Cinemaware made some pretty good games when they were around starting twenty years ago in the mid 80’s like defender of the crown and rocket ranger. All of them were very movielike in the way they played as it had lots of cinematic intermissions which was pretty unique in those days. Lords of the rising sun takes the basic formula of defender of the crown with you controlling one of the lords of the country trying to take over the country. This time though it’s not medievil Engeland but 12th centure Japan.

The game starts right after the shogun, the military ruler of all of Japan, Yorimasa has died and now ofcourse the country is in a state of civil war as all the great lords want to have that title. You can play as either of two brothers: Yorimoto or Yoshitsune each of which controls a few territories in the north. Yoromoto is a bit of a fighter so if you choose him you will have to play all the minigames like the battles, bowshooting and sieges yourself. Yoshitsune is quite the opposite and he has excellent skills which will allows you to concentrate on the strategic part. Either way each of the brothers has three castles at the start and two generals which you can command. The rest of Japan is under control of mostly the Taira clan (reds) and several ronin who only serve themselves (grey).

If you wish to become shogun the only way to achieve this is to conquer all the castles in Japan, all fourteen of them, after which the Emperor will grant you the title. This is easier said than done with all the battles and such but at the start at least not all castles have allied themselves with a clan yet and you can simply ask them for their help and they will not put up any resistance. Towns act in the same way but they have less strategic value as castles are the only place where troops can be replenished. Towns can serve as resting points as can monastaries but these will always remain neutral. You can easily see how you or your general is doing by rightclicking on the map and the left bar will show the size of that army and the right bar shows the fatigue of the army and general. Take care not to let them tire out from battling and traveling because once the bar drops to zero the general will die and there is no easy way to get new generals. The only way to do this is when you run into a ronin who is starting to get weak and ask him for an alliance, if he does he will join your clan and he is yours to command.

The main part of the game takes part on the map of Japan and you’ll have to work your way towards the rest of the island taking over the castles and such. Enemy castles will have to be sieged and you must battle enemy armies standing in your way. You’ll have to take care what commands you give because this is not a realtime strategy game like you know today, armies march slowly and can easily take a minute or more to get to their destination depending on how far you send them. Some castles also allow travel by boat, these are longer routes but the good thing is you travel twice as fast and there are no naval battles so you are safe while you travel. Ofcourse at times you’ll have to defend your castles as well but you can only do this when one of your general is at that particular castle so it pays to protect them.

All the different battles can be played as minigames as well. The standing army battle where you control different troops and can chase the enemy general on horseback when he tries to escape, this will allow you to kill the general thus making your life a bit easier. The siege where you must enter the castle and hack down guards and get into the inner part of the castle to take it over. The castle defence where you fire arrows at incoming soldiers from high atop the castle. Finally when an enemy sends a ninja to assasinate you you have to defend yourself with only you katana sword. You can send a ninja yourself but if he’s caught he might mention your name and you will be forced to commit seppuku, suicide, and ending your rain of power.

Lords of the rising sun is such a great game, if you enjoyed defender of the crown you have to try this. The mix of action and strategy is good and with Yoshitsune you can even just go for the strategy and only play the minigames if you really need or want to. Sure the game has some flaws like when there is more than one general at the same place it’s difficult select them (to do it rightclick and shuffle through the generals by clicking on his name and then selecting them. Also the controls in the actions sequences are a bit sluggish but you can learn to live with these shortcomings. All in all the game is definately worth playing for anyone and you should get this as soon as you can.

Overal rating: 8/10

Erde Kaiser

note: Ohyeah to tell you the truth I have never come across a proper working version anywhere else on the net not even Cinemaware’s own (now defunct) website. On those versions a ninja will constantly attack you and your brother. For Yoritomo it will mean an unplayable game with constant attacks and for Yoshitsune it means his health is constantly at rock bottom. This version doesn’t have those problems so enjoy!

This game was released for several different systems here are some notes:

Amiga Released in 1988.
This is a proper working version tested with winUAE
Others These versions are not available.
PC-engine released in ?.
CD-i released in ?.
Some sources claim there are Atari ST and MS-DOS versions released but I have never seen any evidence that they actually exist.


Date added Jan-14-2007 00:33
Name Lords of the rising sun
Developer Cinemaware
Publisher Cinemaware
First released 1988
Genre Strategy