Return of the Tiger

1992 Gremlin

Platforms: Commodore Amiga, Nintendo Game Boy (+ potentially others)

Tucked away in a news page in Commodore User magazine was a snippet that talks about Gremlin being set to update an old 8-bit classic – The Way Of The Tiger. Once again casting the player as a fighting hero who must participate in a number of events.

Nothing else was really mentioned and the line went dead at this point.

Upon further searching, we came across Brian Beuken’s page on his past works, where he mentions a number of unreleased projects, including Return of the Tiger. Here it was a Game Boy project, where he had the following to say:

“My first attempt a GB project for Gremlin, but it was over-scoped and I tried to make the GB do too much scrolling and it ended up being unworkable and canned.”

Apart from a mention in GameZone magazine in November 1991, there was little else that seemed to be mentioned about the development, and at this moment in time we don’t have a clear indication of how this game was going to look and feel.

Was it perhaps to be similar to Avenger, which was basically a sequel to Way of the Tiger that came a year later in 1987? Or something more akin to the original?

We contacted Brian to find out more, where he revealed that Ian Stewart was keen for a sequel to the original game, and with Brian happening to turn up looking for work. Brian recalls pitching a “rather flowery” plot line to Ian, which he can no longer recall much of, but it got him the gig on the game.

Gremlin had just made themselves some very big and expensive boxes full of RAM and other circuitry to act as a sort of unofficial dev kit for the Game Boy. Amazingly, they let Brian take this home to work on it along with a slightly customized copy of B.R.I.E.F to use as an IDE, and a copy of the Nintendo manual.

“It probably cost more than my car, which was a thought that kept me focused as cars got too close on the motorway home. I kept worrying that if I got rear ended with those big boxes in my boot, my insurance wouldn’t cover it.” recalled Brian.

Brian would set to work experimenting to see what he could do, and was instantly bamboozled by the 10 sprites on a line limit and the painfully slow access to the video RAM. He felt it was a very poor machine to try and do anything apart from what the hardware dictated.

However, after some more messing around, Brian came up with a way to do a 3 layer parallax scrolling system (which he feels at the time would have been something new on the system). The game would be based upon this system, so Brian took a scrolling demo back to Gremlin and showed Ian and James North-Hearn (the development manager). Gremlin agreed for the project to continue, and Tim May was assigned to do the artwork.

The idea for the game was to have a ninja/samurai who wanders along the back roads of parallax scrolling Japan, fighting off odd little demon baddies along the way. There would be large sprites and lots of animation, though would prove to be too big to keep in memory, and flickered like mad.

“It seemed a good idea, but there were a lot of issues keeping the parallax scroll going, getting the sprites to look convincing and having any kind of interesting game play.” explained Brian. “Tim and I spent a few all-nighters in the Gremlin office trying to pull it all together into a working game but it just didn’t happen. Ian came to check on us after one such session, and wasn’t too happy with the progress and pulled the plug. We were actually a bit relieved, we knew we were flogging a dead horse.”

Brian didn’t blame Ian for the decision, feeling it wasn’t really going anywhere. Even if the scrolling and sprites got fixed, it was felt the game wasn’t going to be any fun. In hindsight, Brian feels if they worked within the GB’s limits, it may hav ended up more than just a faulty technical demo.

Sadly, Brian has nothing of the “flowery” design doc that was written and all the kit was given back with code and builds.

As for the Amiga version – Brian had no involvement, and it seemed that there wasn’t one that was happening simultaneously. Was the Commodore User report a misinterpretation, and was there only ever a Game Boy title in the offing?

If you know anything more, please do get in touch.

With thanks to Karl Kuras for highlighting.


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