domingo, 23 de novembro de 2014

The First Samurai [1991, Amiga / SNES] Review - It's a Pixel THING

Late eighties and early nineties were packed with martial arts movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal, Michael Dudikoff and the most fearsome mustache of all time (Chuck Norris), just to name a few, were my favorite martial artists. Obviously, the video game industry followed this trend with the awesome Last Ninja and Shadow Dancer.

The First Samurai successfully brought, to home consoles and computers of the time, those flesh cutting swordfights and mystique that oriental culture always transpired.

Originally developed, in 1991, by Vivid Image for the Amiga, The First Samurai was so successful that the developers soon started working on other versions. Soon after they ported the game for the Atari ST, in 1992 was available the Commodore 64 and DOS and, in 1993, the Super Nintendo version also saw the light of day.

The game was programmed by Raffaelle Cecco, the creator of extraordinary 8 bit titles for the C64 and the ZED X Spectrum, such as Stormlord and Cybernoid, and his work is noticed right away, as the first images and sounds starts to strike the player.

So, what’s the fuzz all about? Revenge! As I’ve mentioned in the beginning of the episode, our master has been killed by the so called Demon King who flees to the future. Our task is to hunt him down and avenge the death of our mentor. This won’t be easy. On our quest, we’ll be visiting different worlds, from mystical places to futuristic ones.

Besides kicking and punching, there are a bunch of weapons that you can use against the enemy, like axes and daggers, but your sword is your best friend in this game. It has some magical powers and is part of a clever energy system. It is displayed by the sword icon in the bottom right of the screen and, when you slay an enemy, it releases a glowing star which is absorbed by the main character raising his own magical energy. When this energy is in its maximum, the sword will immediately be available for you to use. It is kind of an extension to the player’s own energy; so, instead of only one energy bar, you have two. This small detail, levels the difficulty pretty damn well!

Through these awesomely complex and nicely structured levels, you will encounter various types of creatures that are ready to slow you down. Those creatures can jump, run, fly and roll and won’t stop until your dead! Besides those and some annoying traps, you will also face a large variety of monsters that are hard as hell to put down to sleep.

The arm icon in the bottom left of the screen displays your energy. When you suffer from attacks or traps, the energy icon slowly disappears. Keep an eye on it and, through each level, pick up the items that can restore your energy, like potions and food baskets.
Scattered throughout the levels are also regeneration pots that work as checkpoints. A very important feature, so that, when you fall in battle, you won’t return to the beginning of the level. To use it, you need to crouch over the pot and the mystical energy accumulated during the level will then flow into that particular regeneration pot. Only one pot can be active at any one time, but you can reactivate a previously charged pot and so determine a new restart position. You even keep all the items you were carrying after you’ve been resurrected! How cool is that?

When you have enough magical energy, you will be able to pick up other magical items. These items can be used to overcome certain unpassable obstacles. Your master, just like Yoda in Star Wars, will appear from time to time to give you some hints on how to do it.

This is a game that needs your constant attention. The enemies are constantly respawning so you have to move your ass quickly and avoid stopping to smell the roses! Use and abuse the regeneration pots! These will be your best trick to advance in the game!

To conclude, the Amiga and Super Nintendo versions of this awesome game, are the ones you should try. The DOS version is also very good, but lacks that superb and cool parallax scrolling effect.

The First Samurai is a fantastic side scrolling action platformer with an amazing exotic atmosphere, graphics and sound. You really need to check it out! Believe me, you won’t regret it!

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