With all the renewed interest in scrolling beat-em-ups fuelled by Streets of Rage, the upcoming Turtles brawler and games like Fight'n Rage, Samurai Riot looks to cash in with a re-release (it first debuted in 2017) by upgrading the graphics and animation to a cool 60FPS.
In this regard, the game performs admirably - there's a notable uptick in performance, though busy screens will cause a little slowdown, but on the whole, the game looks sharp and runs well. Sprites glide across the screen, and attacks are suitably crisp and crunchy. Backgrounds are interesting enough, bought to life by some animation and layering for depth. Character designs are appealing, being period Japanese with some Naruto-esque flare to keep things interesting. Essentially, this is a nice looking game, and moreso if you splashed out on Nintendo's OLED model.
You have access to just two protagonists - the manly, mustachioed Tsurumaru, a 33 year old advisor on the art of war, and member of the Clan of True Honour. He's a swordmaster and will attack with his lengthy katana. By contrast, 24 year-old Sukane is a fisticuff brawler type, who works alongside her fox partner Azu to dominate the screen. Both have a variety of close and ranged attacks, with Azu providing dash attacks for his mistress, and Tsurumaru wielding grenades. Essentially you have two play styles at your disposal, though in either case the game design is such that you'll likely end up just spam-attacking enemies regardless with little thought to strategy. The game is noticeably harder with our female Samurai, as she's more vulnerable to getting stunned than her dashing male companion.
There are 8 levels to conquer that follow the traditional scrolling fighter design of adding tougher enemies to each level and increasing their number to impede your progress. Variety is often key to the enjoyment of such games, and here you'll start by taking on spear carrying villagers and making your way through sumo baddies with an unblockable charge attack, while others will come at you close-quarters and try to uppercut you into submission. The fact that most of these enemies struggle to block your attacks does make their fates somewhat inevitable, with only the usual tactic of getting behind you to get in an attack while you're busy facing front being a real issue.
Each level ends with a boss, and some of these are highlights - mechanical spiders and canon-armed samurai are a treat, though in some cases they can be a chore as you'll have to wait for a certain point in their attack pattern to get your hits in, at which point it becomes a bit mechanical.
Another lauded aspect of the game is it's multiple endings. 8 potential fates await you, dictated by certain moral choices you have to make as you progress. As you discover the poor treatment of the rebels, you have the chance to join them, and although dialogue and endings will change depending on your choices, bosses and general gameplay remain unaffected. It's not quite the replay magnet you might expect in all honesty, but as each playthrough takes around an hour, it's easy enough to pick up and play again should you so choose.
What does affect the game is playing with a mate. As always with scrolling brawlers, they're made to be played socially, and it's certainly more satisfying to plow through as you kick-ass with a friend. It never hits the highs of Streets or Fight'N Rage, both of which are more fun thanks to their variety and, in the latter's case, sense of humour.
Ultimately, Samurai Riot is a perfectly playable scrolling brawler with a solid aesthetic, good animation and some nice ideas. It lacks the vital spark of creativity or humour that its competitors laud over it, so it's really a case of something to "fill the gap" while Turtles arrives and then, presumably, a ton of other 80's inspired properties looking to recreate the buzz of our mutant childhood playthings.