Before I start, I must once again remind you that this will be a review for yet another substandard Commodore 64 conversion of one of my favorite arcade games of all time. Black Tiger, an incredibly strong contender in a long lineup of platform bash 'em ups starring barbarian characters, and one of the three members of my own favorite arcade trilogy of platform action games alongside Tecmo's Rygar and Taito's Rastan Saga, both of which got shafted pretty hard in the Commodore 64 conversion department -- Rastan Saga because of some pretty frustrating rope sections and bland graphics, and Rygar being a blatant, rushed load of betrayal all together.
And then, there's Black Tiger, which... isn't all that bad, really. Oh, don't get me wrong; I'm NOT particularly pleased with this conversion, most of which has to do with how Softworks chose to only keep enough of the game for it to feel vaguely familiar, but also because they changed around a whole lot of stuff, most of which can be contributed to the build of the stages.
There's also the fact that a whole lot of elements of the games have been taken out, even where it makes no sense to. If you are a fan of the arcade game, you'll recognize the skeletons and the regular axe-wielding grunts easily enough. They're actually the parts of the game that made it through intact... mostly. The flaming fauns are also there, but this time you won't be able to attack their fireballs. The flowers are there, but they do not poison you as far as I could tell. And lastly, the enemy I like to refer to as the "fire-breathing michelin man" is also there, but he too is reduced to firing the same generic shots as the flaming faun.
The number of stages has also been reduced from the arcade's eight to six. Not the worst reduction... well, until you realize it's a 25% reduction at that. On the flipside, the stages are at least sufficiently large, so you won't be completing them in a hurry, even after you've begun mastering this game. And that's when you'll realize that a great number of enemies seems to be missing too. The flying devil that starts in a ball. The crows. The rock traps. Even the pink ninja is curiously absent, which is a strange thing to say about a ninja -- more so a pink one -- but still...
And yet, unlike Rastan Saga or Rygar, Black Tiger still isn't terrible. It controls pretty good, and no parts of the game really feels unfair. The bosses look a little unimpressive -- the bouncing blocks from the first stage actually look more imposing than the dragons of the latter stages, which is kind of hilarious in itself -- but the battles work pretty well by themselves. Well, with the possible exception of the battles against the humanoid dragon-beings, whose arcade fights made for tense fights because they went balls-crazy with their magical attacks, making for some pretty tense keep-your-distance fights. Whether the Commodore 64 is able to replicate this is still up in the air, but the silent stalking of these bosses doesn't mirror said fights in the slightest, even if you'll be applying the same tactic. And as for the battles against the flying dragons, that will be a good time to mention that you can't attack while jumping. What's up with that?
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the reception of this game is going to be a bit mixed. Like I mentioned, it's not a terrible game. It just isn't a very good conversion, at least not in my eyes. And the reason for that is because a whole lot of stuff seems to have been sacrificed. For what reasons, I can't really tell. If you're a fan of the arcade game, just approach this with caution, that's all I'm saying.
|GRAPHICS - 5/10|
|The graphics of Black Tiger are kind of monochrome. Stages tend to subscribe to a single color pattern throughout, and since the character and enemy sprites are kind of chunky and lacking in detail, it's quite clear that its looks isn't going to win any awards anytime soon. To make up for that, the stage design is generally clean and unobtrusive, and you can even make out various spots where you'll recognize the influence from the arcade game it's based on.|
|SOUND - 3/10|
|The thing about Capcom games in the arcade is that they tended to reuse a lot of the sound effects in the 80's. For instance, if you played Forgotten Worlds as well, you would get constant reminders about who created this game. On a further unfortunate note, the music in the arcade version had a whole slew of memorable tunes, only one of which got more or less directly converted: the bonus stage theme. The remainder of the themes and the sound effects are by and large unremarkable.|
|PLAYABILITY - 7/10|
|The game actually does a lot to make your play sessions pleasant and fun. For instance, turning around while crouching, even while rapidly attacking, is actually not a problem. And if you think that sounds like a weird thing to bring up, then that's only because you haven't had the lack of that infuriate you in Ghouls 'n Ghosts or experienced it poorly handled in Rygar like I have. Hell, having even up on the stick as jumping isn't really a problem. On the flipside, the absence of a jumping attack puzzles me, as it wouldn't have taken away from this conversion. In fact, I see it as more of a requirement during some of the fights, especially certain boss fights.|
|OVERALL - 5/10|
|So, I guess there's only questions that remains. Is Black Tiger a good game? Yes and no. It's a decent game. Is it a good arcade conversion? Not particularly. It's not horrible, but its had too much stripped out of the arcade original. One thing the arcade Black Tiger had over its contemporaries (and members of my arcade trilogy of excellence) Rygar and Rastan Saga is its explorative nature and possibilities for upgrading your equipment, and that has been kept in this conversion. All in all, Black Tiger is an above average game, but an under average arcade conversion. I guess you're just going to have to decide where your loyalities lie before you embark on this quest.|