Samurai Shodown is a long-running fighting game series from Neo Geo creator and developer extraordinaire SNK. The Neo Geo system is primarily based in and rooted in arcade systems but there were some handheld and mini home units as well. In a way they feel like the antithesis of Nintendo in how they obsessed over the capabilities of technology when approaching hardware creation but they developed and published well over fifty games for their hardware over the years as well.
Samurai Shodown 64 released December 1997 and was SNK’s very first 3D fighting game. It wasn’t the first in the series but it was the first entry to take full advantage of SNK’s new focus on 3D technology. It was one of seven games developed for the Hyper Neo Geo 64, which was sadly discontinued after only two years instead of fulfilling its purpose, which was to launch SNK into the emerging and exploding world of 3D gaming. Sadly the short life span also meant the plans for a planned home system variant were scrapped and never came to fruition. It’s sad too because the home version probably could have helped ease or even prevent SNK’s convoluted and bumpy financial journey into bankruptcy during the late 90s and early 00s. SNK eventually rose from the ashes and re-emerged with ports, collections, and even new releases. Recently another piece from SNK’s past also resurfaced: the Hyper Neo Geo 64 prototype development cartridge of Samurai Shodown 64. This exciting appearance will no doubt lead to new discoveries and information for both SNK and the first 3D fighter made for the ill-fated Hyper Neo Geo 64.
Unearthing Ancient Eras
YouTube channel ‘Video Game Esoterica’ recently received a copy of the development cartridge of the game. The unit has a label taped on the front that roughly translates to “For case testing use” and another label with the date “5-3-00.” The video shows differences between a regular version of the Samurai Shodown 64 unit next to the unearthed prototype development version of it to help show the differences.
One of the biggest things to come from this will likely be new information on the way the Hyper Neo Geo 64 functioned and worked. After all, this is the first time a non-retail cartridge has been held and searched through. The video is most assuredly worth watching. The knowledge and passion of the host are simply captivating and it’s so interesting learning how important cleaning the units are before using them. I legitimately always thought cleaning of this scale was more based around cosmetic reasons. I didn’t know that rust or gunk in the wrong spot could cause the unit to lose its memory or become damaged beyond repair when it’s booted up. The video ends with a promise for a follow-up video next week with additional details, including its origin and previews of it in magazine scans. I’m looking forward to learning more about Samurai Shodown 64, the details on functionality between the Hyper Neo Geo 64 and its games, and I have to know where this thing came from!