Samurai Shodown II (known in Japan as Shin Samurai Spirits: Haohmaru Jigoku-hen, which loosely translates to "True Samurai Spirits: Haohmaru's Portrait of Hell") is a 2D historical-fantasy weapon-based fighting game developed and released by SNK for arcades (powered by Neo Geo MVS hardware) and the Neo Geo AES on December 2, 1994.
The sequel to the original Samurai Shodown, Samurai Shodown II refines the gameplay with four new characters, more special moves (including a new super special move used specifically for the Rage Meter), the inclusion of easter eggs (including a new hidden boss), and several new gameplay mechanics (including the ability to roll forwards and backwards, lying down to avoid high attacks, quick hops to avoid low attacks, and a risky "parry" technique in which blocking an attack at the last possible minute with a weapon gives a small window of counter-attack).
Unlike its predecessor, the game was not ported to other fourth-generation consoles (other than the Neo Geo CD in December 15, 1994). It has later received two Japanese-exclusive ports: one for the PC (in 1996) and one for the PlayStation (on March 26, 1998, bundled with a port of the original Samurai Shodown). It also received multiple digital and modern compilation releases:
- The PS1 version was digitally re-released as a PSone Classics title via PlayStation Network for supporting platforms in Japan on May 31, 2007.
- The original version was was digitally re-released worldwide for the Wii (via Virtual Console on August 25, 2008), Xbox 360 (via Xbox Live Arcade on September 10, 2008), and both Android and iOS devices (in June 2013). The 360 version is notable for its online multiplayer capability.
- The game was included in the Samurai Shodown Anthology compilation for the PlayStation 2 and Wii.
- It was included in some Humble NEO GEO Bundles starting in late 2015, later sold separately. This version, developed by DotEmu, is both downloadable (DRM-free, with ROMs included) for the PC, Mac, and Linux and playable on modern browsers.
- It was also released as part of HAMSTER's ACA NeoGeo series for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on September 21, 2017 (overseas PS4 release on October 11, 2017), with a Nintendo Switch release on February 1, 2018 and a PC (Windows Store) release on June 29, 2018.
- It was included in the 2020 Digital Eclipse compilation Samurai Shodown NeoGeo Collection for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. It also features online multiplayer, although it is incompatible with the other PC release.
"This might be the greatest video game ever made." - Jeff Gerstmann, GiantBomb.com
The younger sister of the previous game's Tam Tam, Cham Cham fights with both a boomerang and her claws. In fact, behaves much like a cat, scratching her ear with her leg and crouching while in battle. Her alternate costume features a color set very similar to Felicia from Darkstalkers.
Oddly enough, when thrown, her boomerang will not damage opponents upon return. She can also grapple her opponents and slash at them like a cat playing with a ball of yarn. Her rage super involves her growing much larger and charging at her opponents. Her chimp, Paku Paku, also fights her opponents, similarly through ranged attacks.
After defeating Mizuki, Paku Paku uses her orbs to reveal himself as Tam Tam. He simply transformed himself into Paku Paku so that Cham Cham would defeat Mizuki on her own. They then return home and use the orbs to grant Cham Cham's wish for more food.
A Japanese swordsman and Haohmaru's rival, Genjuro is one of several new characters introduced in Samurai Shodown II. His alternate costume gives him white robes and gray hair.
Like Fei Long or Marth, Genjuro has a three-strike move that works well as a combo. He can also slash upward, like Haohmaru, and launch spinning cards as projectiles. Genjuro's rage super launches a character into the air and then slashing them several times (the maximum is six) while cards rotate around the victim.
Upon victory in battle against Mizuki, Genjuro notices a battle-worn Haohmaru nearby. He tries to kill him, but Haohmaru's wife stops him from going through with it. However, this is only because Haohmaru is wounded; Genjuro vows to kill him when he has healed.
Haohmaru's mentor and trainer, is intended as a comic relief character. His alternate costume is a red staff, a black hat, and a yellow outfit.
