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Literature / Sword of the Samurai

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None shall pass!

Sword of the Samurai is the 20th entry in the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks, written by the combined effort of Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson, this time forfeiting the traditional European fantasy setting for something closer to Jidaigeki.

You are a samurai from Hachiman, in Khul, and you're the Shogun's champion. One day, you're summoned by your lord to complete a dangerous task: the kingdom of Hachiman is restless, many feudal lords are revolting against the Shogun and move war to each other, causing death and mayhem all over the country. Furthermore, dangerous beasts roam the land. All of this because the evil Master of Shadows, Ikiru, has stolen the Dai-Katana, the Singing Death, and is trying to use its secrets to rule over the land of Hachiman and beyond with his armies. It's your task to prevent this: you must venture forth towards Onikaru, the Pit of Demons, slay Ikiru and recover Singing Death, so that the Shogun may reaffirm his righteous rule.

This book is slightly different from most of the standard entries in some aspects: first, your character is bound by duty and Honour, and thus starts with three Honour Points, which can be increased along the way or decreased (If if drops to zero you have to commit seppuku). You can also choose one of four special skills (Kyu-jutsu, Iaijutsu, Ni-to Kenjutsu and Karumijutsu), which may come in handy during the quest. Finally, unlike many books from Livingstone, there are different paths to the end (though just as many, unexpected ways to have an instant death), which allows you to replay this book in different ways.

No relation at all with the videogame Sword of the Samurai.

