History of Tuul
Tuul had been a peaceful world. That was centuries ago--a time when only one race of people inhabited the planet. Their ruler was a great priest/shaman who, as the legend goes, was blessed with all knowledge. The position was passed on from father to eldest son through hundreds of generations unbroken. But when twin boys were born to Thoros, the ninety-ninth in the line of priests, the path of succession was dubious. Exhaustive tests of intellect revealed that neither boy was clearly superior to the other. One day, the two would-be-rulers and their father ventured out into the desert--now known as the Sands of Sorrow--to determine the next ruler of Tuul. The sons returned three days later, bearing with them two large gems, one light, one dark. Their father was dead, they announced. His body had transformed into the two gems they now held. His wisdom and knowledge were contained in those gems and each of the sons had chosen one for their own. The repercussions of this event would forever be felt throughout Tuul.
From that day forward, Tuul would consist of two distinct populations. Some chose to follow the son who held the Lightstone, north of the desert where they established a kingdom that would become known as Androth. Others followed the guardian of the Darkstone, settling south of the desert in a region they called Ka'dra'suul.
Androth flourished, the people kept the revered Lightstone in a central courtyard surrounded by gardens of exotic flora that flourished under the stone's vibrant energy. The Ka'dra'suul chose to bury their stone deep in the catacombs beneath the central keep of the great castle. Although the Ka'dra'suul grew in strength and numbers, they suffered physical as well as psychological mutations. The Darkstone had been neglected by its people and responded by molding the Ka'dra'suul into a cruel race of beings. Fortunately, the two peoples, separated by the great desert, had little contact with one another. Eventually, the Ka'dra'suul's supply of Xandralite--the energy- radiating soft metal used by both races for heat and light--was nearly exhausted. The vampiric Darkstone was effectively draining them of their life-giving fuel.
A young warrior then arose among the people. Sarlac was his name and he preached against the Androthi to the north, claiming that they enjoyed an unfair share of Tuul's blessed resources and that it was the duty of the Ka'dra'suul to set right this wrong. Sarlac was soon swept into power, ruling the land from a great central castle he called his Shadow Keep. He led his people against the Androthi in the north. Unprepared, the Androthi were quickly overrun by Sarlac's hordes and enslaved. They were then forced to work their own Xandralite mines under armed guards, the results of their labor was then shipped south to Ka'dra'suul where it was used to feed the Darkstone.
Two MPs dressed in olive drab uniforms strode across the dusty compound, an orderly in fatigues following behind them. They headed for the isolated concrete and steel bunker on the other side of the fenced-in camp where the prisoner was currently held. The largest of the MP's--a sandy-haired, freckle-faced sergeant--offered some advice to the newly-arrived MP corporal.
"The prisoner must be kept under restraint at all times," the sergeant cautioned him. "Captain Blackthorne is an extremely dangerous man, trained in all forms of armed and unarmed combat. Maximum caution must be exercised at all times."
The warning really wasn't necessary. The corporal already knew all about Blackthorne, despite the fact he'd been in the region only a couple of days. Blackthorne was a well-known figure, a legend in military circles. A former U.S. Marine officer, Captain Blackthorne had turned mercenary early in his military career after a receiving a medical discharge from the Corps. He had since fought in a dozen or more different military actions all over the world. Cold, shrewd, and calculating, Blackthorne was said to be absolutely merciless. He was charged with war crimes and scheduled to stand court-martial tomorrow morning.
"Some people say Captain Blackthorne is innocent," the corporal told the sergeant as they marched along. "They say he's been sold out--that the charges are false and all part of the peace agreement they're trying to hammer out with Moswali."
The Warlord Moswali was the latest stumbling block in a peace agreement that the U.N. hoped to negotiate in this small, war-torn East African country. By most accounts a thief and a cutthroat, Moswali had firm control of large territories and their populace. Without Moswali's cooperation, establishing a peace treaty that would finally bring stability to this ravaged country was nearly impossible. Moswali has a personal grudge with Blackthorne dating back several years and, along with other concessions, had demanded the captain's court-martial.
"I'm afraid that's not true, corporal," the sergeant reprimanded the corporal. "Blackthorne's guilty--no doubt about it. He's a vicious savage. He should consider himself lucky we didn't turn him over to Moswali like he demanded."
Moswali had first insisted that Blackthorne be handed over to him for trial at the Warlord's hands: a demand that even the merciless U.N. commanders could not see fit to honor. The deal struck was that Blackthorne would stand court-martial at the hands of his own troops. His eventual conviction and a long sentence were nearly guaranteed.
The corporal said no more. In the mere two days he'd been assigned to this post he'd already decided he didn't like this sergeant. Blackthorne was known as a rebel--the kind of man this sergeant would not tolerate.
Finally reaching the small, concrete bunker that served as the prisoner's holding cell, the party halted. Without preamble, the sergeant beat his hammy fist on the heavy door.
"Prisoner! To the door! Hands out!"
A narrow opening was cut in the door about waist-height, used to pass food trays back and forth and kept sealed with a padlocked bar. At a nod from the sergeant, the corporal unlocked the bar and stepped back. A pair of hands emerged from the opening, fists clenched, wrists held together. The hands were large, strong, lined with cords and muscle.
"Put the handcuffs on him, corporal," ordered the sergeant.
Fumbling slightly with the unfamiliar restraints, the corporal finally locked them around the extended wrists. Cuffs secured, the sergeant ordered the prisoner to move back to the rear of the cell while the door was unlocked and opened. Carefully, the corporal stepped inside the bunker, baton at the ready.
"Watch yourself," the sergeant warned him. "He's always dangerous."
The cell was hot, stuffy, and dark--the only light a few rays of sun streaming in through a pair of narrow, barred ventilation slits near the ceiling. The prisoner was in position at the rear of the cell. His face hidden by shadows, he stood stock-still, silent. The corporal noted the prisoner's broad shoulders and powerful arms.
"Tomorrow's the big day, eh?" the sergeant chided Blackthorne, walking up to the prisoner and standing before him. "You go up on charges and when it's over they're gonna lock you up forever, Blackthorne."
The sergeant grinned at the silent prisoner, slapping his baton in his open hand. The prisoner said nothing, didn't move.
The orderly left the hut to dump the prisoner's toilet. Distracted by his movements, the sergeant glanced over his shoulder--a mistake he'd live to regret.
As soon as Blackthorne saw the sergeant's eyes leave him, he made his move. With an elbow to the throat, he sent him crashing to the floor, knocked unconscious by the single blow.
Blackthorne turned toward the corporal. "Give me the keys," Blackthorne said in a quiet yet menacing tone. The corporal was petrified. He dropped his weapon, fumbled with the keys on his belt and handed them to Blackthorne.
Moving toward the doorway, Kyle crouched in the opening, peering across the compound, the unfamiliar sunlight bright and painful to his eyes. The area seemed clear; only a few men were around. On the far side of the camp a helicopter prepared for take-off, the sound of its turning rotors chop-chopping across the camp.
Without further hesitation, Blackthorne made his break. Out the door, sprinting across the compound, he ignored the shouts behind him. Reaching the helicopter, he took the ground crewman out with a fist to the jaw that sent the man sprawling on the ground. A second crewman, aboard the craft near the open side door tried to make a move but Blackthorne already had his hands on him, dragging him out of the chopper to throw him to the tarmac. Leaping aboard, Blackthorne slammed and latched the door then scrambled forward to the cockpit.
The craft's pilot, taken by surprise, stared wide-eyed at the intruder.
"Captain Blackthorne?" he said, not really believing what he saw.
"Out!" ordered Blackthorne.
Without a second's hesitation, the pilot unstrapped himself and scrambled out the door. He had served with Blackthorne and entertained no foolish ideas about trying to stop this man. He had barely made it to the ground when the chopper lifted into the air, Blackthorne manning the controls. Swinging the chopper around in a tight arc over the camp, he straightened it out and began streaking west, toward the distant hills.
Blackthorne had a chance. Forty miles west of here lay the border. If he could get over the hills and out of the country he'd have a chance. He had friends there, made a few years back when he helped defend that country's border against incursions made by the vicious Warlord Moswali. These old friends would help him out.
In exchange for the helicopter he now piloted--and its cargo--they would be more than willing to provide him with a new passport and eventual safe passage out of Africa. Blackthorne pressed the throttle to max, gaining altitude as he raced the helicopter toward freedom.
The first surface-to-air missile fired from the U.N. compound narrowly missed him, flashing by the cockpit on the left side.
"Damn!" Blackthorne swore to himself, simultaneously swinging the craft into evasive action.
