After a decade of rust, SNK is making a new Samurai Shodown

Long long ago, there were a weapons-based fighting series that fans loved

In a year when SNK celebrates its 40th anniversary with its own mini console as well as a bundle of arcade classics, the Osaka-based company announced another fan favorite is returning from the land of wind and ghosts: a new Samurai Shodown is on the way.

Titled simply Samurai Spirits (which has always been the series moniker in Japan), the new game is scheduled for 2019 and will feature 3D characters fighting on a 2D plane, much like SNK's latest installment in the King of Fighters series. Unlike KOF XIV, the new Samurai Spirits will run on the Unreal Engine according to the teaser trailer which debuted at the PlayStation LineUp Tour in Tokyo. And while it's hardly fair to judge any game by a teaser trailer, Samurai Spirits looks fantastic so far with lots of color and brush strokes to give the game a unique look. Considering the fan reaction to the first glimpse of KOF XIV in 2015, it's a relief to see Samurai Spirits start off on the right foot.

(It's also a relief to see Samurai Spirits break from tradition and have a properly translated story scroll for a change)

There's precious little information to go on at this stage, but the teaser trailer makes sure to offer glimpses of the series' most recognizable characters engaging in their distinct habits: hero Haohmaru uses his cresent moon slash, Jubei has one eye but two swords, Galford's got his dog, Nakoruru has her hawk, and Earthquake has at least 300 pounds on every other combatant in the game. Sharp-eyed Twitter users have already started picking out silhouettes from the teaser trailer for a hint of the game's full lineup, but none of this can be confirmed yet.

The new Samurai Spirits, according to the hint of story divulged thus far, will take place in 1787, putting it a year before the setting of the original arcade game that came out 1993 (25 summers ago if you're counting). Does the simplified title and date suggest a prequel? A reboot? None of the characters shown so far look any younger or less experienced, so it's anyone's guess at this early stage.

Speaking as a long-time fan it's been exciting to see an SNK renaissance in the last couple of years. Regardless of how it looks, The King of Fighters XIV continues to be a solid entry in the series, one that SNK has continued to support years after its 2016 launch with new characters and stages. One of the biggest surprises in that game was an appearance by Nakoruru, a Samurai Shodown mainstay who, like all of her peers, lives in the 18th century. SNK has never been shy about adjusting or ignoring continutity to pit fan favorite characters against each other but it was still a shock to a see a direct crossover that bridged two centuries.

But that's what makes today's news such a delight: when The King of Fighters XIV came out, it was a welcome new entry but that series never really stopped (hence that XIV in the title, which isn't bad for a 22-year run). Samurai Showdown, however, hasn't been seen in ten years, not since Edge of Destiny in 2008. If the new SNK means long-running series, long-dormant series, and classic titles can return to the market, I consider that great news for all fans of retro games.