Panda to a Ronin with floppy ears and fluffy tail
Based on the comic books created by Stan Sakai, Samurai Warrior follows the exploits of one rabbit, Usagi Yojimbo by name. But this rabbit is no Bugs Bunny, he is a ronin (lordless wandering samurai) warrior, sworn to avenge the death of his master Lord Mifune and his family, at the hands of the evil Lord Hikiji and his henchmen. He must also find Lord Noriyuki, a young panda who has just become leader of his clan, and protect him from Hikiji's minions.
The story is set in 17th Century Japan, Usagi starts his journey with three silver coins (called Ryo), and zero Karma points. Honour is of great importance to a Samurai Warrior, and Karma points are gained by performing good deeds, such as giving money to peasants and the servants of Buddha, or by killing ninjas, bounty hunters, and other nasty creatures he meets along the road and looting their bodies, (not very hon'lable, but what the heck).
When Usagi meets a traveller, etiquette demands that he bow to them, whether they are of equal status, or higher status (always bow to someone of higher status, or you deeply offend them).When attacked, Usagi whips out his sword, and gets to work sending his attackers to the great saki-drinking contest in the sky. The sprites are monochrome, but move around the detailed backgrounds smoothly, hacking and slashing at each other for all they're worth.
In the early stages you are attacked by only one thug who, with a little practice, is easily despatched. But further along the path don't be surprised if a few of his friends join him in the fight, and defending yourself against three or four opponents is not easy.
When fighting, two bars show Usagi's and the enemies' energies. As both parties lay into each other, each hit scored is registered on the meter. If Usagi's meter falls to zero, it's end of game, but brave battling bunnies don't turn bobtail and eliminate all who dare to attack.
But a word of warning: only unsheath your sword when attacked, as other wandering travellers, who may be friendly, take this as a threat, and attack you, (and whatever you do don't hassle defenceless creatures and unarmed travellers, otherwise you're forced to commit ritual suicide to atone for the foul deed).
Treat other travellers well, and they pass on information to you (after bowing to them of course). This is often useful as it helps plan your path later in the game. Flagging energy can be replenished by visiting an inn, and if money is low, visit a gambler, hand over your money and hope that you win.
The path to Lord Noriyuki is fraught with dangers, but as samurai you are honour-bound to try. Although Samurai Warrior looks at first glance to involve little more than wandering aimlessly about killing all who attack you, with some patience a great hack and slash adventure emerges from the land of the rising Yen. Watch out for it.
MARK … 89%
Joysticks: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor
Graphics: Usagi Yojimbo is excellently drawn and animated as he swashbuckles through smooth-scrolling landscapes
Sound: appropriately oriental-sounding tune on title screen
Options: definable keys
There can't be a much stranger sight than a sword-wielding bunny (unless stranger it's a ninja hamster). Samurai Warrior certainly teaches you to be polite - if you're not you don't get very far. After a suitably oriental-sounding 128K tune on the front end, you are greeted with a beautiful, scrolling landscape. On meeting a peasant I unwittingly drew my sword - he was none too pleased. The only trouble with keeping your sword in its sheath is that for some reason Usagi moves much slower that way. Then there are those nasty ninjas lurking in the trees, each one an expert at buckling a swash and with a taste for rabbit stew. Samurai Warrior is a neat variation on the beat-'em-up theme with a particularly amiable main character. You don't have to be a fan of the obscure Japanese comic to like it - it's appeal should be universal.
Following the adventures of Usagi Yojimbo is great fun. Dodging deadly ninjas and giving away all your money to peasants, and with the added attraction of actually having to think before you kill, Samurai Warrior has got to be a hit. All the backgrounds and characters are excellent, although a spot of colour on the play area would have been appreciated. Operating the two different modes (peaceful and fighting) is difficult at first, but when you discover you need to be able to manipulate them with lightning speed you soon learn. There are other hazards in the game which have to be overcome like big ravines and hard-nut boars, but as long as you take it carefully you can get a great deal of enjoyment out of the game and still stay alive. Samurai Warrior is simply enchanting, buy it!