Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 25, 2017

Some Wii U game impressions

My investigation into the Wii U Library continues. Some people say, “Amazing library!” Are they correct? I want to find out.

Nintendo Land

Terrible! F. Worthless game except for maybe some multiplayer modes. Nah, not even then. Nintendo Land probably HURT Wii U’s impressions.

I am not playing this game ever again.

Super Mario Brothers U

The game is getting better as I am now into the middle content. I did come across ‘giant world’ or rather ‘giant stuff in a jungle’. Much appreciated, Nintendo. 2d Mario needs its Giant World.

So far, this game can be really fun. I loved the soda airship. Sometimes, the design is terrible. WHO designed the swingy ghost house in the ice land? Terrible design! Going in and out of the houses and bonus games is actually more annoying than fun. They feel like a chore just to get the item. I now skip them all the time. That’s right, Nintendo. Your minigames are so not fun that I am skipping them!

I still need to play this one more and finish it. I also have Super Luigi U to play through as well.

Bayonetta 1

This game put me in a massive WTF especially with the crotch shots. There is much pizzazz to this game. I cannot tell if it is good or bad. Need to play more.

Hyrule Warriors

This game is so funny. It takes a loooong update just starting it up for the first time, then I proceed through the patch notes of dozens of patches hahahahaha.

I’ve played very little so far, but my impression is that this game is extraordinary and more fun than any Aonuma Zelda has ever been.This game is WOWing me so far. I think I’ve found the first genuine ‘must play’ on Wii U. While this game got ported to the 3DS, that is a sign that it will not be ported anymore. Snatch this game up fast while it is cheap before prices on it skyrocket. Zelda games always go up, and this one is too much fun to be ignored. If I was renting this game back in the 1980s, I would already be on my way to buying it.

Still have…

Steam World Collection

Haven’t tried it yet.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

Think I might play this last as I’ll need 200 hours to go through it. Yup.

I have trucks coming with more Wii U games for me. I wanted to get them before they were wiped out during the holiday rush. From here on out, the games get more and more expensive.

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Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 25, 2017

Email: D-pad

I haven’t tried either of these controllers, but allegedly, the Hori Wired Controller and Pokken Controller have good D-pads.

https://www.amazon.com/Nintendo-Switch-HORIPAD-Controller-Officially-Licensed/dp/B01NAUATSM
https://www.amazon.com/Nintendo-Tournament-Controller-Officially-Licensed-Pokemon/dp/B01A6LEXFK/

I simply resorted to the Hori arcade stick. It may be expensive, but it’s fun as hell to use with 2D games, and at least it’s familiar. I know the feeling of a proper arcade joystick (arcades still existed when I was a kid, such as Street Fighter II. I remember when the game was new).

I think the problem started back when Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP with a clicky D-pad. Those things are an abomination and should be banned. The Pro Controller’s D-pad acts similar to this, except it doesn’t sit as flush with the controller. It just goes to show that Nintendo didn’t give a shit about good D-pads anymore, probably due to Miyamoto and his GameCube-itis.

Nintendo needs to pull its head out of its ass and release a Joy-Con with an actual, proper D-pad. I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

Pokken one looks like what I need. Thanks.

A D-Pad left Joycon would be incredible. Nintendo can put out tons of hardware, including endless amibos, even custom controllers like the Pokken one, but a D pad on a Joycon? No. It is intentional.

Let me float a theory. Did Nintendo intentionally fuck up the D-pad on the pro-controller? The only reason why I entertain ‘conspiracy’ is because Nintendo hates, hates, hates 2d style gaming with D-pads. Nintendo tried to abandon the D-pad as soon as they could. D pad was on N64 controller only because of contingency plan if analog stick failed. They tried to remove it from the Gamecube but third parties made them keep it on. It was on Wii just due to desperation of trying to get back to NES roots. It was on Wii U because they didn’t want to break what they did with the Wii. But if you notice, D-pad was not emphasized on the 3DS.

Nintendo only wants 3d games. “There is no problem with the pro controller,” Nintendo laughs as they hope 2d gaming dies. They won’t even give an official response to it… or any response. All they do is swap out the pro controller for another flawed one. Fools!

