Samurai Warrior was a comic book licensed arcade game originally written by Beam Software (in Australia) for the Commodore 64. They wanted to avoid turning the game into a standard hack & slash (beat ’em up) game, and decided to add some strategic decisions into the design to give the game more depth.
Unfortunately, as the game was being developed, some of the grander design ideas had to be discarded due to the usual ‘lack of memory’ problems. A map with branching paths was pruned back, and character interactions were also reduced. However, the game still had enough variety to make it stand out from the other scrolling beat ’em ups of the day, including gambling, acknowledging wandering peasants (to gain karma), eating food and sharing wisdom with priests.
Once Firebird had signed up the C64 version, they turned to a brand new developer based in Leeds, Yorkshire called Source to write Spectrum and Amstrad CPC conversions. The graphics for the conversions were created from scratch by Source's resident graphic artist Ross Harris, using Rainbird's Advanced OCP Art Studio on the Atari ST. Not all of the graphics created for these conversions ultimately appeared in the released game, due in part to the character's being drawn as big (if not bigger) than the C64 original despite a smaller playing area.
Within the TelecomSoft development department, the game was affectionately referred to by some of the game testers as 'Ninja Bunny' throughout its development. The marketing department also produced a limited number of 'Usagi Yojimbo' T-shirts to celebrate the game's launch.
Thanks to Ross Harris for his memories, and thanks also to Retro Gamer magazine (issue 29) for the additional anecdotes!
Black & White
Despite the C64 and CPC versions looking prettier and more colourful than the Spectrum version, in many ways the Spectrum version was closer to the original comic book because the comic was black & white!