The Black Onyx

Sierra Online

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The Black Onyx is a 1984 title that you may not really heard of.  It was a role playing game which was released in Japan by Bullet-Proof Software and was written by Henk Rogers.   It was actually one of the first Japanese language RPG titles to be made and opened up the concept to the Japanese.  It was released primarily on the NEC PC-8801 and a few other platforms.

A potential western conversion was flagged up to us by contributor Robert Robichaud, who has been researching into the game.   After combing through a series of classic US magazines, he has managed to come up with evidence to suggest that a conversion to the C64 was in the works.

Sierra On-Line was one of the first western publishers to make ties with the Japanese computer game industry, after imports and conversions of their classic adventures became popular in the early Japanese games market.   With The Black Onyx, Sierra Online had acquired the rights to publish the game in the US for the C64 and Apple II.

Various references (which you can find under the Articles tab) detail the intention of the game being released, starting from 1985.  These references were very carefully extracted and brought together thanks to the excellent research work of Robert Robichaud.  One reference talks about a sequel to The Black Onyx, which wasn’t quite that – and was subject to some confusion.

Unfortunately, nothing was to appear – and a news clipping from April 1986 had John Williams confirming that the game had been scrapped due to things “not working out”.   A possible disagreement with Bullet Proof Software perhaps?  It is early days, but we hope to find out more soon via Ken and Roberta Williams and possibly see if there is a partially (or complete?) conversion to find of what would have been a very significant release (pre-dating other western Japanese RPG localizations by at least 2-3 years).

More soon we hope on this intriguing conversion!

 

 

Contributions: Robert Robichaud

Supporting content

Various extracts from press at the time about the conversion, thanks to Robert Robichaud for all of his hard work.

Computer Entertainer Volume 4, Number 2 (May 1985) page 10

“SIERRA UPDATE

We thought we’d catch up with the doings at Sierra and fill you in on the latest (see Availability Update for data changes). SIERRA CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING is now only being developed for the Macintosh, with the Apple and C64 versions shelved (the program will require 128K).  Release is scheduled for May along with a new title.  BLACK ONYX, a fantasy role-playing game for C64.”

Listed in the “Availability Update” section (page 14) of this same issue (a comprehensive monthly listing of all planned releases for the major US computer and console platforms of the era) as a May, 1985 release for the C64.

Computer Entertainer Volume 4, Number 3 (June 1985) page 14

Listed in the “Availability Update” section as a May, 1985 release for the C64.

Computer Entertainer Volume 4, Number 4 (July 1985) page 8

“A few new titles from Sierra won’t require 128K, such as  MICKEY 3-IN-1 for Apple II. This home productivity program for youngsters is being co-developed with Walt Disney Productions  and includes word processor, file manager, and telecommunications program. Another product of the Dlsney partnership will be 600FVS WORD FACTORY, where kids can dissect and construct sentences. BLACK ONYX is a licensed
role-playing adventure, currently Japan’s best-selling computer game.”

Listed in the “Availability Update” section (page 14) as a Third Quarter, 1985 release for the C64 and Apple II.

Computer Entertainer Volume 4, Number 5 (August 1985) page 14

Listed in the “Availability Update” section (page 14) as a Third Quarter, 1985 release for the C64 and Apple II.

Computer Entertainer Volume 4, Number 6 (September 1985) page 14

Listed in the “Availability Update” section (page 14) as a Third Quarter, 1985 release for the C64 and as a Fourth Quarter, 1985 release for the Apple II.

Computer Entertainer Volume 4, Number 7 (October 1985) page 2

“News from Sierra

BLACK ONYX, the U.S. version of the popular Japanese role-playing adventure, has been cancelled in all formats due to production problems.”

Computer Gaming World Vol 5.4 (September/October 1985), page 21

From an article by Roe R. Adams III called “Come Cast a Spell With Me”, about his recent trip to Japan and investigation of the computer gaming scene there:

“The top-selling Japanese designed fantasy role- playing game is Black Onyx, designed by Henk Rogers. Two of Japan’s premier magazines, ASCII and LOGIN, recently acknowledged Mr. Rogers as having the best selling adventure game of 1984. The latest release from Mr. Roger’s company, Bullet Proof Software (B.P.S.), is Demon’s Ring. It
promises to be a hit sequel to Black Onyx. In our country, Sierra is currently planning for a fall release of an American version of Black Onyx for the Apple and C-64. It is an excellent game with animated combat sequences and visual spells. Another Rogers’ game, Asteka , offers breathtaking hi-res graphics of Mexican ruins and beautiful models. ”

“For many years the Japanese-US software pipeline has been practically a private Broderbund conduit, but now there are signs that other companies may want to share the trade. The Black Onyx deal with Sierra may be the beginning of several such deals as a revitalized Sierra starts to branch out again”

Questbusters Vol III, #4 (April 1986) page 2

“Bad news for role-players who’ve been awaiting Sierra’s import of Black Onyx. the  “Wizardy” of Japan.” John Williams says they have scrapped the project because “it just wasn’t working out” But Sierra is preparing to release the first role-playing game developed in-house at that little log cabin in the foothills of Coarsegold, California. In Tower of Seven, you’ll role up a character for yourself while the computer controls four others in your party.”

It should be noted that “Tower of Seven” (also known as “Towers of Seven” or “Fantacide”) was another unreleased (and very ambitious sounding) Sierra RPG that was referenced a number of times during the same period. However, it was only planned for 128K Apple II and the 16 bit machines (including Amiga), so no apparent C64 thread to follow there.

Computer Gaming World, No. 36 (April, 1987) page 50

From the “Letters” section:

“WHAT DO READERS AND ELEPHANTS HAVE IN COMMON?

In your Sept.-Oct. ’85 issue, 5.4, an article written by Roe R. Adams III and entitled “Come
Cast A Spell With Me” described some software from Japan (Black Onyx, etc.) that would be released in the U.S. I’ve been waiting and looking and haven’t seen it anywhere yet.
R.A. Upshaw Somerville, NJ

Ed.: It’s not here, nor there, nor anywhere, so beware! Vaporware (those announced titles which never seem to show up) is a common problem. In this case, Sierra Online was supposed to have the license to market “Black Onyx” in the U.S.A. and the company has informed us that the deal with Henk Rogers’ Bullet Proof Software never materialized. Remember that Roe’s column was dealing with trade rumors and expectations at a Japanese trade show. Sierra On-Line has gone with a U. S. designer for its fantasy line. Wrath of Denethenor is available as of this writing, as well as the animated adventure series.”

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