First Samurai (Commodore 64)
If you've ever picked up a joystick and you're over the age of thirty, the chances are you've heard of The Last Ninja series of games. They're the legendary tales of Armakuni, out to avenge his murdered ninja brethren. Everybody knows about The Last Ninja. First Samurai, on the other hand... not so much.
I'll be honest, when I first heard about First Samurai all those years ago, I figured it was a piss-take, and didn't really pay it any attention. Why else would they call it that after The Last Ninja had been so successful? I suppose the intention was to piggyback off it and hope for similar success, but it was released too late for that.
Having travelled through time, our Samurai learned from The Bride how best to get blood off his sword.
First Samurai is also a tale of revenge, but the plot is a bit sillier sounding than that of The Last Ninja, with waffle about Demon Kings and Wizard Mages. The upshot of it all is that your master is dead, and your angry Samurai is out to avenge him.
So, a noble quest, and it turns out to be a huge and action-packed one. Unlike The Last Ninja's lovely isometric 3D, First Samurai distances itself from that game by being a much more straightforward side-scrolling action platformer. You're able to jump and climb around the landscape, which is very handy as there are some very out-of-the-way platforms, and if you can reach them your agility will surely be rewarded...
John Hurt was worried that he'd become typecast...
Of course, you wouldn't be much of a Samurai without a sword, and sure enough, you've got one. Trouble is, it's a mystical sword and you can't wield it unless you have enough mystical energy. You'd better gather that energy quickly as you're going to need that sword, because you're constantly under attack from a barrage of critters and enemies. And when I say "constantly", I mean it... these little bastards respawn as soon as they've been killed. Like I said, it makes for an action-packed game, but it would be nice if you (and the game) were given a little more room to breathe.
Other enemies may be a little trickier to overcome, so you may be able to summon the Wizard Mage on occasions, and he may be able to help you progress. You must use his powers sparingly and wisely, for you are only able to summon him a limited number of times...
Look, there's no point hiding... get out there and get stuck in!
Apparently, once you get far enough, you travel through time to get at the murdering demon. Groan. Yeah, that old chestnut. I'd rather this had stuck to the traditional if I'm honest. Although, for as long as I played the game, it did... I never got beyond the attractive countryside landscapes. As I mentioned earlier... it's obviously a huge game.
I was pretty sure that this came out on the Commodore 64 first, and was ported to other formats. That might be true, but having done some research on this it seems as though the C64 version might have been scaled back from the Amiga version. I don't know which way it went, but the Amiga version looks like a much better game and I wish I'd been able to play that version instead. That's not to say that First Samurai on the Commodore 64 is a bad game. It's a very big game, and quite enjoyable for what it is. But it's a touch unremarkable and doesn't feel quite as epic as it should (or as The Last Ninja does), which is a bit of a shame.