Samurai Riot Definitive Edition Review

June 1, 2022
Also on: Switch
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Samurai Peaceful Protest

At this point, it almost feels cliche to say that I miss the 1980s. In the two years that I’ve been writing for Jump Dash Roll, I’ve played an almost concerning amount of games that were heavily inspired by the decade Rambo released in. Some of those titles are fantastic, others are forgettable, and a select few are so bad it’s almost funny. These games, and the others I’ve played but can’t hyperlink because it screws up the Google SEO algorithm, have made me appreciate a time before everyone was running around with smartphones and Spotify. And for better or worse, I was feeling the same way after playing Samurai Riot Definitive Edition, which isn’t exactly inspired by the 1980s, but at this point I just need to submit this article to meet my deadline and I don’t want to rewrite my introduction paragraph. 

All that is a roundabout way of saying that Samurai Riot (the definitive edition, although presumably everything I’m about to say also applied to the version of the game that launched in 2017) is a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the same vein as Streets of Rage or old arcade games. The two-hour-long, and heavily replayable, adventure focuses on a team of two neo-samurai making their way through a Japanese-inspired landscape to save the world. To do that, you need to combo attack your way through hordes of anamorphic animals and silly-looking samurai, make a handful of moral choices that decide the fate of the universe and…well, that’s kind of it. 

Hey look, it’s the “creepy old guy ninja turtle”

Samurai Riot isn’t an especially complicated game. While there are combos to memorise and sub plots to pay attention to, the bulk of the game involves punching baddies and beating bosses. And that’s good, because slapping the silliness (editor: you’re welcome for me making this review family-friendly) out of seditionists is a ton of fun. The core combat in Samurai Riot is simple, but it’s also satisfying and weirdly engaging because it all just works. The controls are intuitive (assuming you’re playing with a controller on PC or…uh, a controller on Switch I guess), attack patterns are straightforward and the plot is interesting enough to keep an eye on it in between boss battles.

Nothing the game does is especially innovative, but that works to the title’s benefit. Samurai Riot has some stupidly slick visuals, a great soundtrack and runs unsurprisingly well, and all these things make the experience feel a lot like playing a classic arcade game at a physical arcade. You can even play local co-op, with one person taking control of a neo-samurai dude and the other playing as a girl with an iron fist, which is a welcome touch in an era that all but forgot people do still actually have friends that come to their houses to play video games. 

Mood, I think

It’s also worth noting that while the game doesn’t do a whole lot to change up the 2.5D fighting genre, there are a few modern touches that bring the title into the 2020s. The most noteworthy one of those is that there’s built-in support to speedrun the campaign, including leaderboards and a timer on the top of your screen at all times, which encourages replaying what is otherwise a pretty short experience. Your character's specific moves, along with the sometimes-voice acted cutscenes, too, are all welcome additions to an increasingly obsolete genre. 

And at the end of the day, that means that while Samurai Riot Definitive Edition won’t be winning any prizes for evolving the gaming industry, it’s still fun. Its core gameplay is good enough, it looks and sounds fantastic and there’s even a story to pay attention to if that’s your thing. If you’re looking for a way to relive your childhood that (hopefully) involved spending a lot of time at the change-eating machines in an arcade during the 1980s, this is as good of a title as any to do that with. If you aren’t a fan of the genre, or like online co-op, though, Samurai Riot won’t change your opinions. But for the price of a four pack of chocolate beer, it’s at least worth giving the game a shot. 

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Samurai Riot Definitive Edition doesn’t reinvent the sidescrolling slapper genre, but it’s fun and cheap enough to make it as worthwhile of a purchase as any. ‍
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.