In the great tradition of software titles having their
origins based in film and literature, Virgin now have
on offer their version of James Clavell's Shogun.
scene is set in Japan in the year 1600. The central
character is Captain John Blackthorne who has been shipwrecked
off the coast of Japan and flung straight into the midst
of a terrible and alien feudal system. He is irrevocably
caught up in the race to become Shogun, master of the
warlords and second only in power to the emperor.
possible to play the game as one of forty characters,
each with varying amounts of ambition, intelligence,
strength and attitude. At the beginning of the game,
the figure of Captain Blackthorne appears in a window
to the bottom right of the screen. Moving the joystick
causes his image to be replaced by that of another character.
In this fashion, all of the playable characters in the
game can be cycled through.
characters have names, but can also be identified by
their 'class', such as Nobles, Samurai, Peasants and
Servants, Bandits and Priests. The instruction booklet
lists their advantages and disadvantages as usable characters.
a character has been selected, there is a choice of
whether or not a demo game is to be chosen. Once the
game is selected, the screen display changes to the
start location for the chosen character. Play then proceeds
as a mixture of direct character control with the joystick
and a series of icons in the lower half of the screen.
become Shogun the player must collect twenty followers
before he can be considered important enough to be given
the final quest to assure his position. A player may
fight another character until that person yields to
his authority, or perhaps bribery or a sign of affection
will suffice. Once a character is under your control,
he or she may be ordered to take some form of action
(up to two orders may be given at any time to an individual
character). Money is often a useful incentive to actually
carry out the deeds required. Attitudes and abilities
affect any outcome.
from screen to screen is handled by joystick control.
The screens flick, changing as new locations are reached.
Pressing the fire button has one of several results.
If your character is standing over some food or money,
it is instantly picked up to increase your strength
and yen respectively. Otherwise, the key press changes
control over to the icon line. Moving the joystick left
or right highlights a different icon for use. Pressing
the button invokes the function of the highlighted icon.
The icons are: Take, Give, Examine, Order, Pause, Befriend,
Attack, Yield and Save/Load.
of these are self explanatory, but where an action could
apply to more than one other character on the screen,
the character window is used in conjunction with the
icons to specify the recipient of the desired action.
When a person is examined, a message appears in the
section separating the top and bottom parts of the screen.
Further uses of the icon brings about more detail. However,
this can be over-used to bad effect.
screens themselves consist of detailed and slightly
surreal Japanese backdrops. They usually have foreground
and background features such as trees, pagodas, clouds
and sky. The characters are animated and do not simply
glide around the play area. One of the surreal aspects
of the game is that characters can mysteriously float
or fly without any difficulty. There are normally some
sound effects or music to accompany a screen.
playing, the message area keeps you informed as to who
has become an ally to whom. If somebody should become
Shogun before you, one of two things can happen: you
may offer your loyalty to that character, in which case
the game will end. Or, alternatively, you may continue
the struggle. This presents many immediate problems
as you are likely to have far more enemies than friends.
However, given time it is possible to reverse the situation
and steal power for yourself.