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A worthy prequel to the eighties gamebook series
on 20 May 2014
This serves as a prequel to the eighties gamebook series ‘Way of the Tiger’. I’m not sure exactly how it has come about that a prequel has been produced almost three decades later, other than some rumours last year that if the series was to be reprinted and proved popular enough that there would also be a new prequel and sequel to the series. Surprisingly it is not written by the original authors, although it is certainly heavily influenced by them. The author has made a good effort at duplicating the style and content of the originals. He has focussed far more on the oriental aspects of ‘The Way of the Tiger’ series, however, than on the more fantasy elements. Thankfully the same combat system has also been kept and the author makes good use of it.
Set after the events of the death of Naijishi at the hands of Yeamon, ‘Ninja’ involves the reader competing against fellow rivals in a dangerous game that will allow the victors to enter the final trail to ascend to the position of a Grandmaster. This leads into first book (and, indeed, sets it up) but it is clever at not contradicting anything or leaving the adventurer with items or advantages that can be carried over that weren’t already available at the start of ‘Avenger’. A nice touch is that the reader starts with only three inner force points and that the trials overcome in this adventure increase it to the original five points.
Concentrating on the Isle of Plenty by setting the whole adventure there allows more exploration of this area than in the originals where the Isle often served as more a stopping off point on route. It also makes the adventure feel like it takes place in a feudal Japan style scenario.
There is a good variety of characters to encounter and travel/interact with. Some of these are you fellow competitors and your rivalry can be quite amicable, especially when events start to go awry. There is a lot of opportunity to play alongside different companions. Some characters that appear are from the original series and it is pretty likely that the sorcerer that plagues you and your comrades is meant to be Manse the Deathmage from ‘Avenger’.
There is some dodgy printing, particularly with the layout of the artwork. Reference numbers also occasionally appear at the bottom of the page with the text on the next page. ‘The Way of the Tiger’ title on the front cover should also have matched the text design/font featured on the rereleased series. But there is plenty to do and a reasonable variety of paths and sub-missions to opt for. This, and the choices of travelling companions, gives the adventure plenty of re-playability, more so than the original books.
Most importantly, the spirit of this prequel is close enough to that of the originals that it feels like it could have been the first part of the series.