Sword of the Samurai provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Eleanor the enchantress's name sounds a little out of place in the Japanese-themed setting.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Not you, but Eleanor the Enchantress you can meet in the Enchanted Woods: she was cursed with insanity by the Dai-Oni, but with the Water of Knowledge you can restore her mind, which makes her your ally.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Two of the demons summoned by the Dai Oni are a monstrous toad and a massive mantis demon.
  • Animal Jingoism: If you summon the giant snake against Graalsch, the Toad Demon will be too scared to react, allowing his opponent to kill him easily.
  • Annoying Arrows: If you pick Kyujutsu you can get four different arrows: one which deals normal damage, one which can pierce armor, the extra-damaging bowel-raker and the harmless hollow-head arrow. Only the last one qualifies, as it's not meant for combat.
  • The Atoner: Mochi is a former Tsietsin samurai who wants to make amends and can escort you for a while.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Groundhog is a massive, flat monster with eight legs, a ring of flailing tentacles and a massive mouth filled with fangs.
  • Big Bad: Ikiru the Master of Shadows, the one who stole the Singing Death from you.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Da├»mo Tsietsin, a Fat Bastard taking profit of the troubles to appoint himself Shogun, and letting his morally-bankrupt samurais running rampant and causing all sort of troubles. Naturally, compared to the demon threatening to destroy the country, his bark is way worse than his bite, and he quickly proves a pathetic Dirty Coward.
  • Black Swords Are Better: Ikiru fights you with a deadly black sword which forces you to try your luck on every attack.
  • Boss Bonanza: Before reaching Ikiru (who's the Final Boss) you have to face the Dai-Oni and his three champions, and the former can show up in a phantasmal form if you don't have the right amulet. Deconstructed as you physically can't defeat all of them in a row alone (if you try, the narration mentions that you manage to kill the Toad Demon and the Mantis before you reach your limits and the Bronze Man tears you limb from limb) and need some allies in order to win.
  • Bow and Sword in Accord: If you choose Kyujutsu, then you can carry a bow and a quiver of arrows along with your Daisho.
  • Came Back Strong: If you kill the Dai-Oni he'll come back to life as a Shura that you must put down. Unless a Tatsu taught you how to dispel them.
  • Casting a Shadow: Ikiru, as his title implies, can summon forth demonic shadows from Hell itself.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu:
    • Averted, in the Nushi cavern you die specifically because you're rushed by three gigantic spiders at once, while the three champions together are too much for you to handle. On the other hand, the Golden Company can defeat Gargantus the Bronze Man by taking advantage of their superior numbers, although they do suffer some casualties as a result.
    • No matter how much of a powerful, badass samurai you are: you cannot prevail against a large amount of enemies attacking all at once.
  • Cool Sword: The Singing Death, a masterpiece katana with many secrets whose owner can rightfully rule Hachiman. If your Honour is high enough, you can use it against Ikiru with great results.
  • Creepy Centipedes: The Mukade dwelling in Tsietsin's dungeon is a monstrous, gigantic centipede monster, as per myth.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In the Place of Battle, choosing the right ally for the right opponent results in one in your favour. Choosing the wrong one leads to one against you.
  • The Dragon: The Dai-Oni is one to Ikiru, being a powerful warrior and taking you on before his master.
  • Dual Wielding: Should you choose Ni-to Kenjutsu you can wield both swords in combat and roll another attack if you roll 9 or more with your first attack. The tradeoff is that it doesn't have other uses outside of combat.
  • Evil Knockoff: Ikiru summons a shadow with your sembiance to tempt you into siding with him.
  • Eye Beams: Gargantus the Bronze Man attacks with energy surges from his eyes.
  • Eye Scream: In Ginsei's hut, you roll your eyes backwards in order to escape a blinding gas trap. However, this was highly damaging for your eyes and you suffer a SKILL malus for the rest of the adventure.
  • Fat Bastard: Tsietsin is so fat and piggish he cannot wear his armor anymore, while at least Ginsei the Ronin, while portly, can still wear his.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: If you get captured by Tsietsin's goons, they'll take your swords, the shame of which causes the loss of 2 Honour points. If this causes your Honour to drop to 0, you automatically commit seppukku... with your swords.
  • Giant Spider: The Spider Fens are inhabited by giant spiders of all sorts under the control of the terrible Nushi witch.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: And overall pretty good and coherent when they used it, though with some exceptions. For example, the evil Ikiru's name translates to "To Live".
  • Hobbling the Giant: In the Arena, if you sic the band of Knights against the Bronze Giant (provided if you don't sacrifice them to the Toad or Mantis monsters) the Knights will attack the Giant wiith ropes. They suffer minimal casualties in the process, but managed to trip the Giant, at which point it reverts to an inanimated, motionless statue, earning you a victory.
  • Holy Hand Grenade: Singing Death becomes one against Ikiru if your Honour is high enough.
  • Honour Before Reason: Such is the way of the Samurai, you will be penalized if you make dishonourable actions. Sometimes, this forces you in bad situations where running away or fighting safely from afar would be more sensible options.
  • Hopeless Boss Fight: Subverted by the Silver Samurai: after attacking him three times you notice that his skin is seemingly intact despite your ferocious attack, and are given a chance to withdraw. If you press on, the Samurai will eventually surrender to you. Played straight by the battle against the Dai-Oni if you didn't bring allies with you (or if you missed the two allies you have to have).
  • Iaijutsu Practitioner: Iaijutsu gives you this skill in combat.
  • In a Single Bound: Karumijutsu allows you to make incredible leaps over your enemies or obstacles. It's surprisingly useful.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: It would be a ripoff if you didn't get to wield Singing Death yourself, which you can if you act honorably and wisely enough to earn the right.
  • In the Hood: Ikiru's hood covers his face. Or lack, thereof.
  • Just Eat Him: Graalsch the Demon Toad has a penchant for devouring his opponents whole.
  • Kappa: You can run afoul of them in a river. The resemble more orcs than Kappa, are unkillable as long as the basin on their heads is full and can be scared into giving you an item that makes the endgame easier.
