Shadow Warrior

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This article is about the 1997 video game. For the reboot, see Shadow Warrior (2013 video game). For the unrelated game series known as Shadow Warriors, see Ninja Gaiden. For the Akira Kurosawa film, see Kagemusha.
Shadow Warrior
Shadow Warrior Coverart.png
Cover art of Shadow Warrior
Developer(s) 3D Realms
General Arcade (Steam, iOS)
Publisher(s) GT Interactive
Devolver Digital
Designer(s) Frank Maddin
Jim Norwood
Composer(s) Lee Jackson
Engine Build engine
Platform(s) MS-DOS, Mac OS, iOS, Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux
Release date(s) May 13, 1997 (MS-DOS)
October 1, 1997 (Mac)
April 1, 2005 (Source)
November 15, 2012 (
December 19, 2012 (iOS)
May 29, 2013 (Steam)
Genre(s) First-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Shadow Warrior is a first-person shooter video game developed by 3D Realms and released on May 13, 1997 by GT Interactive. Shadow Warrior was developed using Ken Silverman's Build engine and improved on 3D Realms' previous Build engine game, Duke Nukem 3D. Mark Adams ported Shadow Warrior to Mac OS in August 1997.[1]

The game's improvements included introduction of true room-over-room situations, the use of 3D voxels instead of 2D sprites for weapons and usable inventory items, transparent water, climbable ladders, and assorted vehicles to drive (some armed with weapons). Although ultra-violent, the game emphasized tongue-in-cheek humor and contained some sexual themes (although less blatantly than in Duke Nukem 3D). A combination of Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior was published by GT Interactive in March 1998, titled East Meets West.[2]

On April 1, 2005, 3D Realms released the source code for the Shadow Warrior game (including compiled Build engine object code)[3] under the GPL, which resulted in the first source port a day later on April 2, 2005.[4]

On May 29, 2013, Devolver Digital announced the game would be free to obtain for a limited time on Steam,[5] after a promotion to offer redemption keys for it on Facebook was exploited.[6] Later that day they announced that they decided to offer copies of the game on Steam for free forever.[7]


Lo Wang is a bodyguard for Zilla Enterprises, which has control over every major industry in Japan. However, this has led to corruption. Master Zilla, the president of the Zilla Enterprise, is planning to conquer Japan using creatures from the "dark side". When he discovers this, Lo Wang quit his job as a bodyguard. Master Zilla realizes the threat that Lo Wang poses and sends his creatures to battle him.

Later on in the game, Lo finds that Zilla's men have killed his old mentor Master Leep. Following his master's dying words, Lo must avenge his death. The game ends with Lo Wang defeating Master Zilla, who commands a samurai-like war-mech. However, Zilla is able to escape Lo Wang, promising a future encounter.


Shadow Warrior is a first-person shooter similar to Duke Nukem 3D as both use the Build engine. Players navigate the protagonist, Lo Wang, through three-dimensional environments or "levels". Throughout levels are enemies that attack Lo Wang, these are killed by the player using weapons such as a katana. Shadow Warrior also features puzzles that must be solved to progress in a level.

Lo Wang's arsenal of weaponry includes Japanese-themed weapons such as shurikens—which were "likely [to] be dropped in favor of [a] high tech fun weapon" in development[8]—and a katana, and marked the first appearance of a sticky bomb in an FPS, an idea which wouldn't stick on until Halo many years later. It also includes guns such as Uzis, a riot gun that fires shotgun shells, and the Eraser-inspired[8] railgun (Lo Wang frequently mentions "Time to get erased! Ha ha!" when picking up this weapon). In addition, the head and heart of certain enemies can be used.

This was quite an ambitious game, containing many features not seen until later games. For example, the game features various turrets and vehicles (such as tanks) that the player can drive around freely. It also featured secondary firing, and multiple firing modes for various weapons. It also had climbable ladders.


