Black Tiger Amiga

Ports, alternate versions and similar games.

Amiga 500.

So, the Amiga version sucked. Which is odd as Black Tiger (arcade) "looks like an Amiga game". In the composite Arcade/Amiga screenshot (right) you can see that the game has lost most of its palette (16 garish colours replace the arcade's more somber 64 colour palette) the conversion artist has tried to fix this with dithering but the result is much harder on the eye. What's worse is that on a 1Mb Amiga 500 the game ran at what felt like about 6 frames a second; it was jerky, slow to respond and just basically unplayable. Somehow the developers managed to turn a game known for richly colourful sprites and backgrounds, fluid animation and scrolling into an ugly, frustrating facsimile of the original that made Amiga 500 owners doubt the power of their hardware.

There's a rumor that the Amiga version was ported from the Atari ST version hence the graphical downgrade, I don't know if that's true and haven't played the ST version. In screenshots they definitely look very similar if not identical. I doubt the ST version plays any better?

I tried the Amiga version again much later using WinUAE on my PC and setting the emulated 68000 CPU to max. It was almost playable, so I guess the original game was CPU limited on the Amiga?

Black Tiger C64


My expectations of Black Tiger on the C64 were pretty low and happily they were easily met. My copy was part of one of those compilation packages Ocean used to put out, the ones that had one or two top quality games mixed in with four or five shovelware games. Black Tiger was very much one of the latter.

Oddly, I did actually get some play out of this port which makes it better than the Amiga version. The level design and enemies are all scrambled about making this a game that references Black Tiger but isn't at all the same game. Probably the most Black Tiger-ish part is the player sprite, who manages to look and act like his arcade brethren if much chunkier and less fluid. The main nuisance with this version is the incessant tune that plays endlessly and is only vaguely like anything in the original game, I cant help but think this was one of those generic library tunes that someone made and the dev's bought it on the cheap. Like many arcade ports to the C64 not much of the original appeal remains and the ole' hardware really shows its age trying to replicate the greatness of the arcade version.

Black Tiger C64


Little is known of this mysterious version except that it was canned. Shame, because even from this one fuzzy screenshot you can see there's some new stuff, it hints at a more polished 8-bit treatment of the game compared to the C64 and Speccy.






Black Tiger Spectrum


I never owned a Speccy and being a sucker for muticolour graphics I always looked at the Spectrum screenshots on game boxes and cringed (sorry Spectrum owners). It's worth noting that while the gfx are monochrome they are very detailed (more so than the C64). After a few minutes playing it using emulation I can say it's probably something only a nostalgic speecy fan could love. The controls are quite laggy (this could be the emulator) and the first level layout is scrambled, sound and graphics are an example of speccy-tastic minimalism. Beyond curiosity value, I can't find much to recommend it over other conversions.




Black Tiger CPC

Amstrad CPC.

I repaired a friends Amstrad CPC one afternoon and played a few games on the thing. The impression I got is that it was something like a C128 with hires mode gfx as well as a mode that was similar to what the C64 could do (my memory is fuzzy on the detail). CPC Black Tiger has a strong graphical similarity to the Speccy version yet with curious differences here and there. The CPC version features music that is actually very similar to the arcade and not as hard on the ear as the C64's effort.






Black Tiger Arcade

Xbox etc.

The modern versions are just emulation. While this gives a fairly authentic experience depending on input method, it doesn't bring anything new to the game. At least the C64 and Amiga versions had some value in comparing the differences, even if gameplay took a dive. There's an opportunity for developers to use the original arcade version as inspiration for something new on vastly more powerful modern hardware. I'd find this approach more worthwhile than the uninspired act of reheating old IP through emulation. Having said that, I don't know if I'd be all that enthused by a 3D FPS version?






Alternative version.

Black Dragon Title

Black Dragon.

Black Dragon is the Japanese version of Black Tiger (or BT is the Western version of BD). It's exactly the same game with a few more falling rock traps and extra enemies and slightly more difficult bosses. Also, the hidden items have different graphics and the Zenny values are tweaked to make it harder to get the expensive items. Essentially it's a harder version of the same game. It's worth playing for the Black Tiger veteran for the shock value of being hit by the falling rocks in places you don't expect and for forcing you to play through the latter levels without "The Mop".







Similar Games.

Magic Sword Hero 1

Magic Sword Hero 2

Magic Sword.

Following on from Black Tiger, Capcom released a similarly themed game called Magic Sword. It's similar in that it contains the same attention to detail in the beautifully drawn sprites and backgrounds and it's a fantasy platform game, but there isn't a strong connection between the heroes or enemy characters. Gone is Black Tiger's innovative Yo yo morning star in favour of a more generic sword or halberd. The shop, one of BT's strong points is gone too, now you just pick up weapon upgrades as you go along. This is a shame because it reduces the player's options and level of involvement. On the positive side are the selectable side-kicks you can free from prison cells along the way. They add some variety to your attacks and progress up levels like the hero characters. Also, the game is two player simultaneous which is more fun than standing to one side watching as in Black Tiger. There's a number of other improvements like the smart bomb attack and numerous power-ups and the pace is somewhat faster and more frivolous than Black Tiger. This does mean that there is less opportunity to admire the richy detailed artwork which is quite a bit more detailed and varied compared to BT's black and tiled approach. Overall the game isn't as compelling or addictive as Black Tiger and completing the thing is far less fulfilling, the game becomes a bit of a chore after the first 15-20 floors/levels. With Black tiger it was possible to learn the level layout and enemy behavior, Magic Sword feels like a messier affair, with multiple unavoidable enemies attacking in a seemingly random fashion and horizontally linear levels that quickly become repetitive. Normally I like a long game but Magic Sword's 51 floors need a lot more variety to keep the player interested, making it feel like about 30 floors too many.

Satan on Amiga




Satan (Amiga).

Satan is an Amiga game that is often quoted as a Black Tiger clone. The game is really two games glued together, in one you play a warrior and in the other a magician. The warrior game is the one that resembles Black Tiger. I'm not all that familiar with this game as I've only played it briefly and couldn't abide the clumsy control lag. Jumping is unnecessarily annoying and its easy to accidentally over jump meaning you will jump to a pillar then jump right off the other side. Also the level design seems arbitrary, just an area for the player to roam without any real structure or reason. The enemies are interesting and varied but don't react to your hits so they will keep coming even when you lay a stack of knives in their face. You can either fire off a few hits and retreat, repeat or get bored of that and just let them come and take some damage while you lay in the final blows. Incidentally, why do the tiny little men hurt you on contact when you're at least twice their height, surely you should be able to squash them by just treading on the little buggers? Now I'm getting picky, maybe they're Nac Mac Feegle?

The similarities between BT and Satan are purely cosmetic, the latter game may take inspiration from the former in a few of its elements (like the spinning skull/disk) but Satan isn't a game Black Tiger fans should get too excited about.