On the first weekend of the year, I surrounded myself with thousands of sweaty nerds at MAGfest XI. I should have done a write-up about MAG much sooner than this, as my first time attending came just 15 days after the inaugural post of Protozoic, back in late 2004.
This ball-and-chain wielding, knife-spraying thug in a horned helmet is the protagonist of the Black Tiger arcade game.
This game stuck in my imagination for years, along with Gauntlet (and some unidentified game mentioned later) in defining what a sword and sorcery videogame should include. It has always been an icon of nostalgia for me. I think the only thing necessary to make this picture complete would be Benjamin Bird (the local arcade god) carrying a tube full of quarters on a lanyard.
Playing it again (now with unlimited quarters to fuel my sorry gaming skills) Black Tiger still lives up to my expectations. Gameplay is a treat, the graphics are nice (though some of the upper levels seem to have glitches), the backdrops are evocative, there hidden treasures to plunder, and sweet looking weapon upgrades to purchase.
But I think most of all I love the monsters. There are a pretty wide selection, but a couple I’ve always loved include:
At this point there’s only one other beloved arcade game of yore I’ve never been able to track down. Anyone able to find a game fitting this description would certainly earn my gratitude:
IIRC the character was a little guy with a sword. I think each level would begin with the hero falling down a shaft into a dungeon. At different points in the dungeon you could climb up using ropes. There are only three things I can remember about the monsters:
- One type of the standard wandering monsters resembled a disembodied eyeball, cut of steak, or paramecium which would bounce down the corridor toward you.
- I think there were several bosses that were dragons.
- Some of the bosses (or maybe not bosses, just opponents to be overcome?) consisted of swarms of something. Like I seem to recall one where you entered a room you couldn’t climb out of and there was a magician who would send a swarm of flying brooms or pixies or magic wands or something to attack you. But maybe I’m not remembering this accurately.