YOU become a samurai, the hired muscle and champion of the local shogun.
The Shogun of Hachiman gets his power from a magic sword named Singing Death, but the sword has been stolen away to the Pit Of Demons by a shadowy figure named Ikiru. While Ikiru can’t yet use the sword for his own powers, the Shogun’s powers are waning. Barbarians have been raiding, villagers are becoming insolent, and the local lords are bucking to usurp the Shogun entirely.
You are your Shogun’s champion, charged to bring back the Singing Death, end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galax… to the demesne.
Review and Opinion
This one was quite a lot of fun, even if by virtue of being perhaps too easy. I found one solution after only 4 tries over the course of 2 hours.
The game play is fairly basic: no potions, no gold pieces, no pieces of a code to collect and decipher, no 3 keys at the end. But it does introduce two new elements that completely change gameplay: Honor, and a Special Skill.
Honor is a new statistic. It starts off at 3, then goes up and down as you act your part. If you back down from a fight or forget that you’re better than everyone else, you lose Honor; if you punish insolence but reward goodness, you gain Honor. If your Honor hits zero, you commit seppuku. If it gets high, though, you can moxy your way out of some situations.
You choose your Special Skill at the start: Archery, Acrobatic Jumping, Quick Strike, and Two Swords. Many of them have applications in combat, but at some points in your adventure they can change your path in neat ways. Acrobatic Jumping sounds really goofy, but there are at least two spots where it gets you out of a jam and changes the dynamic.
Sword of the Samurai does reintroduce Provisions, which means you can heal any time you’re not in combat. I say reintroduce since the last few books I’ve played (Freeway Fighter, Rebel Planet, Citadel of Chaos) have not had this.
I found my first solution after only a couple of hours, then spent a second evening finding the other routes; there appear to be an easy way and then a tougher, more honorable way. Along the way, I was:
- I was beaten to death by insolent villagers who turned anarchist when they found out that the Shogun is weakened.
- I got eaten alive by flying decapitated heads with chattering teeth.
- I drowned in the Spider Fens and eaten by a kraken in the Spider Fens – though somehow the spiders were not as dangerous.
- I was lasered by a fifteen-foot-tall golem with frickin’ laser beams for eyes.
- I recruited a wizard and a sea serpent to tag-team with me in the ring.
- I dispelled a shadow demon just with my own radiant awesomeness (okay, the magic sword’s radiant awesomeness).
My eventual success was largely on account of having rolled a Skill of 12 and thus being able to beat my way through most problems including the Tourney Of The Planes. With a lower Skill this would have been very difficult indeed, and I probably would have needed the extra help from taking the longer path. This is why I really do play these books repeatedly and figure out every path; I really do get my money’s worth out of these books!
The Tourney Of The Planes
The Tourney Of The Planes consists of 4 battles: three pets, then the Dai-Ono (demon) himself, then usually his ghost. You can pick up allies before you head into battle, assuming you got the prerequisite items or honor points. You likely won’t get the perfect trio, and may end up feeding some of your allies to the beasts ineffectually. See Victor’s comment below for more information.
- Elder Plain. Sabre Tooth Tiger. Effective against the toad demon. Requires the horn (western route, bridge, successful fight).
- Holy Mountain. Ki-Rin. Effective against the golem but as a prelude to using Eleanor also. Requires that you have Honor of 5+.
- Pinnacle. Tatsu. Effective against the mantis demon. Requires meeting Tatsu in the forest and answering his riddles (western route).
- Wood. Eleanor. Effective against the golem but only after you have used the Ki-Rin against the golem. Requires Water Of Knowledge (eastern route, Pagoda).
- Sands. Phoenix. Not effective at all. Requires the Phoenix Ruby (eastern route, Kappa).
- Swamp. Sea monster. Effective against the toad demon. Requires the Great Elk antler (eastern route).
- Tower. Knights of the Golden Company. Effective against the golem. Requires the war fan (western route, Tsietsen’s castle).
Written by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson
Illustrated by Alan Langford
Book 20 in the series
- SidekickCast, PJ Montgomery’s review of Sword of the Samurai
- Pestridge reviews SoS on YouTube
- Seven Fourteen Seven plays Sword of the Samurai
- MALthus Dire reviews Sword of the Samurai
- Justin Parallax plays Sword of the Samurai
- A spoilerific walkthrough over at FF Proboards
This is an ancient “game”, so who cares, but you have some errors here. In the ToP, you can have 4 allies. On the W route, you must have the tiger, so you must get the horn. Fail to get the horn, and the toad kills you. You definitely want the tatsu, but that’s easy. You want the war fan to beat Gargantus, so you have to kill Tsietsin; this also gives you a healing potion, which is very important, and also gives you more honor, which is nice but not critical. You definitely want the Ki-Rin to wipe out the Dai-Oni’s magic. Then the tatsu wipes out the Dai-Oni’s spirit. On the E route, you must get the antler to get the serpent, or the toad kills you. The ruby gets you the phoenix, which wipes out the mantis. It will cost you 2 skill to get the map to get Eleanor, who wipes out Gargantus. That’s a tough decision. You can’t get the Ki-Rin on this route, so the Dai-Oni is very dangerous, and you also have to fight his ghost personally. The E route is much too difficult, unless you roll 6666 on 4d6 at character generation, and/or get very lucky on all die rolls.
Thanks a lot for your notes on this. I’ll link to your comment, and review my book and your notes. Good stuff here.
I rather enjoyed having four special skills to choose from — special skills or the like, such as Temple of Terror, Midnight Rogue, and other memorable books — and gives the book a replayability not always found. On your journey to slay Ikiru and bring back Singing Death, it really does feel you’re on an epic quest, no matter if you choose the western or eastern route. The rogue Lord Tsietsen feels three-dimensional, the village with the charcoal burners turns out scary AF, and the Tourney of the Planes unique! Great book.
I agree! I love the ones with skills to choose, or with a choice of spells. It makes for multiple solutions to problems.
It really is an epic quest, covering a lot of environments to explore. And yeah those skull things were awesome!