"Long Long ago, three dragons descended from skies above with a rolling thunder and destroyed a kingdom into darkness. From lengthy suffering and darkness of the kingdom came one brave fighter."
Black Tiger is a single player action-adventure platformer designed – as most arcade games were – to extract quarters from the player’s pocket as rapidly as possible. As such, death and damage to the player’s limited health comes frequently from traps and surprise attacks from enemies. This is compensated by the vast majority of dangers having static spawn points and audio cues, allowing players to learn placement in the levels through (expensive) experience. Completing the game involves surviving eight stages and defeating the final boss, using as many continues as required.
The player has a limited number of lives, separate reservoirs of health and armor, and every stage has a short time limit that can be extended. The player can only attack left and right with a long chained whip, but can do so at any time – i.e. while jumping or climbing – and also throws daggers in a 30 degree upward spread. When poisoned, the player turns a shade of purple and daggers no longer appear, weakening attacks significantly.
The levels are short and may have briefly branching paths, designated by arrows that are colored when leading to the end of the stage, and desaturated when pointing to a side-path for item collection. Additional side-routes in every level through “dungeons” result in bonus points, extra time and zenny. These are clearly identified by a doorway marked "IN" and can only be completed once per level. Losing a life within the dungeon exits the player back to the doorway in the level. At the end of every stage is a mini-boss or dragon boss, and the mini-bosses become regular enemies in later stages.
Shops, Items, Inventory and Collectibles
A signature feature of Black Tiger is the stone statues of old men, revived upon touching them. They may offer helpful hints, useless advice, add extra time, extra zenny, or let the player shop. The shop prices vary depending on platform and region in which the game was released, with the Japan releases (Black Dragon) being the most expensive and the UK releases the least costly. Within the shops it is possible to purchase weapon upgrades of stronger blade variants at the end of the whip, armor upgrades in increments of two up to a maximum of eight, chest keys and antidotes; the items never change throughout the game.
Vases and locked chests are plentiful in every level. These containers may award points, zenny, extra time, trigger traps or spawn enemies. Chest keys and bottles of poison antidote appear as pickups, as there may not be a store nearby. Chests will only open when holding keys, and poison will not afflict the player when holding antidotes. POW pickups are strategically placed in the levels to clear the screen of most enemies when collected.
Special items are also hidden behind breakable sections of walls. These sections can be located by a red puff of smoke - instead of the usual blue - when the player’s daggers impact on the walls. These items normally take the appearance of sprites seen in other Capcom games, such as barrels, bamboo, and the yashichi. These items award points, free armor upgrades, or 1-Ups.
Enemies and Traps
The variety of enemy design is broken up as the game progresses by color palette changes, which indicate stronger variants. In later levels enemies are far more likely to appear from pots and ambush the player.
- Falling Boulder - one of the most common, an audio cue warns before a boulder falls down from the top of the screen, sometimes they are visible before being triggered
- Chest Trap - an audio cue warns before jets of fire erupt in front of the chest and travel either left or right
- Spiked/Bottomless Pit - the proof of platformer, poor jumping can result in instant death
- Red Gas/Flame Jet - shoots horizontally out of certain walls for a short distance, hazardous when exploring for hidden items
- Blue Gas/Confuse Jet - same as above but also reverses left/right controls temporarily if player has no antidotes
- Skull Disc ("Spinning Scull") - indestructible spinning “coins” that have a small horizontal range of movement
- Man-Eating Plant - appears from floor at steady intervals, stuns, inflicts poison and damage
- Blob - very common enemy that can duck under weapon attacks and chase the player
- Bat - typically spawns in pairs and vulnerable to attack for a few moments before swooping at the player
- Snake - coiled and stationary on climbable columns
- Tiger - sorry, there are no tigers
- Mummy - typically emerge in succession from the background out of caves or other black areas, breathes fire and leaps
- Orc/Ogre - relentlessly approach the player once spotted or attacked, carries a shield but easily stunned by daggers
- Skeleton - spawn infinitely on multiple platforms, can jump and throw heads to attack from a distance, always drops 1 zenny coins which can be farmed if there is enough time on the clock
- Fire Demon - stationary but attacks with omnidirectional fireballs that damage for as long as the player is in contact with it, moving fireballs can be blocked by player attacks.
- Reaper/Warlock - appears in mid-air to attack with fire pillars, turns invisible and teleports when hit, must be attacked numerous times.
- Stoneface block - after being awoken by proximity, leaps and tries to crush the player
- Red Imp - transforms from a floating sphere to a fly rapidly and hurl spears
- Dragon - the three dragon bosses (red, blue and black) each have distinct attack patterns and are essentially battles of attrition
Strategies and Tips
- Weaponry should always be considered the first investment of zenny, as weapons persist after player death while the level of armor will always reset to 2. There are also free hidden pickups that will raise the armor level.
- While poisoned, the player will only brandish the chained weapon and not throw the usual spread of 3 daggers. This cuts attack power significantly and enemies will be more difficult to stun and kill.
- When fighting the first dragon, always crouch to attack when it comes close. This makes the player immune to damage while touching the dragon itself.
- After returning from a shop screen, any enemies that were previously attacking on screen when the statue was touched will be reset.
- There is a limited amount of air control immediately after jumping, but not while falling. To reach high platforms, hold up while jumping then immediately move in the direction of the platform to complete the arc.
Distribution and Conversions
While most released ports for Black Tiger have been on various computer systems, it was briefly announced in development for the NES, but was never released.
Emulation of Black Tiger outside of MAME manifested in the 1990s with the dedicated emulator Btishger, which became known for excellent playability in all areas except sound accuracy.
Atari ST / Amiga
The U.S. Gold published conversion for the Atari ST and Amiga was done by Graham Lilley, with artwork redrawn by Taoman Irmak.
Virtual Console Arcade
In late 2010/early 2011 the game was released on the Wii Virtual Console Arcade in Japan and the U.S., using 60 blocks of Wii memory. Like other VCA games, various graphical, control, and “dip-switch” settings can be tweaked as desired. Changing the video settings to 100%/100% with 2 scanlines gives a reasonably faithful appearance to the arcade game.
Xbox Live Arcade/PSN
In February 2013, Black Tiger was released on the Xbox Live Arcade store and the Playstation Network as part of the first Capcom Arcade Cabinet pack, alongside 1943 and Avengers.