Samurai Shodown RPG, known as Samurai Spirits, a New Theory: Bushido Biographies (真説サムライスピリッツ武士道烈伝 Shinsetsu Samurai Supirittsu: Bushidō Retsuden) in Japan, is a console role-playing game for the SNK's Neo Geo CD system, and was also ported to the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation. It was never released outside of Japan.
As the original title does not translate smoothly to English, it is commonly simply referred to as Samurai Shodown RPG. Alternatively, it has also been referred to as Samurai Spirits: True Legends of Furious Bushido RPG.
The basic setup of the game is very similar to most console RPGs, such as Final Fantasy. Your characters roam an overworld, enter towns and dungeons, and get into battles, which occur on a separate screen. The menu options enable equipping of armor and accessories, as well as use of items.
At the outset, the player is given the option to choose from six characters to be the "main" character of the story. They were Haohmaru, Nakoruru, Genjuro Kibagami, Galford D. Weller, Ukyo Tachibana and Cham Cham. The basic outline of the plot did not diverge greatly for any of them, but each had different dialogue ingame, and each also had unique special scenes which would go into greater detail of the character. In addition, to better adjust to character continuity, certain stories were modified slightly based on the selected chapter. Over the course of the game, two other characters could also join your party (unless the hero is Genjuro who only gains a partner in his second story). The secondary characters who could join you were Charlotte Christine Colde, Rimururu and Kyoshiro Senryo, as well as other "main" characters whom the player did not select at the outset. In addition, the second chapter also introduced a new character, a warrior by the name of Shippuu no Reon (疾風の鈴音), whose name translates roughly to "The Ringing of the Gale Winds." All of the first two Samurai Shodown games' characters make an appearance, either as a temporary helper, plot device, and/or enemy.
From a game-mechanics standpoint, combat is not unlike Final Fantasy in most respects. Its most significant deviation from formula is that there is an option which enables the player to input the joystick motions for the various special moves manually, just as they were done in the arcade games, rather than simply selecting the moves from a list. For example, to do Haohmaru's Senpuu Retsuzan, or "Cyclone Slash" (Japanese: 旋風烈斬), one could do the standard "quarter-circle forward" motion of pressing down, down-right, and then right plus the attack button in sequence. This, combined with the overall speed of combat, makes for fairly engaging gameplay, as it requires one to remember the motions for a character's moves.
Tactically, the game ranged wildly (but steadily) in its overall difficulty. The second chapter is notably more difficult than the first, and the standard "attack" command is rarely useful, in comparison to the ubiquitous special moves. The characters are given an ample supply of "spirit points" with which to do these moves, and they are always needed, as they are typically the only things that are effective against most foes of equal or greater strength.
While armor and accessories could be bought and equipped, there are no weapons for sale anywhere. Each character has the same weapon throughout the game, and players could visit blacksmiths in the game to temper their weapons to make them stronger. These smiths could also infuse the weapons with one of the game's various elements, which would make the weapon's normal strikes and select special moves more effective against certain enemies, depending on which was chosen.
The various dungeons and overworld maps tended to be small in size, which compensated for the extremely high encounter rate. On average, in a dungeon/overworld, fights would begin every 3–5 seconds of movement (slightly more frequent while running). By playing through both chapters with a single character (not including load times), total game length was roughly 20–25 hours.
Source: Wikipedia, Samurai_showdown_rpg, available under the CC-BY-SA License.