Ah, Rise Of The Dragon. A game so nice, they Bowdlerized it twice. We'll be playing the original 3.5" floppy version of the game — the one I bought back when the game was new — so we get the deleted scenes and background animations, but the only voice acting we get is in the intro.
No, this isn't a case of a bad scan — the comic is in ashcan style, which is to say it came as a bunch of photocopied pages stapled together.
Note that even though the game is billed as "A Blade Hunter Mystery," the comic still retains the title of the game. It is also VOL. 1 and #1 COLLECTOR'S EDITION!
This is more than an introduction to the story and characters — and, in fact, some of this is reproduced in the opening animation of the game, and in color, no less — it gives us a quick run-down of the things we will need to know.
While I'll talk about it page-by-page, I won't be including the entire comic, just images I feel are of particular interest. If you want to follow along, it can be found here. I will be breaking it down page by page.
The inside front cover is an advertisement for an immersive VR system called
CEREBRO CEREB-O. It's styled more like an Atari 2600 ad than an ad for one of the then-current game systems, but then the developers were modeling the comic after comics they grew up with.
Pages 1 & 2 are the post-credit opening animation for the game, only in the original black and white lineart instead of the 256-color glory of the game. The only advantage they have over the animated version is that they're not voice-acted.
Page 3: Self-Deprecation and a parody of GRIT's "sell our magazine for cash and prizes" ads that deserves to be shared.
I particularly love the Neat Prizes gag:
And later in the same ad:
Page 4: You know those pages full'o'ads you see in comics? This is the only one in this book, but it's worth commenting on if only to point out what jokes work and what don't. (Typos reproduced because who knows if they're deliberate or not?)
- Comics, Comics, More Comics Blather blather blather. "But they're not for sale."
- CELL-AWAY home liposuction kit.
- There's a Bullet With Your Name On It! engraved bullets... actually, I think this one's long since been made real.
- A-MEWZING DESIGNS "Bonsai your cat!"
- LOOSE WEIGHT FAST! Tapeworm joke.
- Vidphone Facade For giggles, pretend every recorded message on Blade's voice mail was made using this to conceal some horrible thing the character was actually doing.
- KUNG-FU "Earn a BLACK-BELT in your own home, in your spare time!" This one reads like a real ad until "Discover new and interesting ways of maiming, even killing your fellow man!"
- IS SHE TALLER THANYOU? "Gain 2" instantly! Stand on her feet." I couldn't make these jokes up, folks. My sense of humor would beat me to death if I tried.
STAMPS(Yeah, that one's BIG.) "Send SASE for a free catalogue." Hmmm, wonder where they get their supply from?
- DEATH-RAY GLASSES "Surprise your friends!" Actually Pretty Funny.
- TOXI-GUM "Looks like real gum but tastes like toxic waste. Hysterical!" This guy went on to create the TOOT-SWEET idea for Willy Beamish, I'm sure.
- A personals ad from Dracula. *sigh*
- The following:
- Another classified. "SWDM" Single White D???? Male? It's cut off so if there's a joke, I can't see it.
- BECOME PRESIDENT Hehehe... heeeheehehehehehehehehehe BWAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA! It's an ad for a correspondence course to become president! THAT'S ACTUALLY REALLY FUNNY.
- HYPNOTIZE YOUR FRIENDS "Make them do... anything... you... want! Anything!" Hoopa Coiler Agamemnon?
- Trouble making friends? A masturbation joke. In fact, the same one made in Willy Beamish but this time about Dynamix themselves.
- BED WETTING A PROBLEM? You don't need the full ad. Just "new and revolutionary method of removing the urinary tract". Also, for some reason, there are instructions to include postage and handling, so apparently it's another do-it-yourself home surgery gag, as if the quoted part wasn't enough to make you realize how fucked up it is.
- Another classified ad. I never noticed before that this one has the solution to a puzzle towards the end of the game. There's an in-game item that also has the solution on it, but you can't check the item while you're working on the puzzle. Noticing this would have saved me writing down the following seemingly nonsense characters:
- "SBDGM" What the hell does that even mean? They're just making this shit up now. "One eyed sociopathic dwarf who enjoys water sports, volleyball, camping, and collecting civil war artifacts looking for same." Y'know, back when this game came out, I had no idea "water sports" had a double meaning. Dare ya ta Google it.
- ACADEMY OF EXTRA SENSORY PERSEPTION Argh, the typos! Anyway, it's a joke about psychics. "We'll call you" is the punchline.
- COMICS "We still got 'em!" Makes the first joke slightly funnier.
Page 5-7: The mayor calls on our hero, William "Blade" Hunter, to ask him to take on a case. I think all of one person ever calls him William in the entire game. Ever.
