Sword Metal Health

Don’t worry, participation in this particular riot is OK. Today, it’s a Samurai Riot. Specifically, it’s Samurai Riot Definitive Edition from Houndpicked Games and Wako Factory.

This game is a mostly 2D, side-scrolling beat-‘em-up. I say “mostly 2D” because there is a little room for lateral movement, but only about a couple of body widths—just enough to allow you to be either in or out of an attack lane. This can be quite handy or quite frustrating. If you want to avoid an attack, it’s great. But being in just the right place to line up an attack is sometimes touchy. If you have played this type of game before, there are no surprises on this front. If you are new to this type of gameplay, it just takes a couple minutes to get used to it. No biggie.

Samurai Riot offers a good mix of play options. You can go through the story in single player or two player mode. There is also a PvP option so you can mix it up a bit. I did my single player time with the Switch in handheld mode and docked just to get the overview. While the Switch screen is functional for this game, I would recommend using your TV if possible; the plenteous text you have to read is a bit on the small side so the larger screen helps a lot.

As for the look and sound of the game, we have some good news. The visuals are pretty good. The art is just about graphic novel quality (well, better than cheap comics, but not photo-realistic) with good color and detail. The character animations are good, and the pace of the action is easy to follow.

The soundtrack is composed of short loops that do a good job of providing background sound.

The game controls are not bad, but not perfect. Moving (left Joy-Con stick) and attacking (various buttons) are good with low latency. It sometimes felt like changing direction or mashing an attack button was a bit slow to translate to the screen, but it was not outside the norm of other games with similar combat mechanics. There are a couple of special attacks which require the player to press two buttons at the same time. The timing isn’t too problematic, but the buttons being on the same area of one side of the controls can lead to accidental use of the special attacks. These being limited in number, they’re something you want to be sure you are using deliberately. This isn’t a major setback, but it can be a bit annoying.

Speaking of attack types, let’s not forget the player has an option to be one of two characters: Sukane or Tsurumaru. The breakdown is that Sukane is a female secret agent with a fox companion. She does not use weapons, but her punch and kick attacks are more than up to the challenge. Tsurumaru is a Samurai and the Art of War Advisor to the Great Master. His primary attack is, of course, a katana, but he has a good kick which deals damage and pushes his opponent back so he can take a good swing with his sword. Each character has access to several different schools of martial arts discipline. Each school has slightly different strengths and stats they can lend to the character.

As you progress through the game, there are coins and other items you can collect to improve your stats and pick up new skills. This takes a while, so be patient. Whether you are a novice or a master of the genre, the game has a setting for you. Samurai Riot can be played on Easy, Normal, Hard, or Hardest, so there is plenty of challenge and replay time to be had. You even get a limited choose-the-path action. There are some choices to be made in the game, such as whether to join the rebels.

While the game starts off well with much to enjoy, I did encounter some issues. In my first run-through with a level-ending boss, for example, I was doing well until the boss fell beyond a ledge through which I couldn’t pass until I had beaten him. The upshot was that I could not finish the battle (frustratingly, about three or four hits from beating him) and the game was just stuck. This required a restart/replay of the entire level.

There were some other glitches along the way, as well. I lost to another boss and the game errored out while trying to use the restart option, and I ended up replaying the entire level again. This last glitch was the most annoying. The game will drop goodies like extra health, coins, etc. There were several instances where I uncovered the loot but could not collect it. You do need to stand on top of the right spot, but there were too many places where, no matter how much I moved on/around the spot, I could not collect the loot.

All things considered, Samurai Riot Definitive Edition offers action gamers good playtime with all the available schools, skills, story options, and difficulty levels. It could use some more in the way of skill use tutorial, however, and the loot drop glitch is frustrating. Unfortunately, I can’t give top ratings due to the issues noted. But if the developers do a little polishing and offer an update, I would be happy to give it a shot.