Description taken from Arcade version of this game

In Samurai Shodown, 12 warriors from around the globe compete to determine who is the ultimate champion. Each warrior has a unique weapon and fighting style. Some warriors also have helper animals which can attack enemies during battle. Players choose a warrior who then must trek to each opponent's country where he or she will face a fight to the death. In matches where one warrior wins very easily, his or her opponent will spray blood or be cut in half. Although warriors typically depend on their weapons, opponents can knock them loose, rendering them weaponless. Weaponless opponents are not totally weakened, however. They can choose to finish a match with hands-only combat, or they can make a grab for their missing weapon and reclaim it.

Each warrior has a repertoire of special moves, including at least one long distance attack. When players lose a match, Samurai Shodown reveals a joystick and button combo for one of the losing character's signature moves. During battle, a "POW" meter increases each time a character takes a hit. When the POW meter is full, the character turns red, moves more swiftly, and attacks with more power. This rage stage is temporary and lasts only a few seconds. The object of Samurai Shodown is to defeat all enemies and reign as the ultimate champion. Continues are unlimited as long as you insert coins, and players can change characters if they choose to continue. ~ Anthony Baize, All Game Guide