The Pro Controller is broken as hell. The D-pad keeps hitting up sending pieces flying down.

All pro controllers have crappy d-pads. All of them. Nintendo has never fixed them or even admitted there is a problem.

However, I have been playing Tetris longer than most of the readers here have been alive. There is a problem.

One solution would be Sega patching the game so I could use another button instead of ‘up’. But then how would I play Ultra Street Fighter 2?

Is there any Switch controller that has a good D-pad? I want an official one, not 8-bit do (which has some issues).

Hey Malstrom,

You might find this article interesting.
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/20/gamers-overreacting-on-ea-star-wars-game-firms-should-raise-prices.html
Basically, an analyst says that gamers are “Overreacting” to people being upset over microtransactions. Basically, you can tell that whoever wrote this doesn’t play video games. Here’s a key point

“If you take a step back and look at the data, an hour of video game content is still one of the cheapest forms of entertainment,” he wrote. “Quantitative analysis shows that video game publishers are actually charging gamers at a relatively inexpensive rate, and should probably raise prices.”

I would love to hear your thoughts. At the very least, we get to laugh at an analyst (for free even)

The reason why he is stupid is because he is arrogant. ‘Quantitative analysis shows…’ Why not use more than just ‘Quantitative analysis’? These fools missed the Wii success, thought Wii U would be a hit, and they completely missed the Switch success too.

Look, if these analysts are just going to use a ‘quantitative analysis’, then we should replace them with computers or, at least, a smartphone app. You have a brain. Use it. Don’t just rely on a formula.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 24, 2017

Email: What are Exult and DOSBox missing?

Quick question: why is it that playing Ultima VII in DOSBox or Exult is not the same? I’m curious because those two are the only ways I have been able to play the game and I found Exult to be a better experience because of various small improvements.

Exult had to rebuild the source code such as the ‘combat’. Exult will not be ‘exact’. But then again, Ultima VII was a monster to run even back during 1993. When you hear the word ‘bootdisk’, almost always they are referring to Ultima VII’s picky Voodoo Memory Manager.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 24, 2017

World 10: Story and Narrative

At the end of the day, the game [Serpent Isle] ran over 100 hours for most players. It even took QA nearly a full 24-hour day to play through. We actually didn’t get our first cheat-free playthrough until the day before we signed off and all of us were terrified we might be shipping the buggiest game of our career. Didn’t turn out that way, luckily!​

-Warren Spector, RPG Codex interview. SOURCE.

 

“Serpent Isle, the continuation of Ultima VII, is often considered the best Ultima ever made. Though its look is mostly borrowed from Ultima VII, Serpent Isle offers a huge quest and some of the most fascinating characters and situations ever to be found in a role-playing game.”

-CNET, “Ultima Collection Review – Software – CNET Reviews”. Reviews.cnet.com. Retrieved 2012-08-17. SOURCE.

How do you tell a story in the Open World? Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle shows the answer. Serpent Isle is the novelization of the Open World.

Above: Today show from 1993. Richard Garriott is the spitting image of Shamino right down to the part in his bangs.

 

Ultima VI: The False Prophet

Generation 4 (16-bit Era)

Released 1993

Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle is about something Ultima has never focused on: story. Despite the game being unfinished, half the plot chopped off, the story is very complex, and it ties heavily into other Ultima plots namely Ultima VII: The Black Gate (duh), Ultima III, and Ultima I.

A Shifting Open World

I don’t want to lose the reader here going into the story, so let us stick to the design for now.

“The main plot was then broken down into subplots (also known as ‘town plots’), and each of the designers had one or more parts of the plot that they were given to flesh out, and to come up with the specifications for the game engine (i.e., how many unique characters, how many conversations, how many usecode tasks, etc.). When a team member had their subplot document ready, they would submit it to the rest of the team, and we all had a chance to make comments (written into the document — everyone had their own ‘comment color’). The designer would then go back and rework their design to make improvements.”

-Bill Armintrout, the director, nay, canteloupe, of Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle. Source.

Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle is an Open World game. It doesn’t get much more open world than the Ultima VII engine. I think the ‘magic’ of Serpent Isle is that by using the Ultima VII engine, very much designed for the Open World, the game is able to expand and retract the Open World around you in surprising ways.

