Sword of the Samurai
is a Video Game released by Microprose
in 1990. As with many games created by that studio during the period, it was an attempt to combine basic elements of Action
into a single game. It is set in the time of the Samurai
of Medieval Japan.
The game follows the life of a young samurai
as he endeavours to do the bidding of his master
, a low-ranking lord. Over the course of the game, the player must gather honor by performing great deeds, and hone his samurai's skills in close combat as well as military warfare. By outshining and possibly dishonoring the other samurai serving your lord, the samurai can eventually be selected to inherit his master's position
once the master dies, gaining the rank of Hatamoto. As the samurai rises in ranks, the deeds he must perform become more difficult (and grander), and eventually he can come to lead the entire clan to which he belongs, being named the Daimyo. At this point, the player begins waging war against other clans, vying to unify Japan under him, as he strives to become Shogun.
The game is split into several distinct sections. At the beginning, the player is at his estate, somewhere within his chosen clan's domain. He can practice various combat arts, or change the level of taxation in his fief (his household territory). Occasionally, news will come about various events that occur within the clan's region, letting you know what deeds can be performed. To get to the meat of the game, the player has to leave his estate and travel on an overland map, whether at the head of his troops, alone, or disguised as a poor Ronin. The method of travel dictates how likely you are to attract attention (triggering Random Encounters
while you travel) and how much honor you gain from successfully completing these encounters. Each encounter is a mini-game which tests one particular player (and character) skill, including one-on-one Katana combat or a massive melee against multiple enemies.
You can visit the master's estate and meet your rivals there, or court a sufficiently honorable maiden (who usually needs rescuing from a bandit's lair
). Tea ceremonies
will occur to improve your relations with your peers (the other samurai, who must eventually be surpassed if you want to inherit your lord's estate). Occasionally, your lord will call on your to mobilize your army, and then a real-time army-on-army battle will take place, a primitive but closely-reminiscent
version of Shogun: Total War
. You can also visit your peers' estates, and if you're in disguise, can break inside
and try to dishonor them by kidnapping a family member or stealing something precious they were guarding for someone. On the flipside, your peers can also do the same thing to you - except they will come to your estate accompanied by Ninjas
, making things nightmarish at best. Of course, the best thing you can do in disguise is to try to break into your own master's estate
and assassinate him. If you're the favoured Samurai at the time, this is a sure-fire way to inherit his estate
The thing that really sets this game apart is its unique atmosphere. Everything in this game, from the menus, the music, the artwork, everything
is made in a distinctly periodic style. The minimalist music accompanies dramatic Ukiyo-e style drawings as you are notified that someone has died or that rebellious peasants are besieging your estate, and so forth.
This game is usually mentioned alongside other "Microprose Combo" games such as Sid Meierís Pirates!
, Covert Action
, or even Darklands
, thanks to its reliance on mini-games woven together into a role-playing/strategy macro-game. Today it is all but forgotten, though it has undoubtedly inspired several tropes in the 90's "Golden Age" of Video Games.
Features examples of: