Sai Combat
by David T. Clark
Mirrorsoft Ltd
Crash Issue 28, May 1986   (1986-04-24)   page(s) 122

Ever fancied your chances when it comes to fighting a man with a pointy stick? Well now you can find out how good you are, courtesy of Mirrorsoft, who have just released the computerised version of yet another venerable martial art Sal Karate which allows you to take up a stick and fight.

The art of Sai Karate evolved in Japan hundreds of years ago as a variant of Karate in which combatants use a stick, or sai, to make attacking and defending moves as well as the more usual kicks and punches. The pointy stick involved in Sai Karate needn't be used for fighting there's a form of gymnastic exercise called Sai Kata practiced by Japanese keep fit fanatics as a solo art form, but Mirrorsoft have stuck with the straightforward beat em up application of the rod of wood, and exercise freaks will have to look elsewhere!

The combat game allows you to work your way up to the coveted status of Sai Master playing against a human opponent or the computer. Before becoming a Black Belt, or First Dan fighter, eight opponents have to be defeated in one on one combat. A further eight Dan levels separate a First Dan Black Belt from mastery of the sport sixteen levels to fight through in all before achieving the exalted status of Sai Master. Each level in the game has its own suitably oriental backdrop against which the action takes place.

Once the game has loaded, the program automatically goes into demo mode and two combatants slug it out on screen, illustrating the sixteen different moves available to a computerised Sai fighter. Pressing the 1 or 2 key allows you to choose the one or two player mode and combat can begin. Using joystick or keyboard the fighter's are controlled in the usual beat em up way involving the use of all eight directions and the fire button to execute moves from the Sai Combat repertoire. If the two fighters cross each other on the screen, each moving into their opponent's half, the controls change and the mirror image of the keyboard layout or joystick directions are used to make the moves until such time as the two guys get back into their rightful halves of the screen.

During bouts the state of play is monitored on the status area at the bottom of the screen which keeps a track of the scores achieved by each fighter 100, 200 or 300 points are awarded for each blow landed, depending on the complexity of the manoeuvre involved, and 600 points are won for a knockdown. Each competitor's Chi, or energy level, is displayed on a dragon's head in the status area which starts off white at the beginning of a bout and gradually fills with colour as hits are taken. When a fighter's Chi level runs out, his dragon head is completely coloured in and the next buff he receives floors him.

In the one player mode the fighter controlled by the computer has to be knocked down three times before you prove your fighting ability and can proceed to the next grade to do battle with a more experienced wielder of the pointy stick. Once you're fighting at Dan level, an extra hazard is introduced in the form of Ninja stars which whizz around the screen from time to time. A clout from a ninja star won't actually result in a knockdown fall being awarded against your man, but the old Chi level takes a battering… They're definitely to be avoided.

The one player game starts at the novice level and you can survive six falls. When the lives run out, the game returns to the demo screen and is it possible to restart at the level you just expired on but you only have three lives when fighting recommences. Two players can chose the level at which they want to do battle from the start screen, and slug it out against their favourite background. Using Interface 2 in the two player mode, both players can use a joystick, otherwise at least one player will have to master the use of keys as well as pointy sticks...

Control keys: 16 per players
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2, Cursor
Keyboard play: lots of keys to press!
Use of colour: attractive
Graphics: neat animation, no clashes
Sound: biffing noises only
Skill levels: sixteen in all
Screens: 16

'Yet another bash and blow game - Sai Combat is quite a neat effort with a massive range of moves that are all very well animated. Animation is very similar to that used in International Karate but with what appears to be more frames of animation per move. I got used to using the many moves quite quickly, but after a few games realised that I could get through most of the stages easily by using only one or two moves. I also found that the computer opponent could be got into certain sequences in which you could simply knock his block off by using the same move over and over. One bad thing is that if you get into very close contact with the computer opponent it is impossible for either of you to get hit. Sai Combat is an improvement over International Karate and at the price, it's not a bad buy, but I think Fist still rules supreme.'

'I must admit I'm getting a little bored of fighting games now; I really enjoyed Fist, but have gradually got a little bit more and more cheesed of with beat em ups. That said, Sai Combat isn't too bad. The instructions give a sufficient run down on what has to be done and how to do it, and the game is quite tough too. After a while though, even with the wide variety of moves available, it gets tedious, and getting onto the next level doesn't seem that important. it's just the same sort of sort of stuff as the rest. Not bad, really, but could have been a good deal better.'

