- The story is better in SW1 than in SW2: there are plotholes
in both but in the second game they are much bigger and often it isn't
clear what is going on and why. Cutscenes, despite being mostly 'moving
pictures' and comic-like are way better in SW1 than in-engine cutscenes
of SW2. Small stories in collectable lore pieces and diaries add greatly to the events in SW2 but gaps in their collection and random nature of their retrieval makes them out of tune with the rest of the story.
- The demon world is much better in SW1: it has a true sense of
mythological place where the rain only falls when a sad demon-princess
cries tears and drought happens when she becomes happy; there is no
explanation why she is called 'sister' by all major demon-lords and
holds almost mystical power over them, veneration and obsessive desire
simultaneously; in SW2 most of it is explained and the explanation
sounds technical and dry, lessening the world even more.
- The companion is better in SW1: Hoji is truly important to
the story, which mostly happened thanks for him, his words are better,
and when he breaks I do want to help him; while Kamiko is trying to get
some sass and empathy with Lo Wang, it mostly doesn't happen. Her
involvement in the events, beyond being Important Plot Element to Whom Things Happen Without Her Doing Anything, is minimal – we are told of her achievements, her expertise, her abilities,
but we cannot see them or see the consequences of them, and the final
decision she makes comes out of nowhere and looks very frivolous and rushed. In addition it is just too much of Kamiko (who is chronologically a child of two but looks twenty, a half-demon who looks fully human, master chi-manipulator, super-genius-scientist, student of ancient arts, apprentice of legendary blacksmith, tea expert and so on), and most of her presence is not well-written; she is even forgotten
about in 'Shadow Warrior 2' art book.
- General setting idea is better in SW2: I do like that developers
didn't retconned the demon breach back to status quo but decided to
go with it as Conjunction. In this new magic-soaked world we even
hear Lo Wang grumble that it took him many years to master chi while younger
generation achieves it easier – this and other small details add a
good sense of flow of time and of change.
- Supporting characters and minor antagonists are slightly
better in SW2 and this is mostly thanks to weapon dealer demon Larry,
because I don't think I recall anybody else. Mamushi Heika is just as
not interesting and rashly portrayed as Twins. Zilla is slightly better.Twins return much worse. Master Smith turning into Soul Well was an unexpected turn of events.
- Demon-lords are way better in SW1: while Xing is funnier in
SW2, he is one and the only improvement; SW2 Mezu is boring poser, and while developers tried to
give some personality to SW2 Gozu it just didn't work. Maybe developers
subtly tried to show how human qualities corrupt demons after
Conjunction in parallel how demon taints infect humans, but it makes
demon lords much less into figures of legend and much more (Xing excluding)
into boring people with strange horns. The major disappointment is
Ameonna, whose portrayals in first and second games are so drastically
different that it looks as if she had decades to become that vulgar,
bitter, snarky, meme-referencing being, and not just two years according
to Conjunction timeline. Was she binge-watching youtube the whole two years? In SW2 there is no sincerity in her, no grace, nothing to
sympathize with, nothing to remember about her except one really crude
'joke' and how much better she was in SW1 even if she was almost dead the whole time.
- Monsters are slightly better in SW2: in first game their
design is cooler, more influenced by traditional monsters and their aesthetics
(while SW2 monsters look more to the side of necromorphs), but in
second game their gameplay isn't as frustrating as in first.
- Environments are about the same: looking through artbooks I
am surprised how much environmental variety there actually is because I
don't recall many places that inspire wonder from either game – maybe the stormy
ship from the first game and Zilla City with its holographic flowers from the second. Level design feels about the same in both, maybe slightly
better in SW2.
Neon like the cyberpunk but with magic and demons
- Boss battles in SW1 were frustrating. I don't recall boss battles (except the very last one) from SW2 at all, so it is probably an improvement.
- Weapons, I think, are better in SW2: I often used guns in SW2
along with the blade, while in SW1 it was mostly blade-blade-blade all
the time once I got it decently updated and guns went mostly unused.
Also in SW2 they did this really neat setting-building detail that old
human weapons, even exceptional military ones, are now the mere baseline, inferior
to both chi-infused sleektech of Zilla Corps and massive, organic, messy
and hungry weapons of demonic origin.
Gun on the left wants to eat everything it can get it muzzle on
- Lo Wang has both good and terrible moments in both games in about same manner: being the descendant of the original Shadow Warrior (which is nowadays difficult to show without adding a couple paragraphs of various disclaimers) I expected much worse in terms of wang humor and general crudeness, but Lo Wang manages to get some genuinely good moments in both games, and about the equal amount of bad ones too.