Due to hanging around IJBM for too long, and really bad photocopy quality, I Read That As "I have a pedophile that you might be interested in." Um, no thanks, Mr. Mayor. Also, our letterer does not know the difference between a question mark and an exclamation mark.
Page 8: Black dude is named Apollo. Our mystery starts someplace called a Pleasuredome. I like the future a bit more now.
Page 9: Girl in opening animation is the Mayor's daughter, Blade used to be a cop.
Page 10: She died from bad drugs. Blade was a loose cannon cop who doesn't play by the rules. If he succeeds, he gets his pension back. If he fails,
IMF The Mayor will officially disavow any knowledge of his actions. Also, the Mayor brought that manual I was talking about earlier.
Page 11: It is entitled... Well...
Here we go with the manual itself. The foreword, which is labeled "Forward" is a single quote from Chang Li, who wrote this book, and will show up in the game:
After the foreword, we have a legitimate Brick Joke:
Congratulations on your purchase of the A Step by Step Guide to Private Investigation and Other Fun Things, another fine product from the Ximanyd family of companies.
This manual contains: One (dozen) pages which detail everything you need to know to achieve a personally fulfilling and financially rewarding career in the personal investigation field.
You will learn:
- How to question suspects with finesse and subtlety.
- How to make and interpret discrete observations.
- How to completely service and repair someone else's VidPhone.
- How and why to use the Em-Way transportation system
- How and where to use the tools of the trade.
- How to persuade people to do things they really don't want to.
- The benefits of personal hygiene, a good diet and plenty of exercise.
- Handy PI Fashion tips
- PI technical Jargon
Next we have a table of contents, but that's pretty much the exact same thing as the prior list, so we'll just cut to the chase, shall we? *
Page 15-16: Field Interrogation Techniques. Has a couple of jokes. One of which is "Step Two: Find a field." I wish I was kidding. Also a warning that some conversation options may piss people off, rendering the game unwinnable.
Page 17: Look around at shit. This gets an entire page.
Page 18: There's a thingy * you get that lets you tap people's phones. It's nominally a "wire tester kit." When the red light flashes, you've fucked up and need to disconnect it or die. It does not warn you to watch the fluctuating voltage that kills you the same way without warning.
Page 19: The Em (Em-Way, short for Electro-Magnetic subway) is free and "relatively safe." Italics indicate words that will be defined in the glossary. The Em takes time. (Looking at a destination by right-clicking tells you how long, but Gameplay and Story Segregation means they can't tell you that. That's why this manual is a bad idea.)
Page 20-22: You get a pulse particle-beam pistol, tiny shaped plastic explosives, and a wire-tester kit. These pages have pictures so you can identify them. Page 22 tells you not to leave the house without your ID card, but not where to find it, which means you can make the game unwinnable in under a minute. It also warns you that Aerosol Personal Protect Devices are only good for getting a buzz, and that body armor is "a good idea."
Page 23: Bribery. Use candy bars for bribery. This comes into play in like one place, but failure to do so can fuck you over on day one. Also, healthy eating is for pussies. You must have "the digestive system of a pachyderm."
Page 24: Sleep must be taken care of. If you stay up too long, you'll pass out and that's a bad thing. I can't remember if you get arrested or mugged or what, so we'll find out! Also, "Handy PI Fashion tips" has this to say:
"We recommend wearing clothes." Pfft.
Page 25 In Its Entirety is full of terms, many of which are jokes, referenced earlier in the book:
'effin. Slang for friggin'
Em-Way. Electromagnetically levitated subway system.
Pachyderm. Think skinned mammal such as an elephant or rhinoceros.
pulse particle-beam handgun. A handgun which fires a burst of highly organized associative particles instead of a lead projectile.
'Relatively safe' Euphemism meaning 20% chance of death or dismemberment.
'Repairing' someone else's VidPhone. Euphemism meaning run a tap and listen in on someone's private life.
Valued Customer. Anyone who is willing to shell out the ridiculously large amount of money it takes to buy one of our products.
The last page of the comic is Blade closing the cover on the manual and declaring it to be a piece of garbage. Then we get a letters page despite this being a first issue, two more pages of ads - one for a World War III Action Set, one for a Charles Atlas parody in which what is being advertised is a large-caliber revolver called a "Real Man," which is immediately under an ad for a body building formula called "Dyna-Mix" which includes the lines "Terrorize little skinny guys on beaches! Be a qualified bully!" as its final two lines.
And the back cover has some really nice line-art of the Rise Of The Dragon logo:
And we're done with the comic. Next, the actual game!