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SNK's new Samurai Spirits takes place in 1787 in historical Japan — Where does this leave it in the Samurai Shodown timeline? Let's analyze continuity

The Samurai Shodown series has an established timeline for its previous games, making it easy to see where the new Samurai Spirits will fit in

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • September 13, 2018 at 7:59 p.m. PDT • Comments: 46

SNK's Samurai Shodown series has a rich history, with many games released which are intertwined with eachother through their stories and rosters, although the canon can be somewhat iffy at times.

Regardless of character's deaths being retconned, certain games taking place before their predecessors and other wonky factors that often happen in fighting game series, SNK have been quite open about the timeline for the Samurai Shodown series.

Yes, indeed, each game's setting has been clearly stated, meaning that there's a solid chronology to follow for when every installment in the series actually takes place, forming a timeline for fans who enjoy the games.

Fittingly enough, SNK spilled the beans right away in the reveal trailer for Samurai Spirits, stating that the game takes place in the year 1787.

As briefly recounted in the trailer itself, this places it firmly during the turbulent times of the Tenmei area, during which famine was widespread, and ruin and despair was all around the populace.

This area is roughly where most of the Samurai Shodown games have taken place, so veteran players will feel right at home with the setting. Let's take a look at when Samurai Shodown games have traditionally taken place, and where the upcoming game ends up falling chronologically.

Samurai Shodown Timeline Breakdown

• 1786 (January through late summer) — Samurai Shodown V

• 1788 (Early spring through early summer) — Samurai Shodown

• 1788 (Summer through early autumn) — Samurai Shodown III

• 1788 (Autumn through early winter) — Samurai Shodown IV

• 1789 (Spring through summer) — Samurai Shodown II

• 1789 (Autumn) through 1790 (Summer) — Samurai Shodown 64

• 1789 (Mid-autumn) — Samurai Shodown V Special

• 1790 (Late autumn through winter) — Samurai Shodown 64: Warrior's Rage

• 1791 — Samurai Shodown Sen

• 1799 — Samurai Shodown VI

• 1811 — Samurai Shodown: Warrior's Rage

Samurai Spirits Timeline Placement

As mentioned earlier, the new SNK title Samurai Spirits will be taking place in 1787, a year that hasn't actually been covered at all in the Samurai Shodown series as of yet, which you can clearly see in the timeline above.

This is quite interesting, as it would place the game as a prequel to the original Samurai Shodown, something that's only happened once before, with Samurai Shodown V.

It's worth noting that in the trailer, during the narration before any proper graphics are seen, you can clearly see the villain of Samurai Shodown V, the quite pompously named Gaoh Kyougoku Hinowanokami.

This character has a heavy connection to that game's main protagonist, Yoshitora Tokugawa, and Gaoh's presence in the scrolled opening for the trailer we got this week lends credence to this being a game connected to Samurai Shodown V, taking place shortly after it.

That said, I did an article on the day of the trailer's release showing that many characters were present in the trailer without being part of the gameplay portions, with a heavy emphasis placed on characters from the very first Samurai Shodown game.

With the timeline showing this game to take place between the previous prequel, Samurai Shodown V, and the very first game in the series (second chronologically), Samurai Shodown, it's possible that the goal of this new game is to bridge the two. There's also another possibility available. Let's have a look at both of them.

Is it a midquel, taking place between previous games?

Based on the years listed, it seems like an obvious conclusion that the upcoming Samurai Spirits is a midquel, taking place between the series prequel Samurai Shodown V and the original title, Samurai Shodown.

Given the roster being heavily focused on the very first Samurai Shodown, at least based on the images from the first trailer, this further points towards this possibility, though none of the Samurai Shodown V cast were properly shown besides the aforementioned cameo of Gaoh in the introduction.

This would be a fairly smart move, given that Samurai Shodown V (or more specifically, its enhanced version Samurai Shodown V: Special) was a very well-received game which also boasts the largest roster of the entire series, while the original Samurai Shodown is obviously what many old gamers would remember and relate back to when thinking about the series.

By placing the new game between these two, you have the opportunity to bring out the most iconic roster picks without being too bound by prior continuity, since most of the games characters have starred in wouldn't have happened yet, giving more room for expression with the characters since their backstories aren't as set in stone yet.

