Found Media: Sourcing the Anime Posters in Shadow Warrior (Classic 1997)

Shadow Warrior (the “classic” version) is a first-person shooter game from 1997. Made with Ken Silverman’s Build engine, much like the other 3D Realms game Duke Nukem 3D, and the Monolith title Blood, it differentiates from other FPS games from its era by having an overall (pseudo-)oriental theme, taking ideas from Chinese, Japanese and other East Asian cultures, mostly in a tongue-in-cheek, “90s outrageous humor” action schlock tone. It’s also my favorite first-person shooter, and one of my all-time favorite video games, period.

The relevant assets

In the game — in particular, on the first level of the Shareware campaign — you can find several anime-themed posters. As a kid I thought that maybe they were original artworks, considering the game also features somewhat acceptable (although a bit crappy in today’s standards) anime character designs elsewhere, but I eventually came to the conclusion that the artwork was too accurate to how anime-style artwork actually looks to be the work of an American studio in the 90s. So I decided to reverse-image search those pictures in Google, and I was able to find the original artworks, which were digitized into assets for the game in 1996.

The Assets

Tile 3340

The first one in the .ART asset is tile 3340, which features promotional artwork from the anime Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko, more exactly the original OVA from 1996. The artwork can be found here.

Tile 3341

The second asset is tile 3341, which features promotional artwork from the anime OVA Slayers Special from 1996. The artwork can be found here.

The third asset is tile 3342, which features promotional artwork for the anime OVA Sorcerer Hunters, which I’ve only been able to find in connection to a CD entitled Sorcerer Hunters: Vocal Collection, released in 1996. I used the CD artwork here as it was the best quality available online.

Editor’s note: The artwork on the right has been censored here as to ensure that this doesn’t get taken down for apparent “lewdness”.

Tile 3343

And finally, tile 3343 features promotional artwork from the 10-part anime OVA series Black Jack, which were released between 1993 to 2000. In particular, this promotional poster was made for the 1996 OVA Night Time Tale in the Snow — “Lovelorn Princess”. The artwork here was taken from the IMDb media page for the OVA. It can also be found here.


So, as you can see, all the artworks featured on Shadow Warrior were from 1996 anime releases, mostly OVAs that were being promoted at the time of the game’s development.

Considering that there’s no common theme, tone or style to these four anime works, I don’t think these artworks were selected for any other reason except their availability to be digitized or reused in 1996, rather than any particular interest on these series from the developers and artists who made Shadow Warrior (unless any of the artists want to declare otherwise, contact info is available at the end of this article).

It’s notable, however, that at least three of these artworks were available on the June 1996 edition of the Japanese anime magazine Newtype, which might mean that the artwork for these four assets came from the same source: that is, either someone in 3D Realms digitized those artworks for the game, or they were able to obtain those artworks from the internet or from elsewhere. Sadly I’ve been unable to find a digitized copy of the magazine that is fully available online (contact info below if you have a digital copy and want to help me confirm my findings), to corroborate that all four artworks were featured in the magazine, but it seems the most likely scenario.

What comes next? I’d like to known what the process for digitizing these assets was, as to confirm whether this was digitized in-house or taken from elsewhere. I would also like to see a digitized copy of the June 1996 edition of Newtype to confirm that all these pictures were sourced from the same magazine. Otherwise, I hope this was informative.

If you have any further leads for this investigation, please contact the author on kidmarscat at gmail dot com.

all-purpose artist