As of now we’re still in the transition phase between console generations. This one’s going a little long even, due to how various conditions have fueled stock shortages.
But while few truly “next-gen” games have dropped, plenty of other titles are getting bespoke upgrades beyond unlocked frame rates naturally jumping up. Samurai Shodown, which SNK has recently released for Xbox Series X/S, is one of the more notable examples.
That’s because it’s a powerful example of what fighting games can be now.
Samurai Shodown on Xbox Series X is a Window to the Future
Ever since the HD generations hit, fighting games have run into struggles many other genres don’t have to deal with. Because of how high the level of skill gets, every little technical hitch matters greatly to the community.
And because fighting games in particular really rely on extended play to thrive, those little details can make or break not only a game’s competitive capacity, but hardware as well. For example, Street Fighter IV on PS3 and Xbox 360 were nearly identical. But the PS3 version had an ever-so-slight frame rate disadvantage that you’d only notice at that pro level.
But that pro level is key for fighters, and as a result the PS3 version of Street Fighter IV was removed from platforms like EVO. As we head into the next generation of fighters on consoles and the next iteration (long story short) of EVO, we could possibly see similar situations.
But since we’re only seeing so many platform-dedicated fighters so far, that’s largely uncharted territory. Will resolution matter? What about frame rates beyond 60 fps?
Samurai Shodown shows us that, with the right elbow grease under the hood, it might be a moot point. SNK’s latest and greatest fighter now has a dedicated next-gen version, currently exclusive for the Xbox Series X/S.
Not only does it make the game playable at 4K, it’s also a milestone in that it runs at 120 frames per second, supporting a certain hardware threshold we haven’t really seen for a fighter before.
Regardless of the competitive stuff, playing SamSho in its most tricked-out capacity is a sight to behold. It’s like all the concerns of the previous generation, with frame rates, input delays, dynamic resolutions and what have you have been washed away.
Even without a 120hz display, having a 3D fighter run at 4K/60 is a new way to experience a game like this.
We’ve already seen examples of how flexible SamSho is as a piece of software. Showing up on platforms like Stadia and the Nintendo Switch, it feels like the series’ more methodical gameplay really lends itself well to experimentation like that.
It’s a game far more about patience and punishments than it is links, strings and big combos, and in a world of modular and disparate hardware specs, SNK seems to have earned a really productive “canary in the coal mine” position.
Before, fighting games being able to reach the limits of a console has been a pipe dream. Compromises had to be made to make sure games ran smoothly, because harming its competitive viability was a much higher priority than in other big games.
But if Samurai Shodown’s next (current?)-gen appearance is any indication, the extra juice these consoles can offer for smoother performance at greater spec could mean the sky’s the limit.