Thanks to Qubyte Games for the review code
Title: Qubyte Classics: SAMURAI COLLECTION
System: Xbox One
Release Date: 11/03/2022
In this double pack, two 16-bit Samurai Action games take shape! They both follow pretty simple plots, with Second Samurai getting rather crazy at points, but are otherwise boilerplate time travel stories. Like all Qubyte Classics, this is in the same wrapper, and thus doesn’t include any fancy intros or bonus content.
Same Qubyte wrapper as always, meaning the same visual and audio options are present per usual. First Samurai is a SNES title and Second Samurai is a Genesis title, but otherwise what’s here is the original games. (barring Piko’s copyright getting hacked over the original publisher text)
First Samurai kicks things off, and it sure does sound and look like a SNES game, though with more of an Amiga flair. Seeing how this was made by Amiga developers, that isn’t much of a surprise, and thus there’s lots of stuff scattered about with some choppy animation. The music and instrumentation is surprisingly solid, with a great opening theme, and you even have brief voice clips, such as whenever you lose your sword. Otherwise this game is pretty unremarkable. I also noticed this one had very crackly audio during the intro cutscene, which appears to be the fault of the Qubyte emulator, considering how amazing the original SNES intro sounds from a direct feed source, having it crackle for no reason completely ruins the soothing music. At least the main game doesn’t seem to have that issue.
Second Samurai on the other hand? Ooooh, this game is very nice looking, and despite shifting to weaker hardware on the Genesis, the game looks so much better, with better sprites and animations, more creative backdrops, and just a better looking experience all around. It even has a decent, catchy soundtrack with some very satisfying sound effects which provide much needed oomph. It may lack the Kemco flair brought upon the SNES soundtrack, but Vivid Image did a great job with this Genesis sequel.
The usual drill, with two games. Unfortunately, nothing changed on the UI front, so you just get two titles with no context. I can at least confirm that unlike Tinhead, the save states do work better than in that game, but sadly loading one in First Samurai did cause my XSX to crash at one point, so they’re still pretty shoddy and the wrapper remains poor.
First Samurai (SNES)- The original game, ported by Kemco of all people. You take control of a warrior avenging his master and goes on time travel to do so, and it’s fairly decent. You start off with a sword attack and gradually revert to hand-to-hand combat upon taking a certain amount of damage, and have to navigate maze-like levels in order to reach the boss at the end. The platforming is pretty tricky with the input lag from this wrapper returning yet again, but the combat is solid, and you can use some neat magic and subweapons to help you in your battles. Unfortunately, this one didn’t click with me and I grew bored of it rather quickly due to the slow nature of the stages.
Second Samurai (Genesis)- This game just flat out rules compared to the first game. While the first was a more slow, careful action platformer, this is a more frantic, faster paced belt scroller where your main goal is to free every captive spirit in each of the stages, in order to advance to the next part of the stage and defeat the boss of that time period. Gone are the huge levels or slow maze-like navigation, and instead you have fast paced levels with plenty of variety and cool boss fights to shake things up, along with much, much better control.
Throwing and beating up enemies feels great and your throwing knives are way more useful here, and the whole game is just a lot more enjoyable to play through, even with the input lag that still plagues these Qubyte releases. Sadly, that does mean the tighter platforming at points can become an utter nightmare, and I’m continually bewildered by how nothing is done to fix the glaring faults in the wrapper preventing great games like this from being easier to recommend in this form.
It even has two player co-op as well, but I was unable to test that in a timely manner, but if it’s anything like the amount of fun I had playing solo, (to the point that what ended up being a brief attempt to try out all the stages via stage select led to me actually playing through stages in full and really loving what I dabbled in) then this is an absolute hidden gem of a game that pretty much makes the first game null and void. You even get some cool genre shifts into shooting stages, and they’re actually fun! How cool is that? Pretty solid game overall and probably the second best of any game involved in these Qubyte collections to date, I’m proud to say. (NES Jim Power still remaining the best quality overall)
In conclusion, Samurai Collection continues to be yet another typical Qubyte Classics release, but with one of the best hidden gems I’ve discovered through these sets to date: Second Samurai is seriously worth the asking price for this collection alone, except for the aggravating input lag and clunky wrapper still being an issue nine months later.
Seriously, I’m either hoping for all of these to get a nice 2.0 update with reduced input lag and a faster wrapper, or I’ll just assume all the Qubyte classics were done at once and are just being paced out over the year, since I’m very disappointed to see what should have been an outstanding game and an interesting prequel bundled together treated like nothing more than a double pack of ROMs. Yet again we have no historical context or manuals, and while the games thankfully do a great job explaining themselves, I would have loved to learn more about these games within the collection, since I really can’t praise Second Samurai enough. In this current form though, I’ll be hoping for it to get put on an Evercade volume rather than sitting through and mistiming my jumps due to shoddy emulation, even if the game itself brought a big smile to my face.
I give Qubyte Classics: Samurai Collection a 5 out of 10.