When trying to revive a series that has been dormant for a long time, it's usually a smart move to try and focus on bringing the most iconic and recognizable characters back into the fray first. A prime example of this in practice is, of course, Street Fighter 4, which had all the original Street Fighter 2 cast and bosses in it at release, and many other favorites as well.

Perhaps trying to follow such a pattern, it'd be in SNK's best interest to include the entire roster from the original Samurai Shodown and pad out with some huge favorites from the prequel game Samurai Shodown V as well, to please as many fans as possible.

Of course, this placing in continuity makes it difficult to include characters from games which take place later, chronologically, all the more so because SNK tend to be kind of sticklers when it comes to the storylines of their games, often putting heavy focus on whether characters have a story reason to be there or not.

One argument against this limitation, though, is that SNK seem a bit more lax in recent years, going as far as to include Rock Howard purely based on his popularity in King of Fighters 14, even though his Garou: Mark of the Wolves depiction doesn't really work with the King of Fighters timeline.

Hopefully this means that SNK will be streamlining their roster decisions a bit more, which brings us to the other possibility for this upcoming installment in the Samurai Shodown series...

Are SNK taking a page from Bandai Namco's book, pulling a Soul Calibur 6?

An entirely legitimate possibility that could be happening as well is that the upcoming Samurai Spirits is simply a reboot of the series as a whole, similarily to what Bandai Namco are currently doing with Soul Calibur 6.

After the poor reception to Soul Calibur 5 and its big time skip ahead from the events of previous games, the series went on a hiatus, and at its return the developers are focusing on the older games, and seem to be rewriting the franchise's lore quite a bit to write themselves out of some of the holes they managed to fall into with the last game's story decisions.

Although never popular at the same scale, Samurai Shodown also had something of a fall from grace for its own standard with the negatively received Samurai Shodown Sen back in 2008, and it's possible that with this revival they want to just have a clean slate entirely.

It makes sense to want to just cleanse themselves from the previous continuity and revamp everything from the very start, especially considering how many potential new fans are waiting out there who would have trouble following the entangled narrative that has been weaved throughout so many previous titles.

The year placement does make this a logical step, considering it'd be right in the middle of Samurai Shodown V and the original game, meaning that they could draw from both games and make a new story that takes the best parts of both previous titles and puts them together, possibly even bringing in other popular characters like Cham Cham who wasn't part of the roster in either of those two games.

This could be further evidenced by the fact that the only title we've seen for the game so far is Samurai Spirits — the name of the franchise in Japanese, rather than the title the series is famous under in the west, Samurai Shodown.

Even in Japan, it being titled simply Samurai Spirits with no number or qualifier behind it suggests that this could be a straight up reboot of what we've seen before, possibly revamping the series from scratch for a new audience, while also keeping intact the parts that the original fans loved about it.

It's difficult to tell from the limited information we have so far, but based on the characters we've seen, their moves, their appearance and the aesthetics of the game as a whole, it seems that if this were a reboot, it would be more focused on streamlining the narrative of the game and telling the story from the very beginning.

After all, there are no radical redesigns (so far, anyway), and we've seen nostalgic moves from every cast member that had gameplay in the trailer. Certainly, anyone who's at all familiar with the series must feel right at home when seeing the footage, brief though it may be.

If it is indeed a reboot, I welcome it, since it seems like a great way to please both old school diehards and potential brand new fans, by letting them all enter the game on a level playing field as far as the lore and story go. Having a strong narrative is a good way to bring casual players in to your title, which can eventually turn them around to deciding to become competitive players instead, which sounds like a win-win business-wise.

Whatever the case, it's interesting to see how things shake out in the near future when SNK decide to drop more details about the direction of this upcoming Samurai Shodown title, or Samurai Spirits as its currently referred to.

Hopefully the game will give everyone what they're hoping for, at least to some degree, since that's what good series revivals are all about. We wouldn't want to see such a staple franchise of its parent company be forced to go dormant again, after all.

What direction do you think we'll see the upcoming game move in? Would you prefer it to be a midquel in the previous timeline, or a reboot to streamline everything and potentially bring newcomers in to the franchise "from the very beginning", so to speak? Let us know in the comments.

Timeline list of previous games courtesy of SNK Wiki.

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