First Samurai Game Comparison
Publisher: Image Works, Ubi Soft (MS DOS), Kotobuki (SNES)
Platforms: Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS DOS, Super Nintendo
First Samurai is a 1991 platformer/beat ’em up developed by Vivid Image and published by Image Works for the Amiga, Atari ST, then later to other platforms.
The story of First Samurai revolves around a protagonist who goes on a quest as the first samurai in the history of feudal Japan, competing against rival swordsmen.
Playing the game
The aim of First Samurai is to collect a set of four items per level, this gives you access to the end of level boss.
Eating food and drinking sake help the first samurai become stronger (funnily enough, the main excuse for when I have a drink too!). Magic pots are checkpoints, you activate them with the energy of your sword.
When you kill an enemy, it releases a portion of sword energy, the player collects this automatically.
You start as a hermit in the ancient forest, eventually growing in power to fight in the towns and villages and finally the dungeons. If you use a bell in the right place, it removes obstacles blocking your path.
The levels are very well designed and a lot of detail was put in to create this game, at the time the graphics were extremely impressive too, though it has to be said the Amiga version plays at a much higher frame rate than the ST and DOS versions.
The development of First Samurai
Development for First Samurai began in July of 1990, penciled in for a September 1991 release on Amiga and ST. The One magazine ran a preview of the game in December 1990, interviewing various members of the Vivid Image team. The First Samurai’s environment was built using white blocks superimposed over the games graphics, the blocks determined attributes like collision detection, edge of the platform and whether walls are climbable.
The main theme was conceived by Paul ‘Dokk’ Docherty, a graphics artist who was watching the 1954 monster film Them!
In-game they decided to prioritise sound effects over using music, this was partially due to memory restrictions. So they made the most of this approach by using subtle sounds to create a great atmosphere for the game.
The First Samurai was limited to 25 frames per second, a Vivid Images team member said “We decided not to go for 50 frames because it’s got too many limitations. You can’t have huge area of sprites and animation if you want that kind of speed”.