The chopper was amazingly swift and maneuverable in the capable hands of its Captain. Blackthorne looked back in the distance as his enemies fired another rocket. It was a futile attempt and Blackthorne knew it. He and his craft were already out of range.
Blackthorne landed the helicopter in an area obscured by brush, safely on the other side of the border. He was amazed at how weak he'd become. He checked himself for wounds but found none.
What was wrong? He thought to himself.
Slowly, he climbed out of the chopper. It took all his strength just to open the door and step outside. Once outside, he immediately fell to his knees.
All went black.
Running, running, running. The dream was the same one Blackthorne had experienced over and over since childhood. Kyle Blackthorne--a small boy--running in terror as fast as he could, racing through dark halls made of stone, vaulted ceilings rising high overhead, walls decorated with hanging silks and tapestries. Light poured from countless chandeliers, their hundreds of candles casting but a feeble, yellow light--a light that seemed swallowed up by the great inky blackness surrounding all. In this dream he heard a voice calling to him. It was always the same voice--the familiar voice he knew he could trust.
"This way, Kyle. Hurry! Follow me!"
The voice sounded nearby and distant at the same time. In the dream he sought the source of the voice but he never saw the face. Always, though, he chased after it, obeying its commands, knowing that his life depended on following its instructions.
And again he found himself overlooking a large chamber where a man--tall, gray-haired, dressed in a splendid robe--faced off against a giant, shadowy form. As Kyle watched, the two spoke for a moment, then the giant form stepped from out of the shadows--a huge man with powerful arms and shoulders. Laughing evilly, the stranger drew forth a great sword and, raising it over his head, struck the older man down. Kyle, paralyzed by the scene unfolding before his eyes, stood dumbstruck. But powerful hands took hold of his small shoulders and, without warning, lifted him off his feet and hurled him through vast reaches of darkness and cold, tears pouring down his face as he thought of the man struck down in the chamber. He knew it was his father...
Blackthorne awoke to find himself laying face down in the sand. His head throbbed and he was disoriented. Slowly coming to his senses, he realized he'd had the dream again--one of the many odd dreams that had haunted him all his life.
He pulled himself to his feet and assessed his situation. It was getting dark. How long had he been unconscious? How much ground had the UN forces gained on him? He knew there was no chance that they would abandon their search for him. He had to find his friends and fast.
Scrambling up to a nearby ridge, he saw the highway below that his allies had frequently used. Maybe they still did. He went back to the helicopter to grab some gear along with a rifle he found under the seat. He must get to safety, Blackthorne thought to himself as he began the steep descent to the road below. The Androthi depended upon him, he told himself. He must free his people from the cruel Ka'dra'suul.
With a sudden shock he realized he was reliving another of the mysterious dreams that plagued him, but now it was becoming more real, more urgent than his current predicament. He picked up his pace and tried to shake the strange thoughts that plagued him. No matter how hard he tried, he could not.
He saw himself standing in some sort of cave or mine. Others were around--men working by dim light, sweating and toiling, mining a strange mineral from the walls of the cave. Others, those not actively at work, were chained to the walls. To his horror Blackthorne saw that some of the captives were no more than corpses and skeletons. Long ago picked clean of their flesh, they were bound against the walls in upright positions. Kyle pitied these people. Somehow he knew they were called the Androthi.
And again came that mysterious voice, ringing in his ears: "Kyle. Come to me. Your people have fallen slaves to the Warlord Sarlac and the evil power of the Darkstone. You must free them. You are their only hope. You must seek me out so that I may teach you the secrets of the Lightstone. My name is Galadril. You know me. Find me."
The Androthi prisoners welcomed him as a friend. Their language was foreign yet familiar to his ears. They begged for help and he promised it to them, not knowing exactly what that would mean. Then they ran as though in terror. Something was coming. "Ka'dra'suul!" they shouted as they fled. Something hulked into view. Blue-skinned, with long, curving tusks, it had obviously once been a man but was now something else. The thing grinned at Kyle and then cracked it's evil-looking black whip.
Blackthorne was still remembering that evil face when the sound of a rapidly-approaching helicopter reminded him of his present situation. They'd caught up to him.
"You better get a hold of yourself, Blackthorne," he told himself, ducking into a narrow crevice, trying to keep out of sight. His head continued to ache but he knew if he didn't keep his mind on the problems facing him he'd have worse to worry about.
