Comprehensive, yet simple and fun!
I enjoyed being rated on various aspects, such as the amount of land (and taxes), honor, generalship, and swordsmanship. The "honor" rating distinguishes and defines this excellent game: every move that you make will be judged, unless you're clever enough not to be caught red-handed!
The gameplay has enough variety to keep one interested: marrying the right woman, having sons to take over your legacy (and giving up your power at the right time so that a young heir can have enough time to continue), balancing diplomacy and intrigue among your rivals or allies in order to be the "best", raising taxes, practicing generalship and swordsmanship, defending villages, and battling against enemies in relatively simple wars.
The game's progression is logical, as you expand your focus from the tiny to all of Japan eventually by game's end.
The music and cut-scenes (or dialogues?) create a sensible and enjoyable environment. The atmosphere is pleasant, yet very tense and suspenseful.
If there were a weak part, I would have to choose the sword fighting. Ironically, this is the section of the game that was created by Sid Meier! It succeeds in that it attempts to replicate the discipline and techniques of its era (such as balance and a rocking momentum), but, as a game, it doesn't work: you are limited to only three (or four) basic moves: left slash, right slash, powerful overhead slash, and blocking.
(Even so, this is a minor point, considering the game's age and these duels represent only a small portion of its strategy.)
Sometimes, the keys don't seem to respond quickly enough in the duels and the battle sequences.
The Bottom Line
Sword of the Samurai stands the test of time. I play it occasionally today! It balances action, strategy, and historical inspiration in an elegant way.