Computer Gamer

By Mastertronic
Commodore 64

Published in Computer Gamer #16


For several evenings I sat glued to the television watching the TV mini-series of James Clavell's novel Shogun. That all seems so long ago now. This leaves me with three questins. Will the players remember? How many will have watched it? Will they care?

In the April of 1600 when John Blackstone was shipwrecked on the Japanese coast, the country was in the grip of a civil war. The great warlords (Diamyo) were vying for the position of Shogun, second only in power to the Emperor himself.

At that time, the countryside was plagued by bandits and the peasants were revolting (Aren't they always?!). The samurai were the power in the land and their armies were respected. a peasant who failed to bow to a samurai would lose his head instantly, this was a forerunner to spot fines from Traffic Wardens.

James Clavell's Shogun

It is in this world of strict feudal order that the game is set. You elect to be one of the 40 or so characters who feature in the game but their categories can be broken down into several main eschelons: nobles, samurai, peasants, servants, bandits and priests.

It is possible even for the lowliest servant or peasant to become Shogun but the nobles already have the followers and charisma to set them on their way.

The gameplay resembles Virgin's Sorcery. Each character seems to float on air as they travel from location to location. Each area of the game has a suitably Japanese-sounding title. Amongst romantic names such as the Gates of Heaven and the Bridge of Dreams we find the unfortunately named Passage of Wind which probably has a lot fo do with Smallest Pagoda at the end of the yard.

James Clavell's Shogun

As your character wanders through more than 128 screens, he or she will meet all of the others attempting to gain favour and followers to reach the goal of Shogun.

Valuable objects will be found which may be carried and used to 'buy' followers, the aim being to collect an army twenty strong and thereby achieve the status of Shogun. This allows you to enter the second part of the game and take over the Shogun's Palace.

Treachery plays a large part in the game. Some of your followers will turn against you occasionally. These are liable to be bandits or those who have been beaten into submission during a fight. This means that your total of followers varies wildly throughout the game. Near success can soon turn to comparative defeat and if there may be only one way out, the honourable sacrifice of hari kari.