Development of Shadow Warrior began in early 1994 as Shadow Warrior 3D,[9] and preliminary screenshots were released with Hocus Pocus in May, 1994. George Broussard in 1996 stated: "We want Shadow Warrior to surpass Duke Nukem 3D in features and gameplay and that's a TALL order."[10] To this end, more tongue-in-cheek humor was added to the existing game in order to better match the style of the popular Duke Nukem 3D. Shadow Warrior was published in North America by GT Interactive on May 13, 1997.[11] At E3 1997, an area in the GT Interactive booth was dedicated to Shadow Warrior.[12][13][14]

3D Realms released the source code of the Shadow Warrior engine on April 1, 2005 under the GNU General Public License.[4] Due to the timing of the source code release, some users initially believed that it was an April Fools joke. The first source port, JFShadowWarrior, was created by Jonathon Fowler and released a day later on April 2, 2005, including Linux support and improvements from his JFDuke3D source port.[15] As of January 2015, there have been no new versions of JFShadowWarrior since October 9, 2005. Shadow Warrior for iOS was released on December 19, 2012 by 3D Realms and indie developer General Arcade.[16]


Two expansion packs: Wanton Destruction and Twin Dragon were released. The third one, Deadly Kiss from SillySoft, remains unreleased, but screenshots were released in January, 1998.[17]

Wanton Destruction[edit]

Wanton Destruction was created by Sunstorm Interactive and tested by 3D Realms, but was not released by the distributor. Charlie Wiederhold presented the four maps he created to 3D Realms, and was consequently hired as a level designer for Duke Nukem Forever. With permission, he released the maps on March 22, 2004. On September 5, 2005, Anthony Campiti - former president of Sunstorm Interactive - notified 3D Realms by e-mail that he found the Wanton Destruction add-on, and it was released for free on September 9, 2005.[18]

The add-on chronicles Lo Wang's adventures after the original game. He visits his relatives in USA, but is forced to fight off Zilla's forces again. The game culminates with a battle against Master Zilla above the streets of Tokyo, which ends with Master Zilla's death. The game features 12 new levels, new artwork and a few new enemy replacements, such as human enemies; though they still act like their original counterparts.

Twin Dragon[edit]

Twin Dragon was released as a free download on July 4, 1998. It was created by Level Infinity and Wylde Productions, and features music by Castles Music Productions.

The game reveals that Lo Wang has a twin brother, Hung Lo, with whom he was separated in early childhood. Hung Lo becomes a dark person whose goal is to destroy the world. Similar to Master Zilla, he uses the creatures from the "dark side", criminal underworld and Zilla's remnants to further his goals. Lo Wang has to journey through his dark minions, reach his palace and defeat the evil Twin Dragon Hung Lo once and for all. The game features 13 new levels, new sounds, artwork and a new final boss, Hung Lo, who replaced Zilla.


Lee Jackson who had already composed the soundtrack for Duke Nukem 3D also composed the soundtrack for Shadow Warrior. Shadow Warrior uses the audio tracks of the game's CD for music playback rather than the system's MIDI device, which allows for a higher general quality and the use of samples and effects not possible with MIDI music. This allowed Lee Jackson to include a wide variety of instruments which support the game's Asian theme as well as to include ambient tracks which depend on advanced sound design. MIDI support including MIDI versions of five songs from the game's soundtrack was added exclusively to the shareware version which had to be kept small in size.

A special song called Lo Wang's Rap was included in one of the game disc's audio tracks. It was created out of sound bites and outtakes from recording sessions with John William Galt, the voice actor cast in the role of Lo Wang. This song was played during the credits sequence after completing the game. Jackson wrote and recorded a backing music track and then used a DAW to arrange the vocals over it in a way that made it sound like Lo Wang was actually rapping. The song was released as an MP3 on 3D Realms' website in 1999.[19]


Two original novels featuring Lo Wang were published. For Dead Eyes Only was written by Dean Wesley Smith and You Only Die Twice by Ryan Hughes. The titles of the novels parody titles in the James Bond book series by Ian Fleming.


Reviews from critics are mixed and ratings vary from average to positive. User reviews are generally positive. Thierry Nguyen of Computer Gaming World commented: "Shadow Warrior is an average action game. While there are some good enhancements to the BUILD engine and some good level design and enemy AI, the rest of the game is mediocre."[20] Tim Soete of GameSpot says "In the end however, Shadow Warrior's only merits are its gameplay."[21] Review aggregate platforms such as MobyGames[22] and Metacritic,[23] and even PC Game sales platform[24] indicate favorable review scores from users.


