The first Samurai Gunn is the sort of game that dominates dorm rooms and LAN parties. A four-player fighter, the main objective of Samurai Gunn is to, as game designer Beau Blyth describes it, emulate a Kurosawa film. You can dash, slash, or shoot a bullet, and more kills get you closer to the win.
It's very simple on the surface, but it seems like it's done so by design. Blyth doesn't want to change up the concept too much, because you might risk losing what made the original Samurai Gunn stand out.
"It's really just a lot of refinement," Blyth tells USgamer at PAX West 2019. "We're just spending lots of time refining everything we like about it, and trying not to add too much just for the sake of adding something. But really examining what's there, what's successful, and what isn't."
So what sets the sequel apart from the original Samurai Gunn? The addition of a dash is a big one, adding a second move to consume the charges you have and forcing you to make a choice every life between movement and offense. You can slash bullets to slow them down, or fire them out of a dash to speed them up or angle them, but the core is still the quick, one-hit kill combat.
For Blyth, Samurai Gunn 2 seems set to be a big moment for the series. Where the first laid out the blueprint, the sequel aims to refine it; the comparison Blyth draws is the difference between the first two Street Fighter games.
"Samurai Gunn 1 is very much like Street Fighter 1," Blyth says. "When was the last time you played Street Fighter 1? Nobody remembers Street Fighter 1."
From a bump-up in frames per second and a new single-player campaign, which Blyth says he hopes to have four-player co-op working in, Samurai Gunn 2 is looking to have that Street Fighter 2 moment. And even in its early stage, it works exceptionally well. I hopped on to play a few quick matches at PAX, and found myself transported back in time to old dorm days of tense swordfights and narrow dodges. The tension of every clash, as four players dodge and dart around Samurai Gunn 2's arenas, is palpable and honed to a fine edge.
At its core, Samurai Gunn 2 is deceptively simple. It is meant, as Blyth tells us, to be pick-up-and-play. But the hope is that many people will do so, and find that same party-game atmosphere in its Kurosawa-style deathmatches. More than anything, it's about removing blockers between the player and the game.
"Feeling like whenever you fail, it's your own fault," Blyth says. "That's the thing we're examining a lot."