At first, you are able to explore everywhere on a continent in the Serpent Island ‘world’. But when you get in a boat and crash, you can only explore everywhere on that other continent. You can’t get back… yet. And even once you do gain access, you still can’t go north… yet.

Several times, the game will go Eventide island on you (in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this was when the game would take away your equipment, and you had to ‘survive’ on the island).

Much of the game revolves around hitting story ‘triggers’ which moves the plot to the next point. You have all played games like Final Fantasy IV or VI which does this (though VI was not out when Serpent Isle appeared). While the JRPGs are largely the spawn of Ultima III, they eventually grew into their unique type of game revolving around plot triggers. Serpent Isle is Ultima’s take on doing plot triggers.

Paper dolling and Portraits

Serpent Isle did not add much to the Ultima VII engine (although the frozen terrain is quite a more interesting addition than has any right to be). Paper dolling was further evolved over The Black Gate by actually showing your menu images of characters wearing the items. When your magic helmet gets replaced by a furry hat, you see the Avatar wearing a furry hat. It certainly is a nice touch to immersion compared to the line from the head and showing the item floating in space.

While Ultima VI and Black Gate had NPC portraits, they were drawn. Serpent Isle’s portraits lose Black Gate’s (town identifying) border and are much, much larger. Why? Serpent Isle’s portraits are digitized photos. As far as I know, all the portraits in Serpent Isle are actual people including the winners of the Ultima contest to have their photo in the game.

Above: This is actually part of the main plot. Serpent Isle is an adult game!

Above: A few of the portraits from Serpent Isle

Premise

Ultima games love their backstory, and Serpent Isle perhaps has the most.

Back in Ultima I, when the land was Sosaria, there were four main continents.

Above: Sosaria of Ultima I

Above: Top map is Land of Lord British from Ultima I. Bottom map is same Land of Lord British still called Sosaria in Ultima III.

Above: The Land of Danger and Despair from Ultima I.


Above: Serpent Isle from Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle

When Mondain is killed at the end of Ultima I, the Gem of Immortality is shattered. The four main ‘lands’ of Sosaria break away into their own separate worlds. Serpent Isle is the continuation of the Land of Danger and Despair.

Ophidian Era

With Lands of Danger and Despair now alone as its own world, the native people created their own unique culture of the Ophidian civilization. They worshipped the three cosmic serpents within the Ethereal Void. One was the Serpent of Chaos, another the Serpent of Order, and the third was the Great Earth Serpent which kept Chaos and Order in balance. A virtue system was created from Order and Chaos and Balance.

Order: Ethicality, Discipline, and Logic.

Chaos: Tolerance, Enthusiasm, and Emotion

Balance: Harmony, Dedication, and Rationality (Balance’s virtues are combinations of the virtues of Order and Chaos).

Temples were made to each of the virtues. Grand underground cities were made to Order, Chaos, and Balance.

The spiritual leader of this religion was the Hierophant of Balance whose role was to open the Wall of Lights. Wall of Lights was a doorway to the Ethereal Void where one could talk to the cosmic serpents directly.

All of this occurred after Ultima I but before Ultima III. During the strange events of Ultima II was the Ophidian Civilization. Ultima III unleashed the War of Imbalance.

War of Imbalance

In Ultima III, there is a Great Earth Serpent guarding the Isle of Fire. You do not kill it in Ultima III. You simply bypass it. Where did this Great Earth Serpent come from? Where did it go afterward? Exodus stole the Great Earth Serpent, the balancing serpent, from the ethereal void. Without balance, the Order and Chaos serpents were free to attack one another. The serpents’ war would reverberate to the Ophidians.

The forces of Order defeated the forces of Chaos. The Chaos Serpent was killed. The remains of the Chaos Serpent were the component spirits known as Banes.

Meanwhile, the Order serpent went insane being alone in the void. The forces of Order eventually left through the Wall of Lights to another land. The land was now uninhabited.

New Sosaria

After Ultima III, Lord British would unify the kingdoms of Sosaria into a Britannia with its own Virtue system. However, not all the city states were happy to unite behind Lord British.

