This isn't one of Infocom's finest gaming experiences, but the game does offer excellent artwork by Donald Longosy
worth seeing. If for no other reason, trying to advance in the game to see Longosy's artwork is worth the effort.
Based on the novel by James Clavell, the story sticks pretty closely to the original. If you haven't read the book, however, good luck. The main goal, really, is just to survive and eventually become a samurai. And to be fair, the level of difficulty is very high. If you're a fan of the book, go for it. If not, a walkthrough may be in order in the early stages to get the most out of the story. Oddly, this text adventure (or graphic adventure, but since you have to type let's go with text) actually eases up on the difficulty level the further you make it, which is highly unusual for this genre.
While back in the day the graphics weren't entirely well-received, I personally like them very much as they add a lot to the atmosphere. The images are in the flat style of Japanese court paintings and that style was likely studied by Longosy quite closely. So in that regard, to keep with history, I'm not quite sure what earlier reviewers were expecting or wanting.
As stated in Amiga Format (Oct 1989), "It is an enjoyable read and play, but it is more of an experience in style than a really good adventure. There aren't many games in which you get urinated upon! As it stands it is worth a go..."
Back of the Box:
EXPERIENCE THE SWEEPING DRAMA AND POWER OF JAMES CLAVELL'S SHOGUN
The year is 1600. You are John Blackthorne, Pilot-Major of a privateering merchant ship and the first Englishman to set foot on Japanese soil. Thrust into the exotic culture of feudal Japan, you must rely on your wits and sheer physical strength to survive. As you are drawn into the political intrigue and teeming violence, your most basic beliefs and assumptions will be tested. Act with care: in a land where honor is valued above life itself, you make a wrong decision at your peril.
In this interactive adaptation, Dave Lebling - co-author of the enormously popular Zork
series - captures all the drama and spell-binding style of James Clavell's matchless novel. Color graphics crafted in the exquisite style of 16th century Japanese court painters illustrate the unfolding saga. Infocom's new, friendlier parser understands more commands than ever. And if you ever need help, on-screen hints will lead you back to the action.
Your Shogun package contains the game disk, Blackthorne's map of the known world, and the legend of the samurai sword.