Early Cinemaware releases were a mixed bunch. Their graphical excellence was undeniable, but often the gameplay was too easy, and lacked addiction and long-term appeal.
However, recent games - Rocket Ranger and TV Sports Football, for example - have shown gameplay equal to the stunning graphics, and with them Cinemaware have established themselves as one of the top 16-bit software producers.
Their latest epic takes us back to the same period of time as their debut game, Defender Of The Crown, but is set on the opposite side of the world - in Japan.
It's the twelfth century, and civil war has erupted as the two most powerful clans, the Taira and Minamoto, fight for the throne. The player takes the role of either Yoritomo, a brilliant political strategist or Yoshitsune, a superb swordsman and military tactician - both are sons of the Minamoto family.
The Taira clan have already scored notable victories in the power race, having killed your father and subverted the Emperor, and the player comes into the game at quite a disadvantage.
The objective is quite straightforward - to become Shogun, the ultimate leader - but actually achieving the task is far from easy, requiring the player to partake in battles, command his army and defend himself from personal attacks, all events displayed via a series of excellent arcade sequences, as well as forge alliances and hire assassins to kill rivals. Some strategy also comes into play as you move your armies around the country and plan a campaign.
At all times the strict Japanese code of honour has to be followed - should you be disgraced at any time, you're forced to slice out your own entrails with a very sharp and pointy sword - hara-kiri as they say in Nippon.
Lords Of The Rising Sun is without doubt a superb game. On the surface it looks similar to Defender Of The Crown, but it's far, far better. [some text missing] way, but the basic combat and strategy has been improved almost beyond recognition, and the arcade sequences have taken a quantum leap forward.
Each of the arcade games is excellent, and all boast high-quality graphics, sound and gameplay. My favourite is the seige sequence where you take pot-shots at the marauding enemy with a bow and arrow - each successful hit being rewarded with a digitised yell!
But the game is far more than the sum of its parts. The whole thing hangs together brilliantly and fully recreates the atmosphere of Medieval Japan. The gameplay is thoroughly engrossing, and I found that the hours flew by as I attempted to become Shogun.
The only niggle I have (and it's the case with all Cinemaware games) is the copious amounts of disk-swapping that takes place during the game. It does get annoying, but if you're prepared to put up with it, Lords Of The Rising Sun as a game that you shouldn't miss.
Superb graphics, sound and gameplay are combined to produce one of the best Cinemaware games to date. It's tough, challenging and addictive and will keep potential Shoguns amused for an entire Dynasty.