Montor was a city in Ultima I known for following the principle of courage. It housed various armories and weapons. In Ultima III, Montor had grown to split between Montor East and Montor West. However, courage was not the defining element in Lord British’s new religion. The people of Montor fled and re-settled as the city-state of Monitor in Serpent Isle.

Another city from Ultima I was the seaside city of Fawn. In Ultima III, Fawn, which was re-settled in another part of the world, had taken to the cult of worshipping beauty and was home to the mystics. Fawn objected that beauty was not part of Lord British’s virtues, fled, and re-settled as the city-state of Fawn in Serpent Isle.

And another city from Ultima I was the city of Moon. In Ultima III, Moon, the city of mages, was known to have a reputation of virtue. Nearby were the Shrines of Truth. After Lord British placing honesty as the city’s virtue, Moon became Moonglow. However, not everyone agreed with placing honesty as the virtue for mages. Doesn’t magic rely on illusion? Erstam, a powerful mage,  rallied like-minded mages and the dissidents of the twin cities of Montor, and Fawn to abandon Britannia for lands free from government enforced morality. The dissidents of Moon would re-settle as the city-state of Moonshade in Serpent Isle.

Due to all the serpent like ruins everywhere from the fallen Ophidian civilization, the land was renamed from New Sosaria to Serpent Isle.

So here is the timeline so far:

Ultima II: Lands of Danger and Despise become own world. Era of Ophidian Civilization.

Ultima III: Great Earth Serpent is taken creating the War of Imbalance in Serpent Isle. War of Imbalance rips Ophidian Civilization apart in a civil war. No one survives.

Ultima IV: Three city-states rebel against Lord British and re-establish themselves in the ruins of Serpent Isle.

From Ultima V, VI, and VII, not much is said about the three city states except they evolve (or de-evolve) toward their principle in extreme.

 

Introduction to Serpent Isle

With Ultima VII, VIII, and IX being a planned trilogy, the Age of Armageddon could place hints to the player where the story was going. Aside from the ending of Ultima VII: The Black Gate literally saying your next adventure would take you to a place known as Serpent Isle, there is another major clue.

Above: Gwenno

Gwenno, Iolo’s wife, (and Iolo himself) have been in every Ultima game (except VIII of course). Gwenno goes as far back as Ultima I and II. It is assumed Iolo took Gwenno with him from Earth. It is said that Gwenno was the one who wrote the lyrics to the song of “Stones”. A bard, tinker, explorer, sage, Gwenno has a vast range of skills. She first becomes your party member in Ultima V, and continues being part of the Avatar’s party in Ultima VI. But in Ultima VII: The Black Gate, she is missing! Where did she go?

In Iolo’s hut in Yew, you find a note written by Gwenno. She writes that she encountered a sailor from Buccaneer’s Den who offered her a map to the Serpent Isle. Being an explorer, Gwenno was excited to go to the Serpent Isle. Lord British made Gwenno promise not to give her husband, Iolo, or the Avatar directions to the Serpent Pillars until the Avatar’s quest was completed.

However, Gwenno could not make an expedition to the Serpent Isle on her own. Such a travel would be too expensive! The Fellowship hired Gwenno to transport an obelisk with several Fellowship members and sailors.

Above: David Watson

[Note: Gwenno is based on the real life person of Kathleen Jones (now deceased) who is the wife of David Watson. David Watson, Garriott’s friend in real life, is who the character Iolo is based on. Watson did write the music to “Stones”, is a bowyer, and plays a lute. Watson also designed levels in Xcom-Apocalypse and was a mission analyst in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.]

But 18 months after Ultima VII: The Black Gate, we find a clue where Batlin ran off…

Above: Introduction to Ultima VII Part 2: The Serpent Isle. Note how Gwenno was mentioned in the introduction. While Gwenno took the Fellowship obelisk and people to the Serpent Isle, Batlin must have known this. Batlin takes Gwenno’s map and follows her through the Serpent Pillars.

The story set-up is simple enough. Since the Avatar destroyed The Black Gate, the Guardian says he is going to destroy ‘Britannia’ itself. The Avatar must capture Batlin, re-acquaint with Gwenno, and somehow stop the world from blowing up.

