter, Samurai Riot: Definitive Edition‘s combat just isn’t all that fun.
Enemies simply have too much HP for one, making them a chore to take down, especially considering their limited movesets. Your character movement and actions just feel a bit too light and floaty, too. Throw in other irritations, like many of your more interesting moves being downright useless against bosses, and you have a game that squanders its potential. All the elements are here for a fun side-scrolling beat ’em up, along with wonderful comic book-styled visuals, but unfortunately something is lost in the execution.
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Of course, things are better if you play in co-op, with the movesets of both playable characters complementing the other. Plus, it’s just more fun playing with a friend. And if you do prefer playing alone, you might want to play through the game at least twice just to try both characters. Currency earned while playing can be used to change their school, too, tweaking their abilities somewhat. But again, it’s questionable whether most players will want to play through Samurai Riot: Definitive Edition multiple times to really make use of the system.
With the side-scrolling beat ’em up genre currently going through somewhat of a revival, it’s a shame that Samurai Riot: Definitive Edition disappoints. It’s unique in the space and genuinely does have some good ideas. But when it comes to the gameplay, it just can’t compete with the likes of Streets of Rage 4 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle: Shredder’s Revenge. If you really like the game’s setting and art style it might be worth taking a gamble thanks to its budget price, but chances are you’ll find it overly repetitive, as well as a bit dull and frustrating.