Nicotine fights with a staff, allowing him to fight from afar. Along with spin-kicking along it, Nicotine can extend his staff's reach to hit far away opponents. He can also launch electric birds and flaming cards at his enemies, along with cards that, like Mizuki's spirit, mess up the other player's movements. His rage super summons a powerful Buddhist god which takes up most of the screen.
After victory in his final battle, Nicotine meets Kuroko, who congratulates him on his victory. Unfortunately, it is revealed that the King of Evil is still alive, and that Nicotine intends to finish him off once and for all. He does so by gathering the nearby evil energy in a jar. Satisfied, he invites Kuroko for a celebratory drink. Unfortunately, while talking about Haohmaru, Nicotine sneezes, dropping the jar and releasing the energy he had just gathered.
A German knight, Sieger, like Charlotte, is one of the few characters wearing armor. However, it only protects his legs. When he becomes red via the filling of his Pow Meter, he looks like he is not wearing any pants, since they, too, are red. His alternate costume simply gives him grayer skin and a green hand instead of a fiery red one.
Like Gen-An, Sieger fights with a giant glove. However, instead of being a claw, his glove is a gun, shooting fire at his enemies. He can also use it to reflect projectiles or launch them into the air as part of a combo. His rage super sets him on fire while he jumps in the air, arms and legs spread out to hit his opponents upon landing.
In his ending, Sieger decides to tell his king about his victory against the forces of evil. However, it is revealed that back in Germany, great beasts have been unleashed, most likely by Sieger's enemies, and are attacking the people. Sieger returns just in time to prevent them from killing the king, similarly to how Charlotte returned to France to defend her people in the original Samurai Shodown. The king rewards Sieger by allowing him to marry the princess. Galford and Wan-Fu can be seen in the celebrations.
The game's final boss.
A secret character, Kuroko is only a playable character in versus mode. However, the player can fight him in the single player mode, although the method of unlocking this is not known. His stage is the arena shown at the end of each campaign, and it is revealed that Da Vinci sketches adorn its walls.
Kuroko fights with his trademark flags, which cannot be broken. When combined with aggressive AI and the fact that he cannot be tossed, Kuroko is a hard character to beat. His rage super involves him charging energy before rushing at his opponent, punching and kicking them several times like Akuma before uppercutting them. In fact, Kuroko shares a lot of similarities with him and may be a parody of Akuma; he glides across levels, shoots extremely large fireballs, and jump onto characters to kick them while they stand, among other things.
A French knight fighting for the peasants of the French Revolution, Charlotte is one of the few characters in the game who wears armor. Her alternate costume is colored similarly to Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII fame.
She fights with a rapier, slashing upward and charging at her opponents with multiple stabs to harm them. She can also launch a triangle as an energy attack. Her rage super summons a seven pointed triangle that takes up much of the screen.
In her ending, Pierre, Charlotte's pigeon, leads her to Haohmaru nearby. Although she loves him, Charlotte runs away when another woman comes near Haohmaru. She then resolves to train more and cuts off her ponytail, throwing it into the wind.
The leader of a gang of thieves based in Texas, Earthquake is easily the largest character in the game, taking up about 30% of the screen when idle. His alternate costume is simply a blue outfit instead of a pink one.
Like Galford, Earthquake can summon false Earthquakes to confuse his opponents, or disappear and then reappear above an opponent to hit them. He can also breath fire upon them, crush them with his butt, and, like Gen-An, roll at a character as a spinning blade ball. However, unlike Gen-An, Earthquake's roll has limited range and cannot climb walls. His rage super allows him to grab his opponent and throw them into the air, followed by throwing his spinning kusarigama (sickle attached to a chain) at them.
Upon his victory in battle against Mizuki, Earthquake summons his fellow thieves, only to find that one of them, Chinpei, is missing. As it turns out, Chinpei went missing while the thieves were hunting for treasure in the middle of the battle. In addition, they never retrieved the treasure. However, they still have an opportunity, one Earthquake seizes as soon as it presents itself to him. However, it requires him to go to the Dark World, from which there is no return, according to Kuroko, the referee in the background of every battle. This only seems to please Kuroko.