He crouched in the eroded gully and watched as the U.N. camp's other chopper passed slowly overhead. If they spotted him and radioed back his position, he would never escape.
Apparently failing to spot Blackthorne through the darkness, the helicopter passed over him without slowing. He breathed a sigh of relief.
"The Golatrix complex," he told himself. "I must reach it." Again he was shocked to find his memories confused. He was living in a dream--a dream from long ago. He tried to concentrate on what lay before him but still the other thoughts kept intruding, insisting that his precarious trek through the desert was dwarfed in significance by the unusual thoughts that raced through his head.
He was crossing a vast desert is search of the Golatrix Complex. Sweltering from the heat, he trudged on. He felt the presence of someone or something but he saw nothing. Enemies lurked everywhere beyond the sand dunes and wind-swept hills surrounding him. Ka'dra'suul was their name. Once human, they were now twisted and degenerate, their lives and souls warped by Sarlac. Enslavers of the Androthi, Blackthorne hated them and they feared him.
The Golatrix Complex--his goal--was a far-flung military outpost built long ago by the Androthi but now abandoned. He did not know why he had to reach this place, only that he must desperately attain this goal. Something he needed--something important to the task at hand--lay inside, and this he must retrieve. Here, there was no voice to guide him. He was on his own.
A shot rang out, a distant rifle firing from the other side of the highway. The slug kicked up dirt in front of Blackthorne as it buried itself in the ground near his feet.
Blackthorne threw himself to the ground, rolling and scrambling until he got himself behind a low line of rocks just barely high enough to afford him cover. Was this sniper a friendly force unable to recognize him in the darkness? He quickly ruled out that possibility. He was sure that the sniper was one of Moswali's men probably assigned to specifically hunt down and capture Blackthorne, dead or alive. Pinned flat to the ground, his slightest movement was answered by the crack of the rifle and a slug ricocheting off rocks shielding him. The only thing he knew for sure was that the sniper was holed up in a narrow crevice on a mountain across the highway. Entrenched high above him, the sniper could keep Blackthorne pinned down indefinitely.
He pulled out the rifle and attached the infrared scope. The sniper's shots continued to ricochet dangerously close to his position. The enemy appeared as a shadowy figure through the rifle's sight. Blackthorne fired two quick shots.
He continued to watch through the sight as the sniper stumbled and fell forward on the mountain. He wasn't the first to fall victim to Blackthorne's sharpshooting prowess and he wouldn't be the last.
Blackthorne hopped to his feet. There was little time left. There was no way of knowing if the Warlord's sniper was in radio contact with Moswali's camp but the gunfire and air traffic over the hills would not go unnoticed. He was only a few hundred feet from the highway now.
"I must find Onehand," Blackthorne told himself. "The Seer dwelling deep within the Karnellian Swamps."
Blackthorne again found himself slipping into one of his eerie visions...
He was plodding through a swamp filled with dark, evil-smelling water, surrounded by strangely twisted trees. No birds sang but skitterings and shufflings could be heard among the rushes and briars on the banks. The degenerate Ka'dra'suul lurked here, in the great Karnellian Swamp. Blackthorne was seeking the refuge of a woman known only as the Seer Onehand. It was Onehand who kept the secret Blackthorne needed to defeat the great evil that lay beyond the swamp.
Other things lurked here as well--things far worse than the Ka'dra'suul. The great evil plaguing this world had also unleashed creatures from the other worlds--other dimensions--to stalk this desolate land. These creatures were barely mortal and nearly impervious to Blackthorne's weapons. He was wary of them--and of their stealthy approach.
He never could recall if he'd ever found who he'd been searching for. The name Onehand remained a haunting enigma.
He tried to shake the feelings off, telling himself again and again that they were only the fragments of half-remembered dreams--but inexplicably he knew there was more to it than that.
A voice spoke to him in his head--the voice familiar to him from his dreams. He ignored it, running on. He finally reached the side of the highway and could see what looked like a jeep heading toward him. It was about a mile away.
"Kyle! It is time!" The voice came to him again.
The vehicle closed quickly.
"Prepare yourself, Kyle!" the voice commanded. "The time draws near."
Blackthorne clutched at his head, trying to drive the voice out. He sat by the roadway. Was he going mad? He had to block out the voice.