'Since the release of Way of the Exploding Fist, beat em ups have really been big business. Now Mirrorsoft have released their fighting game. The graphics are not the best I have ever seen but the animation of all the characters is marvellous - the way the men jump about the screen is excellently executed. There are few attribute problems because the main playing area is in two colours which is a bit of a relief. The game itself is fun to play and the increasing difficulty of your opponents makes it quite addictive, The two player option is a nice touch. Definitely better then Exploding Fist If you like combat games then take a look at this one!'

Use of Computer80%
Getting Started85%
Addictive Qualities80%
Value for Money84%
Summary: General Rating: A neat variant on the beat em up theme.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 61, February 1989   (1989-01-26)   page(s) 39

This martial arts beat-'em-up followed a long line of similar games when it was released by Mirrorsoft in May 1986. Its unique feature was that the fighters were armed with sai sticks.

As In Way Of The Exploding Fist this beat-'em-up takes place over several levels in
which the player tries to bash either a computer or human opponent. Each player has sixteen different moves to use, accessed in the typical beat-'em-up fashion, namely combinations of directions and fire.

Animation of the fighters is very good, although the background never changes. The computer opponents are fairly intelligent and tough to beat, but eventually bashing fighter after fighter (all identical) gets more than a touch monotonous.

Nevertheless, Sai Combat is a well-implemented, no-nonsense combat game which is a good buy if you haven't got a decent martial arts beat-'em-up in your software collection.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 05, May 1986   page(s) 36

There is probably an ancient Japanese proverb that says a man with a big stick can have more fun than a man without a big stick. And that is the philosophy behind Combat, a marriage of the unarmed martial art with broom handles, that Mirrorsoft is using to make a late bow into the arena.

Sai is more like Fighting Warrior than Exploding Fist, owing to the use of weaponry. But while the ancient Egyptian came of clobbering each other with staves (or were they supposed to be swords) boasted a plot - albeit a fairly feeble one - this is much more pure combat. Your aim is to attain the highest dan via three falls.

Control is the pretty well standard eight points of the compass with or without fire, which makes joystick control preferable to keyboard. Some of the moves will be recognisable from kung-fu games, including everybody's favourites, the roundhouse and flying kick. The new dimension comes from the jabs and sweeps with the pole, which gives you extra reach plus an additional form of defence. It always takes a while to learn the capabilities of your fighter but when the controls are sensibly arranged, as these are, it soon becomes second nature.

So far, so good, if a trifle unexceptional. What sets Sai Combat apart from most of its predecessors is the size of the combatants. While not quite so large as the figures in the first of the martial arts games, Bug Byte's Kung Fu, they are bigger than usual. And yet there doesn't seem to be any loss in speed and the animation is excellent. You don't even feel cramped with relatively less horizontal space and I found that involvement was greater.

The finish of the game is superb, with detailed shadows below the figures and a nice oriental tune, plus different backgrounds for different belts. Blows are accompanied by a suitably hard 'thwack' sound and a coloured starburst of pain - well hard. If you lose a series of bouts you don't need to go back to white belt - pressing space starts you again at your previous level. The various dan are well graded, starting easily enough but getting tricky around grey belt. Naturally there are one and two player options - the latter is useful for practice against a static opponent.

Sai Combat is a good, if belated, entry into the genre. Whether you want it will depend on how keen you are on the type of game. If you don't reckon you've had too much already it'll certainly present some welcome variety without risking any unpleasant bruises.

Value For Money8/10
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash - Run It Again Issue 45, October 1987   (1987-09-24)   page(s) 40

81% Issue 28

ROBIN: Sai karate is like karate but uses a stick called a sai. This simulation pits the player against 16 adversaries; vanquish all, and you become a Sai Master. As in most games of this genre, the screen shows two fighters trying to beat the hell out of each other.

There's a two-player option for those of you who want to hurt your friends, but this is only really playable with an Interface II unit - for the keyboard option you'd need 16 keys each!

Sai Combat is very playable, despite all those control keys; the graphics are reasonable, with smooth animation, though some of the backgrounds are a bit boring.

RICKY: For a two-player kill-'em-up Sai Combat has some marvellous animation, but the gameplay becomes simple after a little practice.

Overall (Robin Candy)74%
Overall (Richard Eddy)72%
Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 50, May 1986   page(s) 40

YOU'VE SEEN it done with fists, you've seen it done with feet, now do it with whacking great long poles.

Sai Combat it similar to karate but the combatants use long poles - rather like those used by Robin Hood and his merry men. In real life, the initiates of this ancient oriental art use short poles with carefully sharpened scythes at each end. They do not appear in the Mirrorsoft game, but that is not surprising as any extra detail on the screen, either in the animated figures or background, would make it almost impossible to see what was happening.

