Amstrad Action1st July 1986
Published in Amstrad Action #10
The kings of Amstrad arcade adventuring have come up with their latest graphic classic, based on the James Clavell novel about 17th century Japan. It's radically different again from Sorcery and Strangeloop, featuring icons and totally different gameplay, but still displaying their talent for producing beautiful graphics.
The aim of the game is to become the Shogun, the supreme military leader and number two to the Emperor himself. To do that you have to get twenty followers to support you and then complete a quest given to you by the Emperor. You can take on the role of many different characters from the outsider Captain Blackthorne through peasants, servants and samurai to the nobles. The difficulty of becoming Shogun is different for each character but it isn't easy for any of them and the effort required for each is reflected in the final score.
The game takes place against some very picturesque backgrounds consisting of hillsides, clouds, rivers, buildings, palaces, caves, lava pits and general green scenery. These screens sometimes appear to be in pseudo 3D and at other times 2D but all of them look nice and it doesn't affect the playing of the game.
The character under your control can move anywhere on the screen, except where he is blocked by a specific object or terrain feature. These have to be discovered by experience. This means that you have the odd sight of the characters wandering around in mid-air but you'll soon get used to that and realise it's necessary and indeed desirable because of the perspective switching.
Movement around screen is rather jerky and inaccurate but fortunately this isn't too important from a gameplay point of view. What is more annoying is the difficulty and delay in moving off the edge of one screen and onto another. Once you know how the game maps out, this is less of a problem but you'll need perseverance to start with in discovering where you can go.
Once you can get around the game you can start interacting with the other characters and try to complete your task using the nine icon commands at your disposal. The most important of these are the ones allowing you to attack, befriend, examine and order other characters, and give them objects. Using these, you can win over people to your cause. A large bank balance will allow you to indulge in some under-hand bribery.
When you've got twenty followers and visited the Emperor's palace, you enter the second phase of the game which involves finding four different objects. How you get them and what they are you'll have to work out for yourself.
In terms of the graphics, atmosphere and game task, Virgin have another excellent game on their hands. The only thing that lets it down a little is the control of the character which will cause some annoyance. The icons are used to good effect and not thrown in just for the sake of it. Most importantly of all the gameplay is good, being easy to get started on but, in the long run, tough to beat.
This one really grabs you with its graphic originality and size, but the gameplay has a few problems. The tasks required of you are usually pretty straightforward, the combat in particular being a matter of unintelligent hacking. The screens are wonderfully atmospheric, but the absence of clear exits can get very frustrating. An intriguing game, but not vintage Gang Of Five stuff as far as I'm concerned.
Green Screen View
Loses a great deal of atmosphere, and that's a serious blow to the game as a whole. No major problems with visibility, but colour does help you recognise characters.
P. Good number of very attractive screens.
P. Nice scenario and atmosphere.
P. Good use of icons in gameplay.
P. Easy to get to grips with but tough to beat.
P. Lots of different characters to play and therefore variations in the game.
N. Character control leaves something to be desired.
N. Some players may find the gameplay lacks depth.