The jeep thundered past him. Blackthorne held out his hand to stop the vehicle but they didn't see him. Perhaps they couldn't see him. He recognized the occupants of the jeep as faces of those he had fought alongside only a short time ago.
"Now!" vibrated the voice inside his head.
Kyle Blackthorne suddenly found himself surrounded by cold and darkness, hurtling through the vastness of space as stars whirled by at dizzying speeds.
"Your time has arrived," came the voice again, this time nearer, and more familiar. "You are of age and well trained. It is time to fulfill your destiny."
"Galadril?" asked Blackthorne.
"It is I," answered the voice. "Your mentor and tutor from years gone by."
"I remember," said Blackthorne. "You were the favorite of my father, King Vlaros."
"And his advisor and sorcerer," added the voice. "Your memories are returning, I see."
Blackthorne agreed. "I remember the murder of my father. I dreamt of it many times. He was slain by a man who stepped from the shadows," he said, turning suddenly grim.
"Yes, the evil lord Sarlac," said the voice that was Galadril. "He still reigns, Kyle, and our world is the worse for it. If not stopped soon he shall be the end of us all. The world of Tuul--your world--needs you desperately. Too many years have the Androthi lived under the yoke of Sarlac and his people, the twisted Ka'dra'suul. Sarlac possesses the Darkstone and if allowed to continue his evil ways will eventually destroy our world and all that is good in it. You must use the power of the Lightstone to bring an end to his reign. To protect you, your father and I sent you to Earth. After Sarlac discovered the Darkstone and began his rise to power, the Seer Onehand predicted that Sarlac could not be stopped--that his destiny could by changed, but only through the power of the Lightstone wielded by the proper heir to the throne. Hence we sent you to Earth, far from the treacherous eyes of Sarlac. To further safeguard you, your memories were hidden from you. But it appears that some have escaped over the years."
"The dreams..." said Kyle.
"Yes. The dreams were your old memories escaping their magical bounds. But only some of them. Others were prophecies of things to come--of your destiny."
"What am I to do?"
"Seek me out, young Kyle. You will soon return to that place from which you were sent, the Xandralite mines of Androth, now a prison camp run by evil Ka'dra'suul. I can not meet you there for reasons you will soon learn. I wait beyond the mines. Seek me out..."
"How can Sarlac be stopped?" Blackthorne asked the voice.
"With the power of the Lightstone," answered Galadril. "You must use it against Sarlac..."
The voice faded away.
The fate of Kyle Blackthorne now lies in your hands. Your mission is to guide the resourceful warrior through the perilous regions of Tuul and find Sarlac. Use Blackthorne's mercenary abilities, along with the weapons and items you will acquire, to assist you in your quest.
--From the SNES Blackthorne instruction manual.
In this side-scrolling adventure, you are Kyle Blackthorne, an ex-Marine mercenary with a mysterious past. When Blackthorne discovers that he is in fact a prince from another world, he sets out, armed only with a shotgun and nerves of steel, to liberate his home nation, defeat the invader Sarlac, and avenge his father's murder!
Blackthorne is a great game to play just for fun. It is also surprisingly sophisticated in terms of its graphics, sound, and storyline. The characters and backgrounds are very well-rendered, the animation is smooth and realistic. The music is pleasantly subdued so as not to become annoying, and the sound effects are right on.
Gameplay is rich enough to be challenging without becoming too complex to enjoy. Most of the controls have two different functions according to whether or not your gun is drawn. This can lead to some unfortunate circumstances if you aren't careful, but for the most part it adds interest and realism, while many games that have tried to add complicated controls are just a nuisance.
|A Button||Draw or Holster Weapon|
|B Button||Jump, Fire|
|X Button||Use Item from Inventory|
|Y Button||Run, Fire Backward|
|Up||Dodge, Climb Ledge, Use Key|
|Down||Crouch, Pick up Items, Climb Down|
|L Button||Scroll through Inventory|
|R Button||Scroll through Inventory|
|Start Button||Start, Pause|
|Select Button||Display Inventory|
|You can avoid most attacks by pressing Up to 'hide' or dodge, so it's a good way to preserve life. Also, you can do some useful things while dodging, like using potions. While hiding with your gun drawn, press the fire button without releasing the Up button, to fire and quickly return to hiding. However, you can't draw your gun while hidden.|