A fighter from San Francisco, Galford is one of the few characters with an animal companion: his dog, Poppy. It was confirmed in the previous game that Poppy is a female, since she has puppies. His alternate costume turns his suit black, his hair white, and Poppy a mix of dark and light brown.
Galford is best used as a ranged character. He can launch electrical blades at his enemies or sick Poppy on them. She can bite them, rush into them, or, like Galford, drop on them from above. Galford is also a stealthy character, able to summon illusions, become invisible, and switch himself with a log when hit, only to reappear above his foe. Galford's rage super sicks Poppy on his opponent. She bites them for a bit before piledriving said opponent.
In his ending, Poppy alerts Galford to the nearby Nakoruru. However, before they can speak, Nakoruru leaves to fight another evil force. After teleporting away on a nearby cliff, Nakoruru consoles Galford, saying that although she knew how he felt for her, she had no choice but to teleport away. Galford takes this well, vowing to fight any remaining evil in the world.
Gen-An is a practitioner of dark magic from Onigami Island, an island populated by beings similar to him, as is shown in the background of his stage. His alternate costume turns his skin blue and his outfit red.
Somewhat similarly to Cham Cham and Sieger, Gen-An fights with a giant claw. With it, he can grapple onto opponents or violently drill into their stomachs with his rage super. Gen-An can also launch poison gas clouds at his enemies to stun them, rush at them as a spinning ball of blades that can climb up walls and opponents, or jump out of his skin to slash his opponents.
After proving himself to be more evil than Mizuki in battle, Gen-An returns home to fight a hero opposed to his ways. However, before he can do so, his wife interrupts them, begging him not to fight. She even reveals that they had children together, giving him reason to listen to her. Although reluctant at first, he eventually gives in. The ending then picks up a year later, where it is revealed that Gen-An and his wife had yet another child.
A ninja based on a historical figure, Hanzo is one of several characters returning from the original game. One of his sons is possessed by the spirit of Amakusa. Although not obvious at first, Hanzo is a palette swap with Galford. His alternate costume is a white outfit.
Being a palette swap with Galford, Hanzo also shares many of his abilities. For example, he can summon illusions, switch himself with a log when hit, and disappear, only to reappear above his enemy. However, Hanzo also has his own moves; he can throw shurikens and send a column of fire that weaves in and out of the ground. His rage super summons a large pillar of fire to destroy his foes.
In his ending, Kanzo, Hanzo's son, finds the body of his brother, Shinzo, free from Amakusa's grasp. His mother arrives with Shinzo's soul, and asks him to fetch his father, Hanzo. However, before Hanzo arrives, his wife gives her life to bring Shinzo back to life, since his soul is too weak to reunite with its body on its own. Hanzo arrives during her last hours of life, and consoles his sons by telling them to train harder and not let their sadness get to them if they wish to become better ninja.
Considered the protagonist of the series, many of the storylines in the game involve Haohmaru in one way or another. In fact, the Japanese release of the game has his name in the title: True Samurai Spirits: Haohmaru's Portrait of Hell. His alternate costume turns his outfit teal with yellow bandages.
Among other things, Haohmaru can launch tornadoes at his foes (or fake doing so), slash-uppercut them, jump down on them with his sword, or reflect projectiles with his bottle of sake. His rage super is a strong slash of blue energy.
After a hard battle against Mizuki, Haohmaru wakes up to find Genjuro in front of him. What follows is essentially a repeat of Genjuro's ending, only from Haohmaru's perspective. His wife apologizes for interfering in his affairs, but Haohmaru forgives her. Nearby, Gen-An watches the scene unfold.
Like Hanzo, Jubei is also based on a historical figure: a samurai of the same name. His alternate costume is a red shirt with black pants.
