Long Long ago, three dragons descended from the skies above with a rolling thunder and destroyed a kingdom into darkness.
From lengthy suffering and darkness of the kingdom came one brave fighter.
Ready Player 1
Save 3 Lives.
I didn't like Black Tiger the first time I played it.
It caught my eye at a harbourside fish and chip shop in Fremantle, my friend Richard and I would go for long bike rides around the river and into town and hang around the shop and nearby harbour and parks. Sometimes we'd do some fishing and catch blowies, (Blow Fish). Other times we'd just peddle around and soak up the atmosphere. If we had money we'd get lunch at the shop and play some games. They had a row of arcade machines lined up along one wall, there were maybe ten to fifteen machines and the place was rarely very crowded so we had our run of them all.
One afternoon we were going through the routine when we spotted a new machine hiding out in the middle of the row, this one had a marquee with a Barbarian looking character on it and was one of the newer machines that played attract sounds during its demo reel. The first thing that really struck me about Black Tiger was that the graphics looked so much more realistic than many of the other games at the time. The character and enemy animations were brilliant; colourful, smooth and immaculately drawn. The Orcs looked like little one-inch tall Orcs on the screen! They wielded meaty looking axes and were suitably stocky and mean. Black Tiger's Hero sprite was pretty much a tiny Conan fighting his way through the enemy hordes. I studied the demo reel carefully three or four times before I took the plunge.
My first game was pretty short lived, Black Tiger is an unforgiving game and initially kinda confusing. It plays very quickly, the tempo is fast paced and there's a lot of different enemies with varied and different attacks in the first area. Its exceedingly easy to make stupid mistakes and watch your armor drop from 2 to nothing in a few seconds. At first, it's an unsatisfying and frustrating experience. I lost my 20 cents in probably just under a minute and didn't feel inclined to pump another one into it at the time. I remember being disappointed, the graphics were so good I wanted to see more but the gameplay was so tough it didn't seem possible. I walked away and played something safer and duller, probably Jungle Hunt.
I played Black Tiger a few more times after that but didn't improve very much. Richard and I found other places to explore and visited the chip shop less regularly. Eventually, that shop changed tack and went up-market along with many others in Freo', post 1987 America's Cup. In the sanitized, tourist-friendly atmosphere there was no room for a wall of creaky arcade games and the spotty, unkempt teenagers that accompanied them.
Years later, Black Tiger came to the shops across the road from another friends place. Being familiar with the bitter sweet sensation that is Black Tiger when you're new to it, I wasn't especially inclined to throw more money at it. My friend Jase had other ideas though. Living across the road, he had access to the machine limited only by how many 20c pieces he could scrounge. It wasn't long before he could get much further than I ever had. During long Saturday afternoons hanging around with Jase, we'd eventually end up at the shop and I'd watch in awe as he bludgeoned his way through the early levels with seeming ease. Following Jase's example, I was soon smashing Ninjas on level 7 and wondering why I'd found it so tough before.
We each had a goal to complete this game, who would do it first? I can't remember the details but I know Jase beat me to it, I took that as a throw of the gauntlet and made it my mission to beat the thing as well. The final three levels are really good at removing player lives. It's important to get "the Mop" (the fire mace/morning star) as soon as possible in these levels otherwise you'll be bashing away at even the lowliest creatures and run low on time and armor. The other nasty feature is the "Lose Direction" attack; the Red Witch, Red Acid blobs and Red Plants will all spring this on you. This is a step up from poisoning, which removes your knives unless you have a potion. Lose direction is something which isn't often seen in games, it reverses the left/right controls! It's a recipe for quick death unless you can make your hand-eye motor-neurons relearn the rules really quickly. This effect, while frustrating is very clever and one of the more unique features of the game. I probably managed to complete the game a week or two later, to much fan fair and celebration... ahem. Black Tiger is one of those games that even once you have it bested, you still come back for more. Me and my mates would continue to play it on and off for some time yet, ultimately as revenues dwindled the coin-op guy replaced it with something else. 'Twas a sad day when we walked in to the deli and ole' Blackie was no more.
A while later, I moved out of my folk's house and went looking for an arcade machine to put in the games room of my new place. They were dirt cheap at the time as a lot of arcade operators were going under due to dwindling interest in the scene. Jase scored a near mint Black Tiger from one guy and I got Magic Sword, another favourite. It was pretty cool finally owning my own arcade machine after all the years of scrounging "twenties" to play the things. It's often stated that Black Tiger is the spiritual successor of Ghosts 'n Goblins, but I disagree. The two games are very different apart from being platformers. Capcom made both titles, but GnG has a more confined, linear feel compared to BT's expansive, choose-your-own-route approach. Besides GnG has its real successor in Ghouls and Ghosts. There are a few similarities between Black Tiger and Magic Sword though, and in my opinion it's the closest Capcom have come so far to making a BT sequel.
Nowadays, I play Black Tiger very rarely, via emulation. Jase still has that arcade machine packed away somewhere gathering dust. This website is my little contribution to the memory of a pretty good arcade game that gave me and my friends a lot of fun when we were growing up. It was one of those rare games that contained above average graphics and a very high level of playability, (once you get past the initial difficulty).
I'm glad I came back to it and had one more go.
I'm bound to have made mistakes somewhere, if you spot one feel free to email me some