 

Beginning

In sequels, why does the hero have to start from scratch and slowly obtain new gear and power? Should the sequel have the hero all decked out with the most powerful weapons from the last game?

And, surprisingly, this is so in Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle. The Avatar and his three companions: Iolo, Dupre, and Shamino, arrive at Serpent Isle all decked out with the best gear from Ultima VII: The Black Gate. You all have magical armor. You even have the Black Rock Sword with Arcadion the demon trapped inside from The Forge of Virtue. Arcadion will curse you for taking you to this cold land.

However, the boat does not ‘dock’. The boat just appears on land via teleportation. A green lightning storm erupts. Much of the equipment Lord British gave you is now interchanged with odd items. Your magic armor chest piece is now a woman’s ceremonial breast plate. The magebane is replaced by a blue egg. Iolo’s crossbow is replaced by an urn of ashes.

It is made clear that since your departure from Britannia, Imbalance is destroying the world. The teleportation storm will transport one item with another should lightning strikes it. Aside from the main plot of chasing Batlin or finding Gwenno, the item interchange gives you reason to explore the world. It also gives you reason to ask the people about the items as they might have clues as to where it is.

Another teleportation storm hits and the three companions disappear. The Avatar is alone.

As the Avatar moves forward, a female monk appears and gives you the enchanted hourglass (which will allow you to come back alive if you die since Lord British cannot revive you). Another monk, Karnax, appears and tells her not to interfere. Both monks believe you are the one in their prophecy. She thinks she should help you, he thinks the monks should not. They fight each other by shooting exploding fireballs. When they leave, the surroundings are all fire.

Shamino finds you and writes a list of all the bizarre new items that have appeared in your bags. The game wants you to explore the world and find your original equipment.

The Avatar then arrives at Monitor.

Above: A Let’s Play of the very beginning of Serpent Isle.

Monitor

The guard doesn’t trust you, but after letting you in, you are escorted by two pikemen as they take you to Lord Marsten (the leader of Monitor).

Lord Marsten explains that Monitor exists within a knight system by three groups of knights that compete for supremacy. You have the Bears, who rely on brute strength, the Wolves who rely on cunning, and the Leopards, who rely on a mix of both. Lord Marsten is the leader of the Leopards. Brendann is leader of the Wolves. Caladin is leader of the Bears. Everyone is marked as a knight by having a facial tattoo of bear, wolf, or leopard.

There is another good reason why the Avatar must take the Knight’s Test to gaining the trust of the Monitor residents. Iolo is in jail in Monitor. Apparently, Iolo appeared out of nowhere during a funeral proceedings. The Monitor knights think he is an evil magician and put in jail. If the Avatar becomes a knight of Monitor, only then will they free Iolo.

Dupre will then be escorted to you by pikemen, and he will rejoin your party. He adds to Shamino’s list of strange items he has and the equipment he has lost.

To take the Knight’s Test, you talk to Shmed. Where is Shmed? He lives in a hut on the northwest road on the north exit of Monitor. You must ask Dupre and Shamino to leave the party (which means they just stand around). When you start the test, you are brought into the cave with the door shut behind you. You only are given a mace and leather armor.

The Knight’s Test is a mix of combat, maze solving, and general puzzle solving. Of the various traps involved, there is some magic. A cyclops will appear and try to destroy you. An invisible (!) pikeman will appear and try to kill you. From his slain body, you find a scroll saying that Batlin hired him to kill you. There are the usual traps like arrows shooting from the wall and explosions going off around you, There is a crate stacking puzzle. There are invisible passageways, hidden doors in walls, and so on.

The last ritual of the Knight’s Test is to use a claw, you are to find earlier, and pierce it to your body. Mix your blood with the sacred ashes. A totem animal will appear (wolf, bear, or leopard). Kill it. Inside the body will be the key to exit the Knight’s Test. Then you are to take the body of the animal to make a cloak for yourself. The meat, inside the body, is to be used for your banquet feast. When the Avatar does this final part, the totem animal is always a wolf. With it slain, you take the meat, body, and key and unlock the door out. Shmed meets you, tells you that should have been dead already, and attempts to finish the job himself. You kill Shmed, and leave to rejoin your comrades waiting dutifully outside. You also reacquire your equipment.

