Classic Games Resurrected: Shadow Warrior
Developer: 3D Realms
Publisher: GT Interactive (now Atari)
Release date: May 13, 1997 (full version)
Genre: First- person Shooter
Who wants some Wang?
Years ago, just like with Blood, I didn’t play Shadow Warrior.
I picked it up not too long ago, when I had the idea to play some old classics when I saw what the online communities were doing with the source code, and how old games were being updated.
For the purpose of this review, I have played Shadow Warrior with the JFSW port and the ProAsm port. The JFSW basically just allows you to run it on XP, with no real extras, whereas the ProAsm port has extras in the game.
What is Shadow Warrior and why was (and is) it so popular?
Shadow Warrior was once known as Ninja Master during development, and then Shadow Warrior 3D.
It was developed by the renowned 3D Realms, who had brought out Duke Nukem 3D a year earlier, and was expected by some to be an even bigger phenomenon than Duke had been.
This didn’t really turn out to be true as the sales were nowhere near Duke Nukem 3D’s, and although several expansions were planned for release afterwards, they were halted, and eventually released as freeware later on.
Despite this, Shadow Warrior didn’t go completely unnoticed and featured in a number of PC magazine articles, some which I read some ten years ago. There was also a lot of talk about it at the school I went to, and ironically, it was raved about by Asian kids all over the playground.
To date, it probably was one of the first games, at least first-person shooters, besides ROTT, that let you control an Asian character; ROTT had Lorelei Ni, and Shadow Warrior, Lo Wang.
You needn’t think though, that just because Lo Wang was from the east, that he was humble and quiet. He was more like the eastern version of Duke Nukem; loud, cocky, and just as violent. He also had a great sense of humour, often telling jokes and making comments, possibly even more often than in Duke Nukem 3D.
Today, it still has a following as people continue to play and modify the game since the source code was made available in 2005.
Shadow Warrior is considered one of the big four of the build engine games, alongside Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, and Redneck Rampage, although there are several others that used the engine.
Lo Wang once worked for a man named Zilla as a bodyguard for Zilla enterprises. Master Zilla, though, had plans to take over the whole of Japan using evil creatures to do his bidding. When Lo Wang found out about this, he left Zilla enterprises, and Master Zilla, realizing that Lo Wang would be a dangerous opponent, sent his creatures after him. Lo Wang decides it is more honourable to fight than die like a coward.
• Graphics on a par with Duke Nukem 3D (they both use the same engine too).
• New features, like climbing ladders, voxels for pickups and weapons, and drivable vehicles.
• Eastern-inspired architecture and surroundings.
• Fast-paced gameplay and plenty of violence.
• Dangerous weaponry, including traditional ninja weapons like a katana (sword) and shurikens (ninja stars).
• Helpful items like repair kits, flash bombs, gas bombs and others to aid you in the field.
• Relentless enemies that attack you in droves.
• That trademark 3D Realms sense of humour.
• Uniquely designed levels.
Shadow Warrior is currently available as a free to play game on Steam, after Devolver Digital had planned to give a limited number of Steam keys out, but the promotion was exploited.
In addition to this, there's also Shadow Warrior Classic Redux, which is essentially the original game but with enhanced graphics, a new soundtrack, and Steam Achievements.
Overall, it looked similar to Duke Nukem 3D, with a little improvement in the way that items and weapons were displayed on screen, using voxels instead of sprites, which was first seen in Blood, another Build engine game.
There was more detail with the gory bits. When an enemy was blown up, there would sometimes not only be blood left behind, but also pieces of flesh and bone and gibs.
Nowadays, the game looks a lot better, especially when using the ProAsm Shadow Warrior port. The levels’ architecture is now more 3D than before with none of the ‘stretching’ that would happen when looking up and down in the original. The textures look a little crisper with some of them having been remodeled completely.
There’s also a High Resolution Pack available with ProAsm’s port as well.
It is claimed that Shadow Warrior doesn’t use conventional MIDI music, but Expanded MIDI (EMIDI). This means that the music might sound a little different.
Lee Jackson once again created the songs for this game, just like he had done with Duke Nukem 3D, and many people claim that, even though there aren’t that many songs in the game, that he did a good job with them.
MIDIs, or in this case EMIDIs, are notoriously fickle when running on modern O/Ss. Sometimes they sound terrible, or else they don’t run at all. Switching them off usually saves a lot of frustration in the long run.
The JFSW port doesn’t have good (if any) support for music.
With the ProAsm port, there is great support for the songs, and they sound good, with little in the way of skipping.
