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Old 05-11-2012, 03:22 PM   #1 (permalink)
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One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

You don't have to preface classic games with caveats like, "It starts slow, but after the first 20 hours it really starts to get interesting!" With few exceptions, you can play an older game for a few minutes and get an accurate sense of its worth. With that rule in mind, One-Hour Retrospectives are exactly as they sound: We'll play a classic game (like those on Virtual Console) for an hour and report back on how it goes. And if we should have given it another 19 hours before it became interesting, well, that's where you come in to keep us honest.

I've been enjoying Dragon's Dogma a lot more than I expected to based on everyone else's grumpy opinions about the game after seeing it last year at E3. But clearly this is what I get for listening to people who want totally different things from games than I do. Lesson learned: I am an island to myself.

Dogma isn't an island, though. I had a small epiphany while playing a demo of a mage tower at Captivate last month, and that in turn set me to thinking about the classic Capcom arcade games that laid down the roots for this new game -- albeit indirectly, I suppose.



Personally, I trace that not-quite-a-family-tree back to Black Tiger, a 1987 arcade game that kind of vaguely reminded me of the original arcade version of Bionic Commando. A bit. It's less cartoony, having shed the whimsical style of Capcom's previous arcade action titles (see also Ghosts 'N Goblins). But it still slots neatly into the company's idiosyncratic take on coin-op gaming, with its vague RPG mechanics (mainly an economy and shops that primarily sell things way beyond what you could possibly afford).

I was always fascinated by Black Tiger as a kid but never played much of it. I couldn't figure out what that was the case until I gave the game a shot for this blog post and realized it is ridiculously hard. Like, in a not-fun kind of way. Clearly this is a game designed to scrape every possible quarter out of a child's wallet.

The premise of Black Tiger sets it off on the right foot, at least. You're a guy in armor and you have a ridiculous number of armaments from the very beginning. This isn't your typical arcade game where you begin with a puny set of weapons and gradually level up; the hero is kind of awesome from the start. He carries a massive flail which he employs like a whip, but unlike your typical Belmont he also blasts out a spray of knives every time he swings his weapon. Imagine if the spread gun were the default weapon in Contra. Yeah.

To offset the hero's sheer firepower, the individual bits of his armory are fairly weak. He only properly inflicts damage when he strikes enemies with the full array of his attacks. In fact, poison status in the game doesn't debilitate your health; it robs you of your throwing knives, reducing your offensive capabilities to that decidely unimpressive flail.

If you this set up sounds overpowered, slow down there, cowboy. Enemies soak up a ton of damage, hit hard, appear from nowhere via ambush, and basically screw you over at every opportunity. Rocks fall from off-screen to inflict an instant, untelegraphed kill. Monsters sometimes shrug off the stun effect of your weapons, wading in to kill you before you can wear them down. Bosses bounce erratically around the screen, inflicting kills upon contact that you couldn't possibly predict or avoid.

In other words, it's an arcade game; it hates you; it wants your money. So maybe it doesn't hold up too well to the ravages of time; I'm sure the NES version would have been much more enduring, had Capcom not Mega Man Legends 3ed it. I see a number of elements in Black Tiger that the company would refine over the years, and that probably would have worked a lot better in a home version. So this one goes down in the books as a good effort, albeit a failed one. Still, the first couple of minutes, where you're wailing on bad guys and the kid gloves aren't quite off yet, remain ridiculously fun.



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Old 05-11-2012, 05:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

Black Tiger - Arcade/Coin-Op
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Old 05-12-2012, 12:06 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

Nice retrospective, Robot.
I don't know about you guys, but Black Tiger is definitely in 'my favorites'.

Despite the random factors Robot pointed out, sometimes it is possible to make progress in the game .. as long as you know where to go next!
Yep, by the second level {should I make it that far} I get lost and end up jumping around, looking for the right way until the timer {or my patience} runs out.

Thinking back to when I first played it in the Arcade, I remember being impressed by its unusual style and also the SHOP with the old guy who sold you weapons, armor, healing potions, etc.
{I still don't know what some of those things are}, and I always wanted to see more, but it's just too difficult.
Luck is a big factor in Black Tiger, in my opinion.

Don't let me scare you away from it, though - try it yourself, you may be luckier {or a better Gamer} than I am.
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Old 05-12-2012, 12:57 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

Nah, though there are some random elements the game is basically a case of memorization. I can still finish it almost every time I play it. I still keep getting back to it because it is a favorite of mine too.
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Old 05-29-2012, 11:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

I remember playin Black Tiger in the 80's at the Monroe (Louisiana) Regonial Airport decades ago!!
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Old 06-08-2012, 08:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

It holds a special place in my heart too.

It is also featured in the book "ready player one" as one of the key games to beat.
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Old 06-08-2012, 09:42 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

Quote:
Originally Posted by masayume View Post
It holds a special place in my heart too.

It is also featured in the book "ready player one" as one of the key games to beat.
First of all, I would like to say 'hi' to both Teddy Loc and Masayume and to welcome you both to Retro Uprising, the best site on the net!
{in case I hadn't already done so}

Teddy, some of my earliest memories of playing video games were brief stopovers such as your time at the airport.
I was horrible at playing them but it was so magical it left me wanting to play more .. more .. MOAR!! .. which was mainly why I was broke most of the time, but I had a great time playing.

MY, you mentioned a book: 'Ready Player One', what kind of book was it?

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Old 06-09-2012, 05:07 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

Quote:
MY, you mentioned a book: 'Ready Player One', what kind of book was it?
Thank you, really the best site ever. Glad to be one of the bunch.

"ready player one" should be a book worth reading for any fan of retro games. It's a sci-fi story in which the inventor of the most successful game in history, a virtual reality universe, dies and launches a final quest to find 3 keys to solve a riddle and claim it's whole enormous fortune. All the world starts the quest playing old video games and searching for clues on the various 80's themed planets. The book pays homage to legendary games, telefilm and movies held dear by everyone born in 70s or 80's.

Ready Player One
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Old 06-09-2012, 01:53 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: One-Hour Retrospective: Capcom's Black Tiger

^
This is one I'm going to keep an eye out for.
'Willy Wonka meets The Matrix', so it says on the cover ...

MY:
Quote:
The book pays homage to legendary games, telefilm and movies held dear by everyone born in 70s or 80's.
That's what it should read, what you said.
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