If there’s a common theme in CF’s Top Ten Games, it’s that of care. By 1992, too many releases were mediocre cut down versions of their Amiga and console counterparts. The excuse was that the C64 just wasn’t powerful enough anymore.

Clearly, nobody sent that memo to First Samurai programmers, Vivid Image. This game’s as big as the lead 16-bit version on the Amiga and it reeks of care and attention to detail.

The setting is Eastern Asia. You’re a young Samurai. One day, a demon King arrives and razes your village to the ground. You’re the only one left, and with the help of a wizard you’re sent to the future with a magic sword to avenge the death of your master.

Now you might think that this is the cue for some relentless slashing. And there is a lot of that: the game’s frantic pace never lets up. There’s always something to fend off or dodge. But this game is thoughtful: to progress, you need to regularly call on your spirit master to solve certain puzzles. For example, there’s a waterfall in level one. To pass it, you need to find and collect four logs. Then, you ring a bell. Your guide will appear, placing the logs across the gushing water and allowing you to cross.

You start the game in the wilderness of your village. Cherry blossoms fall. You pass statues of Buddah. The skies aren’t the oh-so-familiar deathly black of so many 8-bit games. They’re a hazy purple, with trees native of Asia silhouetted in the background. Later, you navigate a speeding train before taking to the grotty backstreets of a Bangkok style city and drop into the sewers. Finally, there’s a futuristic landscape which is pure Bladerunner. It’s an absolute joy to navigate.

Everywhere in First Samurai there are puzzles to solve, demons to beat and things to collect. The game’s enormous. So many 8-bit titles lack Samurai‘s true feeling of space and the ability to wander around and do what you want in whatever order. If you get stuck, there’s a pretty smart hint system. But it’s unlikely you’ll ever get frustrated. There’s more than one way to suss  the game, and it’s so beautifully presented you’ll be enjoying yourself far too much to care. CF

CF SAID: “Destined to become one of the all-time great C64 games”. 

WE SAY: If only every other Commodore game was programmed with such skill and care. A real treat. Thanks, Vivid Image!