If you love old games, you probably know that long before Doom, John Carmak and John Romero of ID software were responsible for many other classic games. Those games, such as Commander Keen, Wolfenstein 3D and even dangerous Dave proved that the PC can also be a gaming machine.
At one point the duo went as far as offering Nintendo to port Super Mario 3, but the company rejected the offer (which might have been a good decision considering that this is one of the best-selling games on the NES).
Last month, I thought about another classic game they created (along with Tom Hall) that history has almost forgotten (except for its appearance in an old anthology of ID) called Shadow Knights. The reason for that is the release of “The Messenger” for the PC and Switch. There have been a few games featuring ninjas such as Shinobi and “Ninja”, but Shadow Knights is one of the games I remember most favorably.
Shadow Knights uses a very similar engine to the one behind Dangerous Dave 2, which means it has an impressive smooth scrolling and responsive controls compared to most DOS games of that era. Apart from using a short-range sword, the player can also collect and throw away ninja stars, and since the many enemies in the game are also equipped with long range weapons, this is a useful ability. The game also has a tactical side as you can use some of the power of the Ninja Stars to regain energy (there are no power ups for health other than that).
In terms of graphics, Shadow Knights can’t compare to the polished look of the Keen series. More often than not, the gray color of the ninja makes it very difficult to see what’s happening on the screen. In the video clip from YouTube, you can see this is getting better towards the last stages. On the positive side, the big bosses’ sprites are impressive.
Unfortunately, I was unable to reproduce the smooth animation on the default settings in DosBox. If you want to try your luck, it might be best to run it on a retro DOS machine.