Black Tiger, otherwise known as Black Dragon in Japan, is an arcade game released by Capcom in 1987. Capcom is famous for its arcade origins. The iconic Street Fighter franchise, for instance, is one of its biggest names. Before those legendary fighting games, the similarly beloved Final Fight franchise was an arcade staple as well. Compared to these titans, Black Tiger is a somewhat minor facet of Capcom’s illustrious history. Luckily, Capcom has still preserved the game and many more of its classic arcade titles through ports and releases down the years. If you want to dig into the iconic developer’s long arcade history for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about this vintage hack-and-slash title.
Black Tiger Premise
The premise of Black Tiger is suitably simple for an arcade game of its caliber. The land has fallen to three evil dragons who have ushered in an age of darkness and despair. You play as a barbarian hero in the style of classic fantasy archetypes like Conan. As you might expect, your quest is very straightforward; slay the dragons, and bring peace to the land. The game is a side-scrolling platformer with eight levels. As you hunt down enemies and battle the evil dragons, you will occasionally discover wise men, who will reward you with “Zenny Coins” when you save them. You can use these to upgrade your gear and purchase helpful tools such as keys for treasure chests. Some of the wise men dispense hints instead of Zenny Coins, but these tend to be much less useful overall.
Interestingly, Black Dragon, the Japanese version of the game, is actually significantly harder than its American counterpart Black Tiger. This version added more falling rocks to dodge, and it also increased the price of several upgrades. There are also attacks from certain bosses that can no longer be avoided by ducking, making it virtually impossible not to take damage during these encounters. This challenge is exacerbated by the game requiring more points to upgrade your vitality stat, making it more difficult to improve your character between levels. The early days of the video game industry are rife with examples of developers radically rebalancing their games for international markets. One particularly notorious example is Super Mario Bros. 2, which was so difficult that Nintendo released an entirely different game under the same title in North America.
Black Tiger Main Characters
As the simple premise indicates, there are not many significant characters to speak of in Black Tiger. There are a few noteworthy faces to remember, but they serve pretty simple roles. In an arcade game, there’s not much time for character development and significant story arcs. Consequently, the characters are pretty low on depth. They might look memorable, but they fill pretty shallow roles in the story, like hero vs. villain. Many classic sword and sorcery tales revolve around a noble hero slaying a wicked dragon, and at its heart, Black Tiger is no different. Here are some of the standout faces that you will encounter during your heroic adventure.
- Black Tiger: The eponymous protagonist of Black Tiger is a fierce warrior and noble barbarian who marches into battle with a special morningstar. This enchanted weapon unleashes a spray of daggers with every swing, giving the game some light shooting elements.
- Red Arremer: This demonic creature serves as the boss of stage four. Interestingly enough, it’s most noteworthy for its role outside of the game. The Red Arremer is more recognizable as a major antagonist in Ghosts ‘n Goblins. The creature even serves as a mascot for that series. The fame of the franchise probably helped the Arremer land a cameo in this unrelated hack-n-slash title.
- Black Dragon: This evil dragon serves as the main antagonist of the game. He is the strongest of the three dragons, and likewise the final boss that the heroic barbarian warrior must defeat in order to save the kingdom. This tyrannical beast is so infamous in its evil that its name served as the title of the game when it first came out in Japan.
Black Tiger Titles in the Series
While Black Tiger is a standalone arcade game, it does have an interesting relationship with another Capcom title. The 1984 arcade game SonSon is another Capcom classic, this one based on the ancient Chinese novel Journey to the West. It got a sequel in 1989 called SonSon II. However, for some reason this sequel was based more heavily on the mechanics from Black Tiger than on the gameplay of the first SonSon. This means that, while the two titles aren’t officially connected, they are incredibly similar games, and worth considering together. To that end, here’s the full list of entries in this odd, unofficial little trilogy, as well as all the compilations that included Black Tiger.
- SonSon (1984)
- Black Tiger (1987)
- SonSon II (1989)
- Capcom Classics Collection: Remixed (2005)
- Capcom Classics Collection vol. 2 (2006)
- Capcom Arcade Cabinet (2013)
- Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium (2022)
Black Tiger Cheat Codes
The home console versions of Black Tiger do have a few cheat codes available, but unfortunately, there aren’t many. According to GameFAQs, there’s a particularly useful cheat that can be performed on the Amiga version in order to skip levels. Just hold up and leave on the joystick while holding the fire button, then press C. This will bring up the cheat menu, and you can then press delete to skip whatever level you’re on. As handy as this can be for speeding through the game, the Commodore 64 version has a cheat that’s even more powerful. After loading the game, execute the BASIC command “POKE 48765,173” to unlock complete invincibility. This is arguably one of the best possible cheats you can use in a game like Black Tiger, so if you can get your hands on the Commodore 64 version, give it a whirl.
Black Tiger FAQ
Where can I play Black Tiger? As mentioned before, Capcom has been diligent in rereleasing Black Tiger whenever an arcade compilation rolls around. The first of these to include the game in question was Capcom Classics Collection: Remixed in 2005, and it also featured in volume 2 of that game the following year. 2013’s Capcom Arcade Cabinet featured Black Tiger as the initial game. Modern console players can access the barbarian hack and slash game in Capcom Arcade 2nd Stadium, which came out in 2022 and is available now on Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Like many other vintage titles, you can also emulate this vintage arcade game unofficially, but this comes with significant risk.
How long does it take to beat Black Tiger? Since it’s an arcade game, much of the length of Black Tiger will inevitably come from its difficulty. Like its contemporaries, this arcade gauntlet can be a real struggle to pick up and master. Once you’ve gotten good at it, though, you can get through the entirety of this vintage game pretty quickly. As mentioned before, it only has eight levels, and if you’re really skilled, you can clear them all in about an hour. Just don’t be surprised if it takes you a lot of practice to get to that level.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Screenshot from Black Tiger.