Commodore User

By Mastertronic
Commodore 64

Published in Commodore User #34


Many of the current crop of Oriental games, base themselves on the fascination we all seem to have with being able to drop someone at fifteen paces with a twitch of an eyelash.

James Clavell's bestselling Shogun novel released a few years back must bear the responsibility for much of the popular interest with Japanese culture. Shinto chic, you might call it. So it's funny that this adaptation should take its place very much at the back of the Oriental games craze.

Shogun, though, is not a fighting game, it's a yuppie game. It's all about making it to the top of the Japanese social scale - becoming the Shogun. To do this you will have to bribe, befriend, kill and coerse the other characters in the game. All you need is to gether twenty followers to become Show dog, but in a place like Japan trust is not easily won.

James Clavell's Shogun

Once the game is loaded you are given the choice of being any character in the game. Take my tip, be a samurai they're well 'ard and they're the key to the game. Then you're into it with only your wits for support to begin with.

The first thing that struck me was all the pretty screens and the cutely drawn characters. Then I realised I could walk around in mid air and occasionally even through solid objects, just like you would in a typical maze adventure, just in fact like you did in Virgin's finest moment so far, Sorcery. It's then you realise that they just can't shake that game off.

Shogun isn't a maze adventure but it does use some of those parameters, and this destroyed some of the game's credibility for me. Not too much though, because, as you should know by now I loved Sorcery (on the Amstrad, ahem).

James Clavell's Shogun

Another problem is one that I suspect you find in the book. You can't remember what and who half the characters are about. So when the screen scrolls up information about Lord Ishido surrendering to Samurai Suzuki you feel like running through the dramatis personae to find out what the hell difference this is likely to have on your career path to being Showdog. It's well worth making a few notes on who you run into, but I doubt if you'll find the information that gets flashed up is of much use, because it's too quick to digest as you're playing unless you pause the game frequently.

You pause the game and make all your other decisions and actions with an icon system. There are ten of them at the bottom of the screen which allow you to take, drop, give, examine, order, pause, befriend, attack, yield and save to tape. No complaints here, they're all self explanatory and easy to use. The most important of these are the order icon which allows you, once you have influenced a character (befriend them, bribe them, or fight them) to tell them what to do. Get them to protect you and do your dirty work.

Taking and dropping allows you to pick up many of the items you'll find along the route. Shields and priest wheels all have their uses as does fish, saki and cherries which replenish your strength. You'll also find money scattered around which is useful for bribing people.

James Clavell's Shogun

Shogun really has to stand and fall on its character interplay and this is really where its fault lies. Although I found it amusing at times to do all this wheeling and dealing I was never quite sure if it was getting me anywhere. Your only visible sign of this is your follower count which tends to fluctuate.

I befriended Lady Yotaka in one game, thinking it was a wise move only to have the miserable old cow turn on me thirty seconds later and do me in!

In all the time I played I never exactly shown in the popularity stakes. Some would say this is grim realism I'm sure, but I was bribing, befriending and killing people left, right and centre. Clearly you don't get to be a Shogun being a workhorse.

Strategy games of this type have something of an unpredictable appeal. But I liked the mood of the thing, though sometimes I felt that I was getting in to a stalemate.

Mike Pattenden

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