  • Kick the Dog: If you meet the coal burners, they'll insult you and the Shogun, forcing you to teach them a possibly lethal lesson, unless you want to lose a Honour point.
  • Kill It with Fire: K'rllk the Mantis Demon is a fearsome, lightning-fast opponent who can be easily dispatched with fire.
  • Kirin: Befitting the setting, one of your possible allies to recruit in the Arena is a Kirin. Save it for the penultimate confrontation and the Kirin will inflict a De-power on the Dai-Oni.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: In one bad ending, you tread the Giant's Causeway from the Spider's Fen, only to discover, much to your displeasure, that the lake you're crossing hosts a specimen of fresh-water Kraken who's decided to have a snack.
  • Literal Genie: After defeating the Dai-Oni, you can force him to answer you one question. If you ask him how to defeat Ikiru, he'll answer "Simply defeat him in battle."
  • Living Statue: The Dai-Oni's third and strongest champion is a living bronze cyclops who can sic Eye Beams, either at you or your champions.
  • MacGuffin: Singing Death, the prized Dai-Katana who grants the rulership over the land.
  • The Marvelous Deer: Averted with a Giant Black Elk that immediately attacks you on sight, a specimen that was thought as extinct. You can take a piece of his antlers to defeat and obtain as an ally the Serpent in the Hub.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: If you go to Onikaru from one path, you have to duel an undead samurai and his horde of skeletal minions.
  • No-Gear Level: If you're captured by Tsietsin's goons, you have to evade and recover your stuff, fighting your way out unarmed.
  • Noodle Incident: When you befriend the saber-tooth tiger by blowing the magic horn, you think it might be mistaking you for the horn's original owner who'd originally befriended it. That's a story you'll never know, though.
  • No-Sell: Graalsch the Toad Demon is completely fire-proof, which means that both Tatsu and the Phoenix cannot harm him. Also, the Ki-Rin can dispel the Dai-Oni's sorcery.
  • Oni: The Dai-Oni is closer to western demons behavior-wise, can take human form and fights you with black magic and a giant tetsubo. He can also revive as a Shura upon death.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Both the Big Bad and The Dragon are powerful demons.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Tatsu is a reptilian take on the traditional eastern dragon, breath fire and will help you if you answer his riddle.
  • Panthera Awesome: One of the possible allies for the battle against the Dai-Oni is a gigantic tiger you can tame with a magical horn.
  • The Phoenix: Another possible ally for the Dai-Oni battle, a bird with fiery powers that can be hired if you're in possession of a Ruby Phoenix.
  • The Quisling: Tsietsin betrayed his Shogun and his country by allying himself with Ikiru, who lets him have Shikome at his disposal.
  • Riddle Me This: The Tatsu asks you to solve two riddles in exchange for a safe passage and his aid.
  • Rōnin: One of the enemies you can meet is Ginsei, a former samurai who lives in the woods and hates other samurai.
  • Seductive Spider: The battle in the Nushi cavern are against three spider-woman who will try to seduce the player before the battle. They are based directly on the Jorogumo.
  • Serpent Staff: In one encounter with a Great Serpent, you may have collected an enchanted antler from an immortal elk, which can be used against the Serpent; one touch and the Serpent gets absorbed into the antler, turning to a wooden snake staff. In the unavoidable encounter with Graalsch the Toad Demon later, you can throw the snake staff at Graalsch, at which point it will turn back into a Great Serpent and destroy Graalsch for you before disappearing entirely.
  • Shock and Awe: Both Ikiru and Eleanor seems to make use of lightning magic, though the former has black lightning.
  • Slaying Mantis: K'rllk the Mantis Demon is a massive mantis monster with sharp claws and a deadly bite.
  • Stat Death: Having an honor score of zero results in an instant death, no matter what else you are doing.
  • Taken for Granite: If you fail the trial of the Enchanted Garden, you will be turned to stone.
  • Trial-and-Error Gameplay: In the Enchanted Garden, you have to guess which statue approach first and in what order. If you choose the wrong statue or the wrong order, you die. And you pretty much have 0 clue about what to do.
  • Samurai: In case you missed it, your character is one. Specifically, the Shogun's champion. Many other hostile samurai can be met and fought.
  • Seppuku: Paragraph 99: this is what you do if your Honour drops to 0.
  • Swamps Are Evil: The Mizugumo Fens, or Spider Fens: hard to navigate, the risk of flood is high and constant and there are dangerous, gigantic spiders around. Walk the wrong way, and you may end up eaten by a Kraken.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Averted in the final battle: throwing Singing Death to Ikiru leaves you unarmed for the following battle, cutting down your stats.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The mysterious village you can run into is actually inhabited by flesh-eating Rokuro-Kubi. They also have a Forsaken One dwelling in their well.
  • The Unfought: Of the Dai-Oni's three monsters, the Toad Demon is the only one whose stats are unrevealed the entire book, since the one path you choose to fight it leads to an instant death.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: An oversight in the encounter with the Dai-Oni makes the book rather more unfairly difficult than it might have been intended to be: you can recruit up to 3 allies to fight the Dai-Oni's 3 champions in your stead, plus the Ki-Rin can aid you against the Dai-Oni himself. However any allies you failed to acquire the necessary item to recruit during your adventure have to be skipped, meaning you have to fight the demon champion they were supposed to face yourself. Unfortunately, you cannot voluntarily fight a demon champion unless you have no other allies left, meaning that if you don't have the right champion for a demon, it will kill all the champions you do have before you're finally allowed to fight it, and consequently forcing you to face all the remaining ones too. And if you didn't get the Tiger or the Serpent to deal with Graalsch the toad demon, you have no choice but to watch the allies you brought to deal with K'rllk and Gargantus (and the Ki-Rin) die futilely against it before finally fighting the champions yourself and getting an automatic game over.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The Dai-Oni becomes angrier and angrier after the deaths of his champions.
  • We Can Rule Together: Ikiru tries to pull this on you before the final duel.
  • Wutai: Hachiman is the Titan counterpart to Sengoku-period Japan, though it's located on the continent of Khul rather than on a separate archipelago.
  • Youkai: There's a whole village of Nukekubi, though they're mistakenly referred to as Rokurokubi.
  • You Lose at Zero Trust: Whenever your honor score reaches zero, your player avatar commits seppuku.