There are ways and there are Ways. And now there is Gremlin Graphics' The Way of the Tiger. Speaker of Truth Phil South chops his way through this king of combat games.
Here we go again - in martial arts combat against the forces of evil. So how does this new contender stand up against its rivals in the martial arts/ninja arena? What makes this game a chop above the rest? How does it play, and what does 'trigeminal' scrolling mean? Let's take a lool...
The new game is the first in a series of translations of The Way Of The Tiger solo role-playing gamebooks to an arcade format. You take the role of Avenger, a powerful ninja warrior, and control his exploits in the ancient world of Orb. You chop every chop, swash every buckle and Ahh every so in the valiant ninja's battles against the dribbling hordes of evil adversaries.
It is written that long ago a young boy was found abandoned on the mystical Island of Tranquil Dreams at the gates of a temple to the great god Kwon. A monk called Naijishi, a Grand Master of the fighting arts, took the boy in and became his foster father. He taught him all he knew, of combat and wisdom. Soon the time of testing approached, when he had to face many vicious foes to earn the title Ninja, Speaker of Wisdom, Protector of the Weak, and One Most Powerful. After that he had to face the Master Naijishi himself, for the ultimate test.
Gamebooks are a spin-off of the role playing game industry - you, the reader, take the part of the book's hero and follow one of the many different courses through the book according to the decisions you make for him. The Tiger books were an alternative to the dragonslaying type, and indeed one of the first to make a move away from the goblins, wizards and orcs that go grunt in the night type. The Tiger books chart Avenger's adventures and, by way of the multiple choices, decide his fate.
The three parts of the game form a training course for budding ninjas, and offer an introduction to the techniques you'll need to embark on the adventures to come. Not least of these is the ability to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent, and order your attack appropriately. Each foe is different, and one of the big strengths of this game over others is the variety of techniques you must use to beat them.
Some are short and stubby goblins. Some are giants whose very footfalls make the ground tremble. Some are spirits who float above the ground and cast a deadly fluence over you. It's this variation of attack that makes the game interesting - in most other games of the genre one repetitive move will usually see you through. You have to master all the moves and deploy them with great care to become a true master.
The range and quality of the animation in the game are first class. I'm told that a four person team worked solidly for seven months to produce the multifarious animated effects, taking in not only the main characters, but the scenery and background characters too! All of them exhibit amazing lifelike movement.
Take for example the ducks swimming peacefully on the lake behind the pole fighting, or the fish that arches out of the sate and plops back in again. And the owl lithe sword fighting scenario that flies from the middle distance right in to the front of the screen where it lands and revolves its head right round before flying off again. With such interesting things going on in other parts of the screen, its sometimes difficult to concentrate on the job in hand.
Another thing that sets this game head and high kicks above the mob is its 'trigeminal scrolling'. What this means in practice is that when you jump up, you see things from a slightly altered perspective. You can peer over foreground objects and take in details of the background.
Although this might sound a bit ho-hum to you, the effect it has on the 3D is quite startling. This is shown to its best during the samurai sword fighting sequence, where the scene is depicted as seen through the eyes of the master Naijishi himself. The screen moves around as he moves his head to take in different parts of the action.
The whole game takes up about 148K of memory. Yes, I know you've only got 48K in your little button box! The code is loaded in sections, giving you what amounts to three complex and different games on two cassettes, multiloaded through user-friendly menus.
Is it a hit? (Take that. THWACK!) Ahh so!
BEST OF THE REST.
Way Of The Exploding Fist (Melbourne House - One move or defence will usually get you through this game. The two player option is nice if you want to fight your friends. Tiger wins out from a strategy point of view.Yie Ar Kung Fu (Imagine) - Very much the arcade game, but then it is a conversion of the coin-op fave. Not very credible as a martial arts simulation. Range of characters similar to Tiger but lacks the sophistication.Sai Combat (Mirrorsoft) - Way Of The Tiger has pole fighting as just one of it's scenarios, so it has more action. Like Fist this one suffers from having just one scenario, and once again a single repetitive move will usually get you past all comers.
As you roam through the gardens of the Temple of Rock, the Master unleashes a multitude of foul beasts for you to defeat. You have no weapons, just your bare hands and the power of your Inner Force against ninjas, spirits and goblins. Oh yes, there is a giant too! Watch out for him.There are a broad range of adversaries in this game - at least four or five different types on each scenario. The Rhino man and the Shape changer are the most deadly at this stage of the game, though the giant must be the hardest to beat.If things get too close for comfort, you can employ the amazing backward leap, taking you back several yards. A useful tool in your repertoire, and your best defence.A still picture doesn't really do justice to the 'trigeminal' scrolling, but the effect really enhances the sensation of depth of vision. You can peek over things when you jump up which comes in quite handy if there's something hiding behind a rock.Use the Force! Your Inner Force is the source of your power as a ninja, so you must employ defensive as well as offensive tactics. Try to prevent your opponent's blows landing on you, for your Inner Force reaches zero your training ends here...
Once you have beaten the demons in the garden, you must cross the slippery log across the river. On the other side is the Temple, but between you and your objective stand skeleton wraiths and trolls. You must prove your mastery of the staff if you wish to continue your time of testing.The complexity of the animation in this game comes into its own on this screen. The ducks, fish and turtles have a life of their own and can be quite distracting. If you can't keep your mind on the job, why not go through the game, watching these effects before you play.Make no bones about it, the skeletons are deadly. The big ugly creatures you'll come across are trolls and though they're tough, they're not very quick. Your fellow ninjas are here too, but don't think you can pull the old school tie trick. They'll kill you if you let them.The pole is not only narrow, but slippery too! It's unwise to push your luck by jumping back too often - you'll surely end up in the drink. Keep your footing and make certain it's your enemy that takes the tumble.The overhead block is your best defence on the slippery pole. It's a good plan to advance on your opponent as you beat him back, gaining yourself a bit of leg room. If in doubt, duck. No dumbo, not the feathery things, I mean duck out of the way!
Having passed through the garden and across the river, you must now take on the warriors of the Temple itself. You must prove your worthiness on the eyes of Kwon by mastery of the samurai sword. But even as you defeat your last for, the Master awaits, for he is to administer the final test.The owl is an omen of good. If flies over your head to land on a post in the foreground. This has to be one of the best non-essential graphics ever seen in a game. It flies, lands, blinks and turns it's head before flying off again.As you thrash the lifeblood from your enemies, life goes on as normal on the mystical Island of Tranquil Dreams. Traders shift their wares from place to place, pausing to rub their hands; old women trundle past pushing wheelbarrows, stopping to scratch their heads. Moral: don't stand near old ladies.We're into ninjury time here! The combatants you face in the Temple grounds are your fellow ninjas, plus a tankful of tiger-headed temple guards. They are the most deadly warriors you'll have faced in your test so far. When you've beaten them, you must face your own master, Naijishi, a true master of the sword.The Head Splitter has to be the best move! You thrash the sword straight down onto somebody's head, chopping it in two. Bleurgh! Once again, employ defensive moves to conserve your inner Force - duck, hop back and block to avoid the blows of the evil warriors.