Samurai Shodown V Perfect, the planned final revision of 2003’s Samurai Shodown V, went missing shortly after its mysterious debut in a Japanese arcade in 2005. The game was never released and had long since been resigned to the annals of fighting game history until this week, when it was announced that not only has a finished version of Perfect been discovered, the game will also be included in the Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch in the near future. Normally it’s a bad day involving a call to the police when someone discovers a bunch of missing samurai in a closet somewhere, but in this case it’s actually great news for everyone involved.
Samurai Shodown V and its follow-up, Samurai Shodown V Special, were originally developed for SNK by a studio then known as Yuki Enterprise (now known as Examu), which would later develop the Arcana Heart series and other 2D fighters with significant cult followings. According to an interview published on Kotaku, after work on Special had wrapped, Yuki Enterprise decided to go ahead and begin development on a third revision of the game, dubbed Samurai Shodown V Perfect, without actually like, checking with SNK first to see if that was cool, or telling anyone that it was going to do that.
SNK didn’t find out about Perfect until Yuki Enterprise installed a test build of the game into a single Samurai Showdown V cabinet at an arcade near its office — standard operating procedure for Japanese fighting game developers — at which point word of a new SamSho began to spread like wildfire across the nascent fighting game communities of the early 2000s’ Japanese internet. SNK was already deep in development on Samurai Shodown VI by this point, which was to run on a modified version of Sega’s NAOMI arcade platform instead of the Neo Geo cabinets that Samurai Showdown V and Special had used, so it immediately ordered Perfect‘s cancellation and the game was never seen again.
In addition to a number of balance changes (which are now totally undocumented, thanks to the unyielding march of time), Perfect also adds new story content for each of the game’s 24 characters, at the bizarre expense of some finishing move animations, according to Kotaku. Here’s the explanation from Necrosoft Games director Brandon Sheffield, who helped uncover the finished version of Perfect and also worked on Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection‘s museum mode:
“Some Overkills were also tweaked, and got their visuals simplified,” Sheffield said. “I know some folks are going to get the wrong idea about it, because the things that were removed are, for example, Rasetsumaru crushing an opponent’s heart or opponents getting chopped in two. But the reason for the change isn’t any kind of dumbing down of content; we actually asked about this and whether it was a reaction to some sort of blowback from the bloodier moves.”
“In fact, the moves were simplified to make space in the ROM,” he said. “They needed room for the new story mode cutscenes and text, and because they couldn’t allocate any additional space they had to basically steal it from somewhere else in the game. So they chose a few simplifications of Overkills that wouldn’t affect gameplay much in order to get the story they wanted in there.”
Yes folks, if you’re just now joining us here in video game land, developers used to work tirelessly to ensure that their games fit within the storage limitations of the intended format, which were often set in stone. In the case of SNK’s modular Neo Geo Multi Video System (MVS) arcade cabinets (home to Samurai Shodowns I through V Special (and now, Perfect)), even the biggest games had to be squeezed onto cartridges capable of holding around 80 megabytes, and that was after the original storage limit of approximately 40 MB had been surpassed through the implementation of bank switching. The days of physical media were wild y’all, wait until you find out that cartridge games retailed for different prices based on how much storage they had to cram into the cartridge to hold the game.
Anyway, we’ll all be able to experience this lost relic of a simpler, more complicated time when Samurai Shodown Neo Geo Collection launches on the Epic Games Store on June 11 (for free even, at least at first!). The not-free Steam version is set to follow on June 18, with equally not-free PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch ports arriving way later on July 28. The collection houses seven games in total, features online multiplayer with rollback netcode for each game, and also includes an extensive museum mode shocasing production materials, video interviews with the original developers, and other lost ephemera.