Mark McWane, to date, has remade one song from Shadow Warrior, and that is the theme tune that starts up at the main menu.
The sound consists chiefly of three things; weapons firing, enemies crying, and Lo Wang laughing and carrying on, butchering the English language as he goes. Now Sound is also a common problem with old games running on modern systems, with the sound either not working at all or being much distorted. The JFSW port doesn’t have good sound support, with a lot of skipping in the dialogue, taking a lot away from the experience. The ProAsm port, which is based on the JFSW one, plays sound excellently.
A new Shadow Warrior game, a reboot which is in development at Flying Wild Hog studios and published by Devolver Digital, should be out sometime in 2013. Fingers crossed that this one pays homage to the original. The developers claim that it won't be as sexist or racist, and will be more politically correct.
It’s mostly the same run and gun affair, collecting keycards and old fashioned keys to access areas, all the while blasting through enemies as they throw themselves at you in typical kamikaze fashion. This can especially be said about the guys who run around with a box full of TNT.
I found the game to be much faster and more difficult than both Duke Nukem 3D and Blood. There are some novelties though, such as having alternate fire modes for your weapons, for even more carnage, as well as the presence of tanks, boats and other things that can be commandeered and used to assist your cause. There are a lot of secrets to find throughout the game, but they are surprisingly easy to find for the most part.
There’s not much change in the gameplay even with the ports, as most of the focus goes on updating the graphics and other areas, like music and sound and even the controls. One thing that has changed a little is that there seem to be more options available from the menu.
Pretty standard fare; you could jump, crouch and you had mouse support.
A few things have change with the ProAsm port, as you are able to customize your controls from the desktop using the setup launcher, and you can also map a key for alternate fire mode instead of having to press a weapon key more than once.
Observations and other comments
The question of whether Lo Wang is Chinese or Japanese has been discussed.
His utterances can be tied to both countries like, “Ancient Chinese secret!” and “Just like Hiroshima!” assumed to be Chinese and Japanese respectively.
One thing that can be said is that if Lo Wang is Chinese, then he cannot be a ninja, as ninjas are historically Japanese. Perhaps this is why the game’s working title of Ninja Master was changed to Shadow Warrior.
When Lo Wang utters, “How’s that for kung fu you chicken sh@t!” it is interesting to note that kung fu is a Chinese martial art and ninjas, who are Japanese, practice ninjitsu.
Lo Wang’s way of speaking is typically guttural, Japanese sounding. A Chinese person would generally have a more tonal way of speaking.
The game is set in Japan, and this is proved through the game’s story. At the start of the shareware version of the game, Lo Wang starts off in his dojo, and ‘dojo’, being a place to practice martial arts, is a Japanese word.
The characters with the hats are referred to as 'coolies' in the manual, and are historically Chinese; the hat they wear even looks Chinese. 'Coolie' is now a dated term and is even considered racist. Years ago it meant an unskilled labourer from China, India and some other Asian countries.
Sumo wrestling is a Japanese past time.
The weapons, like the katana and shurikens, are Japanese.
Fortune cookies in their current form were first served in California by immigrants who based the cookie on a traditional Japanese cracker. The cookies are little-known in mainland China or Taiwan. The ingredients used to make them are different.
Bonsai are originally from China but the Japanese adopted it among other mainland practices. ‘Bonsai’ is Japanese whereas ‘Penzai’, the original term, is Chinese.
The terms ‘bonsai’ and ‘banzai’ are not the same thing. ‘Bonsai’ is the art of growing an artificially dwarfed tree, and ‘banzai’ is a Japanese battle cry and form of greeting to an emperor, meaning ‘ten thousand years (of life to you)’.
There are mixes of Japanese and Chinese references throughout the game, and it has been suggested that either the developers didn’t do their research, or Lo Wang and Shadow Warrior were meant to be Asian, and convey Asian stereotypes.
Some characters are designed with the anime art style, and Anime is Japanese in origin.
Wikipedia states that Lo Wang is Chinese-Japanese.
Bugs and other issues
With the JFSW port, there is a tendency for it to crash unexpectedly to the desktop. It also doesn’t have very good support for music or sound.
What I think of it now
Shadow Warrior continues on and has a cult following, but it hasn’t aged as well as Duke Nukem 3D and doesn’t have nearly as much in the way of different ports and enhancements as other games. It does have a lot of TCs and add-ons that are developed by fans.
It’s something different from all the American themed games of its time and I enjoyed playing it and the two expansions.
What do you think of Shadow Warrior?
© 2008 ANDR01D