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Absolut Gaming #1: Sword of the Samurai


AKA Ass-Bandit
Right, so I decided to review some videogames whenever I feel like it. I know the reviews will be ultimately shite, so if you're going to reply saying that, don't bother. If you're going to reply with actual critisism though, go ahead.

Also, I'm mainly going to review retro games, so if you'd like to request a game, only retro ones please. I'll leave it up to you what you think is retro and what isn't.

So here we go, Absolut Gaming #1, and I'll be looking at Sword of the Samurai.


Ah, Feudal Japan. An age of samurai, daimyo, shogun, and ninja. Oh, and fighting, lots of fighting. It's this part of Japan's history where Sword of the Samurai plunges you into. Starting off as a simple samurai, your aim is simple - to become the daimyo of your clan and eventually become the shogun of Japan.

Starting the game, you get to name your samurai, choose which province you live in (which in turn determines your initial skills, land, honor, etc.), and your family advantage (which gives you bonuses towards your initial skills, land, honor, etc.). Now, the number of provinces available for you to choose from is...well, take a look for yourself.

Every single one of those coloured segments is a possible choice, and it's also an indicator of the number of clans you will be up against when you become daimyo. But don't worry about that right now. Instead worry about working up to daimyo in the first place. First you'll need to prove yourself the most worthy of becoming the next hatamoto, and work your way up from there, which your three other rivals will not take kindly to at all. I swear there is always at least one rival family who constantly attempts to either assassinate or kidnap a family member if you don't do what they tell you to.

So how do you become your clan's daimyo? Well, the first couple of game stages on the way to daimyo take place on a map of the province you're currently in. More often than not, unless you feel like attacking a rival clan, this will be your own province. Here you can wander around, visiting your rivals or your superior's fief, or looking for random events to occur. These events involve things like killing bandits or fighting a wandering swordsman, all of which increase your honor if completed, something you'll need in this game.

From time to time, missions can pop up at a rival's fief or your superior's fief. These include fighting back a group of revolting peasants, attacking a rival clan as part of a campaign, or taking on a force of unruly monks. These will also increase your honor, and the latter two can often result in gaining more land, allowing you to equip more samurai.

There is also the option to do dishonorable deeds. These include stealing an ornamental sword, kidnapping a family member, killing a well-respected guest, and others. Succeed and your rival is dishonored. Fail and you are the one who is dishonored, often to the point where you're ordered to commit seppuku.

As far as combat goes, there are three combat screens, and depending on what you're tasked to do, the screen you see will change. If you are to fight a large force of warriors, you will get a field tactics screen.

Here, the aim is pretty simple; kill everything or cause the enemy to flee, or get killed yourself or flee. Usually it ends up being a mix, with your army taking heavy casualties before wiping out the opposing force. To start out with, you choose your defence or attack strategy and your formation, then you take control of each group of soldiers. Later on, you'll be seeing a lot of this screen, as generalship becomes more important than honor or swordsmanship, because, lets face it, a daimyo isn't going to get anywhere if he can't command his troops well.

If you're fighting a group of bandits, attempting to rescue someone, or doing something dishonorable, then you'll see the above melee combat screen. In this you move around attacking with both a bow and a sword, but you can only use one at a time. Depending on what your task is, you either have to kill everyone who hasn't fled, or grab your target and get the hell outta dodge. This starts out simple enough, but you eventually see an increase in the number of pike men (who just happen to be the most annoying fighters due to their weapon length), and gunmen start to show up. Despite this, these screens are still fun to do, and I always find it a challenge trying to rescue / kidnap someone without setting off an alarm.

Now this battle screen is great. If you're tasked to kill someone in one-on-one combat, then this is what you'll see. I could just sum this up by saying it was created by Sid Meier, but I'd rather go into more detail. You have to defeat your opponent by making the circle in the top right-hand corner show four marks in the shape of an E. When this is achieved, you have won, and your foe lies dead (except in kenjutsu practice). Likewise, when the circle in the top left-hand corner shows and E, you are defeated. Depending on the circumstances, you either die, you are left to lick your wounds. You can attack with either a vertical slash, a horizontal slash, or a power vertical slash, the latter being longer to perform, but doing more damage than a standard slash.

Now, with all these dangers around, and how long it usually takes to become a daimyo, you're unlikely to make it very far in one lifetime. That is why the game allows you to get married. When married, you eventually get children, hopefully before you die. The first born son becomes your heir, who will take up the task after you die or retire. Who you will control when said things happen.

Now, you may have noticed that the graphics in this game aren't all that great compared to what we have today. However, don't let that put you off. The way they're used makes it look as if the menu drawings were taken straight from actual paintings. And for all intents and purposes, they might as well have been. Everything in this game was thoroughly researched presented as correctly as possible. The developers went to great lengths to make sure that they made no errors, giving you some idea of what life in that era was like. Granted, it's not a 100% accurate view, but it's a view none the less.

Now, I tried to see if I could find something bad about the game, and about the only thing I could see is that it sometimes gets repetitive. However, I found myself having fun doing these things that I didn't see that as much as a downside. I really couldn't find anyting wrong or bad about this game, though I recommend you give it a shot.

With four difficulty levels (Tanto to No-Dachi) and plenty of reasons to keep coming back for more, there's no reason to not give this game at least a try. You may end up thinking its the dog's bollocks, you may end up thinking its not quite your cup of tea. However, I believe you're more likely to lean towards the former than the latter.

So go on; get yourself the latest version of DOSBox, grab this over at Abandonia, and have a go. You won't regret it.