Shadow Warrior caused some protest on its release.[25] One prominent example is an article published in Computer Gaming World in which Elliot Chin criticised the game on the basis of what he saw as insensitive and inauthentic representations of East Asian society and culture.[26] 3D Realms responded to this criticism by stating that they didn't intend to make a racist game, but had deliberately used a melange of Asian culture in order to create a "fun game" which "didn't take itself too seriously" and parodied "bad kung fu movies".[26] Such criticism has continued. Doctor Anthony Sze-Fai Shiu, an Assistant Professor of English at Springfield College, expressed similar concerns, especially as regards the game's portrayal of Japanese corporations as "rapacious" and "traditional".[25]


A reboot, also titled Shadow Warrior, was developed by Flying Wild Hog and published by Devolver Digital. It was announced on May 10, 2013,[27] and a teaser trailer was released on May 20, 2013.[28] It launched on September 26, 2013. The game is exclusively single-player, and focuses on the story of Lo Wang when he started working for Zilla.


  1. ^ Johnston, Chris (1997-08-29). "More Mac Games". GameSpot. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  2. ^ Jebens, Harley (1998-01-29). "Duke Teams With the Shadow". GameSpot. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  3. ^ "Shadow Warrior (v1.2 CD Version) Source Code Release - April 1, 2005". 2005-04-01. Retrieved 2015-03-11. This source includes the Build Engine data (.OBJ files) needed for compiling. The Build Engine is a separate entity from Shadow Warrior, though Shadow Warrior is built upon the Build Engine. 
  4. ^ a b "3D Realms News: Shadow Warrior Source Code Released". 2005-04-01. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  5. ^ "Twitter / _ShadowWarrior: Shadow Warrior Classic (1997)". Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  6. ^ "Twitter / _ShadowWarrior: Sorry for the Facebook promo". 2009-09-04. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  7. ^ "Twitter / _ShadowWarrior: Looks like people are loving". Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  8. ^ a b "Shadow Warrior - Coming from 3D Realms". Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  9. ^ "SHADOW WARRIOR by Apogee". Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  10. ^ "GAMECENTER.COM - features - Shadow Warrior - Q&A". 1997-04-02. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  11. ^ "3D Realms Site: Shadow Warrior". 1997-05-13. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  12. ^ [1][dead link]
  13. ^ [2][dead link]
  14. ^ "GT Interactive to unveil strongest lineup in company history at E3. - Free Online Library". Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  15. ^ "JonoF's Games and Stuff : JFShadowWarrior". Jonathon Fowler. 2005-10-09. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  16. ^ "3D Realms: Classic shooter by 3D Realms Shadow Warrior now available on the App Store". 2012-12-19. 
  17. ^ "3D Realms News: Shadow Warrior: Deadly Kiss". 1998-01-15. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  18. ^ "3D Realms News: Wanton Destruction for Shadow Warrior Released!". 2005-09-09. Retrieved 2012-09-16. 
  19. ^ "3D Realms News: Lo Wang's Rap". 1999-05-19. Retrieved 2012-07-31. 
  20. ^ Nguyen, Thierry (January, 1998). "Samurai Bored". Computer Gaming World, p. 57.
  21. ^ "Shadow Warrior Review". GameSpot. 1997-10-02. Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  22. ^ "MobyGames: Shadow Warrior". Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  23. ^ "Metacritic: Shadow Warrior". Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  24. ^ " Shadow Warrior". Retrieved 2014-12-27. 
  25. ^ a b Sze-Fai Shiu, Anthony. "What Yellowface Hides: Video Games, Whiteness, and the American Racial Order". The Journal of Popular Culture. Archived from the original on 2013-09-28. 
  26. ^ a b Lee, Rachel C. and Sau-ling Cynthia Wong (editors) Asian America.Net:ethnicity, nationalism, and cyberspace, Routledge, 2003, p. 253
  27. ^ "Split Personality: Hard Reset Devs Revive Shadow Warrior". 2013-05-10. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  28. ^ "Shadow Warrior - Teaser Trailer". 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 

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