Shogun (Virgin Games) Review | Amstrad Computer User - Everygamegoing

Amstrad Computer User

By Virgin Games
Amstrad CPC464

Published in Amstrad Computer User #21


Shogun is a novel by James Clavell telling the story of 17th century mariner John Blackthorne. Blackthorne is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan and finds himself in the middle of a local power struggle. The conflict is between Lord Toranaga on one side and Lord Ishido on the other, both trying to gain the position of supreme military commander, Shogun. Blackthorne is threatened not only by the whims of his captors but by the presence of the Spanish clergy who are busy exporting the 17th century equivalent of transistor radios and motorbikes.

The game, written by Virgin's Gang of Five, steers a course away from the main stream of the book. The object is for you to become Shogun. The default is that you take on the role of Blackthorne although it is possible to select a peasant or samurai character to play. The game is not so much arcade adventure like Sorcery - also by Virgin - but more an arcade strategy game. There are lots of screens as there are in Sorcery, and a character to move around, but there is more to do than moving and zapping.

You start by selecting your character and then appearing on the beach. The screens are very similar in appearance to Sorcery screens although not as nicely designed. At this point you are likely to meet the first character in the game. You can either choose to smile or attack him or her. This is done by first pressing the spacebar to select an icon. The joystick is then used to move a cursor to the required icon. Pointing at the smiling sun and pressing Fire selects smile mode. Now you can shoot smiling suns at the character to befriend him. If this appears to have no effect then select the knife icon and you will go into attack mode. Unless the character is exceptionally good at fighting or not a peasant or servant, you should win the fight. At this point he becomes a follower and you can order him around. The idea of the game is to gain twenty followers before seeking an audience with the Emperor.

Ordering someone is done by selecting the exclamation mark in a speech bubble and pointing a cursor at the character you want to command. If the character is a follower you may order him to either assassinate one of the other characters, get an object, or protect a character or guard an object. There are several objects dotted around the game like swords, shields, helmets, money and food. Money can be accumulated and spent on bribes. Food is picked up and eaten to replace strength lost in fights and movement. The other objects can be given to other characters to gain their loyalty.

Among the other icons that can be used are functions for examining characters and objects, pausing the game, saving a position, giving away an object, and surrendering in a fight.

Initially you will spend your time exploring the many screens in Shogun. I counted more than 100 so it's quite a big game.


If you ignore the bad bits of Shogun there is quite a good game lurking underneath. I like this type of icon-driven game but they do take a lot of getting into.

There seems to be a strong moral aspect to this game with smiling and giving gifts to win people over. Of course, if that fails you cut 'em up a bit. I have to admit that I didn't spend a great deal of time playing the game as I found the jerky movement put me off.


The first thing to realise is that Shogun is a strategy game. This is a brilliant way of presenting a strategy game but it is a two-edged sword: Zapp 'em merchants are likely to buy it and be disappointed while the brainy types who would enjoy the program will give it a miss once they see that it is full of sprites.

This is where the book tie-in may come in handy. If people buy the game because they liked the book then they will be the type to get hooked by the game. I'm sure that if I had a little more patience then I would be much more enthusiastic but, as with Lords Of Midnight, it was too much work to get started. OK, so I'm lazy.


Sorcery fans beware! Shogun is quite good in its own way but it isn't Sorcery II. Gone is the smooth animation and nice effects to be replaced by icons and jerky flickering sprites. There are dozens of screens but a lot of them are naff. Worse than this, the program is full of bugs, Ladies turn into Lords halfway through the game and sprites get duplicated in rivers. Having said that, none of these things stop it being a playable game. I managed ten followers before I pushed my luck and attacked a samurai. Maybe I should have given him a shield!