USAGI YOJIMBO / Firebird / Commodore 64

Usagi is clunky to play, but packed with good and interesting ideas. It's based on an underground comic that's been quietly popular for two decades now, at one point I think Usagi even got a cross-over with the Ninja Turtles and an action figure in their toy line. Anyway, this badass rabbit samurai wanders anthropomorphic feudal Japan and does a bunch of stuff taken from classic samurai movies. In this particular game he's on a quest to find the kidnapped son of some panda royalty or something.

The game just scrolls from left to right in linear style basically, but there's points where you can choose from branching paths a la Castlevania 3. The interesting bit is that you're wandering through mostly peaceful villages, and meeting travelers on the road, and to maintain your all-important honor you have to be sure to bow to them respectfully as they pass. Not bowing to people slowly lowers your honor, but if it's another samurai, or a noble with a contingent of bodyguards that you snub, they may well pick a fight with you for it to boot. Random samurai also challenge you to "first blood" duels, in which the first person to land a hit wins, raising your honor if you win and lowering it if you lose (or refuse the duel.) Then there's beggars asking for money, and even a roadside gambler here and there.

The problem with it is that the combat is horribly old-school, with iffy collision detection, and no bounce-back or even visual indication when a hit is landed. For the most part its actually not that big of a problem as Usagi is simply way more powerful than most foes, plus the enemies are really not very bright and have very samey attack patterns. It's clumsy and really not that fun, though, which hampers the game since fighting is basically 3/4 of all there is to do here.

The game is more ambitious than the usual C64 game and I'd love to see a modern remake. As it is it's tough to enjoy, though.

Sound advice.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video