While many of the characters in Samurai Shodown II use swords as weapons, Jubei is the only one who fights with two simultaneously. With them, he can slash opponents multiple times, send energy waves along the ground, and charge at his opponents before ending with a rising energy slash similar to Charlotte's. Jubei is also one of the few characters with a move dedicated to countering attacks. His rage super summons a large column of blue energy.
In his ending, one of his servants runs toward him with the two orbs that gave Mizuki power. Determining that they allowed Mizuki to come to power, he asks his servant to hand him the orbs. Jubei then destroys the two orbs in a large column of energy before returning to Japan.
A kabuki dancer from Japan, Kyoshiro is yet another returning character. His alternate costume gives him a light tan shirt and blue hair.
Kyoshiro fights with a long spear, giving him impressive range when compared to other characters. With it, he can vault himself at opponents and spin upward and/or downward. He can also breath fire and launch flaming fans similar to Nicotine's cards. His rage super turns him into a tornado of slashes, doling out multiple hits to those who enter it before ending with a downward slash of his spear.
In his ending, Kyoshiro resolves to join a dancing troupe, since he is tired of dancing alone. However, before going through with this, he notices the body of Mizuki nearby. He frees her from the evil forces that controlled her throughout the preceding story and remarks that she was too weak to control Ambrosia, so it ended up controlling her, instead. Kyoshiro then invites her to join him in kabuki theater; she accepts.
An Ainu priestess, Nakoruru places nature as a high priority. She is one of the few characters who fights with an animal friend: her hawk, Mamahaha. Her alternate costume simply changes all her red features to purple ones.
Nakoruru's weapons are two knives, with which she can rush at her opponents either along the ground or rising toward them. She can also send projectiles and reflect incoming ones back at her opponents. In addition, Mamahaha can assist her in battle, either attacking foes directly or lifting her into the air so she can strike from above. Her rage super sends Mamahaha at her opponent several times, each swoop imbued with magical energy.
Like the relationship between Haohmaru and Genjuro, much of Nakoruru's ending is Galford's from her perspective. However, it is now revealed that she disappeared in an attempt to save the nearby forests. The ending then cuts to her village, where the people are mourning her loss. She consoles them, saying that she will now act as a guardian for them, and urges them to protect nature in her place.
Another Japanese swordsman and resident ladies' man of the series, his stage features a woman hiding behind a pole to the far left. She cries upon his defeat in battle. His alternate costume gives him a ghostly appearance, complete with gray skin, darker gray hair, and a gray robe instead of a blue one.
Like Jubei and Charlotte, Ukyo can slash his opponent multiple times. Before he does so, he throws an apple which he slices to bits, along with his enemies. However, Ukyo can throw an apple as a bluff, too. Ukyo can also rush forward at his opponents, launch a flaming eagle from the sky, and slash enemies while launching said flaming eagle. His rage super launches him into the air and turns him into a spinning sword circle, slashing those who dare enter it.
After his battle with Mizuki, Ukyo wakes up in a nearby field. Meanwhile, in Japan, a woman waits for him. While waiting, she notices snowflakes; these are actually flakes of ice produced by Ukyo's slashes into an ice statue he is making in her honor. Years later, she tells her granddaughter that this is the reason why it snows on that specific day every year. It then snows, and the woman thanks Ukyo.
The king of China, Wan-Fu did not make many appearances in Samurai Shodown games following this one. His alternate costume makes his skin tanner and his red features purple.
While he originally fought with a sword, Wan-Fu now uses a large stone column, instead. He can throw it at his opponents, use it in an uppercut, twirl toward his enemies with it, use it as a shield, and charge his Pow meter at the expense of his health. His rage super is very similar to a regular move he had in the original Samurai Shodown: he throws his flaming column at his opponents, causing an explosion that, like all rage supers, breaks their weapons.
After beating Mizuki, Wan-Fu plants his stone column into the ground and laughs. He then rushes at the player, saying that although they expected an ending, his story has no ending. Wan-Fu follows this up by launching his column into the ground, causing an explosion, saying that it his message to those expecting some type of ending.