You start the game with a plain white belt and work up through 16 coloured belts, followed by eight gradings. A joystick is a necessity if you went to progress further than the second grade yellow belt.

A combination of all eight joystick directions, with and without the fire button applied, will be needed if you are to get the full potential out of your oriental warrior. Most of your opponents are a knockover if you remain on the button. You should, however, keep an eye on your Chi energy levels. depicted by a dragon which goes green as you get weaker.

And you should be careful in the higher of climes of the game when Ninjas arrive on the scene. These deadly fighting machines can have you on the floor with one or two blows.

There are three categories of movement - the stab, the kick and evasive manoeuvres.

Stabbing is done with the Sai and blows can be delivered to the chest, belly and shins - although my player went for the toes most of the time. The chest and belly blows are the most effective, while shin taps are worse than useless as it is difficult to get close to your opponent.

The high kick is also very effective, especially when delivered to your opponent's chin. The chin blow is extremely hard to block and will send the recipient to the ground very quickly. You can also twist your body and do a backward kick but that move does not usually have much effect, especially on the more skilful opponents waiting to be encountered on the higher levels of the game.

Evasive movements consist of backward and forward somersaults which, when combined with stabs and kicks, form deadly offensive moves - even computerised opponents can be taken by surprise. You can also jump into the air and duck to avoid stabbing blows, while at the same time delivering them.

Sai Combat beats all the martial arts simulations on the market, which include Melbourne House's Way of the Exploding Fist - the original karate simulation - and International Karate from System 3 - although that was late and heavily hyped, it proved to be an excellent simulation.

The game is a delight to watch as the figures leap, twirl and spin their sticks in almost balletic fashion.

Mirrorsoft's simulation contains smoother and more detailed action than the other games, and is set against colourful and atmospheric oriental backdrops, both inside and outside the initiates' temple.

It is a pity that Mirrorsoft could not make the sticks in the game look more like Sai weapons of this ancient art.

However, I am willing to forgive Mirrorsoft as it is easier to program a straight line than a curved one - as in the Sai scythe.

I think this is too good a game to be damned through such an error which, on the whole, makes the graphics less cluttered.

John Gilbert

Publisher: Mirrorsoft
Price: £6.95
Memory: 48K
Joystick: Kempston, Interface II, cursor


Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 56, June 1986   page(s) 24

MACHINE: Spectrum 48K
SUPPLIER: Mirrorsoft
PRICE: £6.95

Yet another martial arts game and probably one of the best for the Spectrum yet.

This one centres on the ancient art of Sai karate. It involves the use of a special sai weapon. Basically this a big stick with which you bash your opponent. And for good measure you can also kick him.

The idea of the game is a familiar one. You have to progress through eight levels from white to black belt, and then through another eight levels to become a Sai master.

The fighting figures are wonderful - very big and smoothly animated. You don't have to sit right on top of the screen to see them.

If you managed to reach the higher levels of the game there are extra hazards to face, including Ninja stars which whizz across the screen.

Points are scored for successful blows. Energy - or Chi level - is measured on a dragon's head on the scoreboard.

Sal Combat is good fun, graphically excellent and, if you've so far steered clear of all martial arts games, this could be the one to get you hooked.

Award: C+VG Hit

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Computer Issue May 1986   page(s) 46


Another combat game? Sai it isn't so. What new wrinkle on this hoary old subject can Mirrorsoft produce? Sai Combat, so it is said, originated in Okinawa. It is all about using the Sai weapon - a long stick - to deliver and block blows. It is also used as a form of Japanese aerobics, performed solo - all those curious Japanese beating-up trees in local parks on documentaries. Despite that, there is no practice mode in the game, so turn to two-player mode and practise beating-up a motionless opponent.

As usual, there are 16 moves you can make, a combination of walks, somersaults, blocks and strokes. The essential thing is to determine the correct range for each of the attacks and what to do if your opponent makes a particular attack. In one-player mode, you work your way up the ratings, three falls deciding each confrontation, a total of 16 opponents with which to play.

All that takes place against the usual oriental backdrop, with some very pleasant animation of the fighting figures, which are far larger than Exploding Fist. There are the usual problems associated with joystick control; getting precise movement in eight directions is tricky. That is not helped by the position of the keyboard controls, which would probably defeat the dexterity of a sleight-of-hand artist.

Sai what you like about the game, it is good, no-nonsense martial arts stuff with some really good animation.

Value For Money4/5
Overall Rating4/5
Transcript by Chris Bourne

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