The Art of “Samurai Showdown”

SNK was a behemoth when Arcades were the hottest thing around.
They might never have worldwide hits like Capcom did with their “Street Fighter” or “Final Fight” series, but to play down its success and impact around the world would be a disservice.

In this “Art of” post, we delve deep into the art of the classic weapon fighter “Samurai Shodown”, in particular, the art of the 2d games.

Samurai Showdown 1

A samurai fears not death.
Struggles to triumph over evil.
And lives for one purpose:

In the middle of the Street Fighter craze, fighting games flooded the video game hobby. You had your Mortal Kombats, your Fatal Furies, yet in the middle of copy cats, inspirations and master pieces there was one that stood up from all the street brawling settings:
Samurai Shodown.
With its Engrish intro and Japanese Feudal cast, I still remember visiting an arcade and being blow away by a Shinkiro’s (see below) poster. This wasn’t a cash in, a tie-in or a fad (none of the classic SNK games were, but that’s subject for another post) this was something new, something cool and clearly with an aesthetic vision behind it. The 100-Mega romance started here.

Arcade Flyer
Promotional Art by Shinkiro
Promotional Art by Shiroi Eiji

Samurai Showdown 2

This is an ancient story.
A tale of a man who tried to excel at his profession.
And in this bloody way of life,
extreme carnage was no coincidence.

Haohmaru by Shinkiro
Nakoruru by Shinkiro

The sequel to the original hit, it’s the only entry that uses Shinkiro’s iconic art that is often associated with 90’s SNK. The black and white promotional image set for this game is a high point to the production art for the series.

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Samurai Showdown 3


Cover Art

Samurai Shodown 3 was a big step up from the past two versions, with many new systems being implemented into the game as well a complete re-haul to its draw sprites that would survive and be the basis of the art for the game up until Samurai Shodown 6. In terms of story, it’s a prequel to the conclusive Samurai Shodown 2’s plot. Its production was clearly rushed, however, the art style shift is too good not to admire.

The old sprite style
The new and improved style
Click here to see more sprite examples for that era.

Production Art

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Character Design Showcase

All these illustrations were made by Eiji Shiroi.

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All these illustrations were made by Eiji Shiroi.

Samurai Shodown 4

As if beckoned into action, there were those who readied themselves for battle, those who materialized from their respective lands to contend with destiny.

It’s Amakusa’s Revenge, baby!

The final chapter of the prequel series, this entry is often remembered as the one that tweaked the issues that the third entry brought in the franchise.
Eiji Shiroi returns as a character illustrator.

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Samurai Shodown V

“Oh, brave warriors!
Follow your patriotic souls, you true soldiers of courage!
From the North’s Ezo to the South’s Ryukyu, come to me! Reveal your true mettle!”

Yoshitora vs Haohmaru by Senri Kita

It took them seven full years to return to the series roots. 2d fighting action with gorgeous sprite art. Employing some designs from the manga artist Nobuhiro Watsuki, this game employs a very distinct art style for it’s promotional and conceptual art while recycling most animations and sprite art from Samurai Shodown 4. Even the newer characters use a style similar to that game.

This animation was 7 years old when the game released
The new art tries to fit in with the old
Gaoh by Nobuhiro Watsuki
Lin Yunfei by Nobuhiro Watsuki













The following designs come from Takkun, a doujinshi artist that debuted for a major company with this game.

Samurai Shodown VI

It is the time of Tenmei in the middle of the Edo period.
The Stage is set

Cover Art

This sequel came after two years, which a first doesn’t look too much “out there” considering that the series had a major spin off into the 3d realm (to be explored in another post, considering how much great art that little trek had) but as you can clearly see by the cover, things changed around. It’s clearly a direct continuation of the art style from the fifth game, including Takkun’s art once again taking center stage. More than that, however, this was the first Samurai Shodown game once SNK got brought out, it was an attempt to revitalize the series by bringing back most characters back as well the gameplay from all five entries in the series.
Sadly, this was the last 2d game of the series and the Sprite Art style remains the same from past games, although with a more colorful pallet.

Enjoy Takkun’s art once again:

Coming up next…

A new entry of the series has been announced recently. It is both a return to form, as well a revisit to the 3d side series, who had quite the twists when it comes to artwork. The conceptual work couldn’t be more different from V and VI and that’s exactly what we are taking a look next time! So subscribe to our blog so you can be notified when that “Art of” goes live.

About the Author Arthur De Martino

The google wearing super hero know as "Wasp Eye Lad" has a secret identity: Arthur De Martino, a quiet Brazilian man who loves Digital Art a bit too much.

The Art of “Samurai Showdown”
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