Once back in Monitor, you take the wolf corpse to Cellia the furrier to make a cloak out of it. It takes 24 (in game hours) for this cloak to be made. The wolf meat is taken to the pub wench, Lucilla, who will make a main dish out of it. Lucilla is interesting because she likes you, but since you are not a knight, she will walk away saying, “Not a knight!” When you are knighted, arrive in the middle of the night, and you will bang her. (This games loves having adult themes.) Lastly, you must get your wolf tattoo. Lydia does the tattoos at the tattoo shop. With the tattoo, your character portrait will be forever changed. The Monitorians will also speak with you differently as you are now one of them.

It is customary for new knights to have a banquet at the banquet hall. The Avatar is no exception. There, the Avatar sits on a huge table, full of food, with all the main NPCs of Monitor. There is much cross talk and conversations. You are asked what the hardest part of the Knight’s Test was. If you say something like the arrows coming out of the walls, they will say, “But that was so easy!” When you start talking about the magical events like the invisible pikeman who attacked you, commotion breaks out. How did magic get inside the Knight’s Test? Knights don’t use magic. What is going on here?

Harnna, the town healer, will run into the banquet hall and declare that her daughter is missing. Luther, leader of the Bears, will accuse Krayg (who likes to take long walks alone in the woods near the goblins) of being the traitor. The two draw weapons and the banquet festival is pretty much over. Lord Marsten dismisses everyone since ‘there is no fighting in the banquet hall!’. Now, the Avatar can ask Marsten to release Iolo from jail (or bribe one of the guards to do it).

Harnna asks for you to find her daughter, Cantra. The knights say the goblins got her, but Harnna knows that isn’t it. “What!” says the reader. “Does her crystal ball say otherwise?” Of course it does. She actually does have a crystal ball that shows what is going on with Cantra. It is one of the strangest video game sequences I’ve ever seen. It shows Cantra being chased around in a bedroom by Batlin. Yes, cute little girl being chased by old nasty looking man. “You cannot get me!” she says. Batlin addresses her as the Chaos Bane. She stops and the two throw exploding fireballs at each other (!). Harnna asks for you to use the fabled Hound of Dosker to find Cantra.

But the game needs to give you a reason to leave Monitor. It does so by having the Avatar get poisoned automatically. Harnna treats the Avatar and says the solution is only temporary. The permanent cure is in Varo leaves in Fawn. Confront Lydia, and she will acknowledge she poisoned you. She will then attack you with a dagger. After you kill her, you find a note on her from Batlin ordering your assassination.

Traitor of Monitor

The story of Monitor is finding out who is the traitor. How do the goblins ambush the pikeman patrols so easily as if they know they are coming? Why are the pikemen being led to certain defeat?

If you try the ale by Simon, the innkeeper, you will throw up. Yet, he loves his ale. If you explore the goblin forest near a blackrock monolith, you will find a bottle of Simon’s ale. Lucilla in the pub will even match that bottle with Simon’s. This is hard proof that Simon is meeting with the goblins! When confronted, Simon will reveal that he actually is a goblin! Then he attacks you. When you kill him, you get a key that leads to the goblin underground passageways that lead to the goblin capital city.

With the death of Simon the Innkeeper, the knights of Monitor will declare the traitor dead. Marsten will thank you. You are the hero! And this is the end of the story.

But that is the game wanting you to believe.

Goblin Village

The passage and village are filled with endless goblins. Usually, this is done later on in the game.

The goblin underground passage starts from an entrance deep inside the goblin forest. From there, the passageway is filled with nasty goblins and various other cave monsters. The passageway leads to a mountain enclosed village full of goblins in their town.

Above: The Goblin King

If you wait until midnight, all the goblins will be sleeping. You can then kill them in their sleep. The Goblin King, Pomdirgun, will talk to you during the battle. A key is found on him. This key unlocks a door filled with goblin treasure in the passageway. The Helm of Courage is there. It also contains a couple of scrolls which detail the pikemen routes (written by Lord Martsen and Spektor).

Back at Monitor, the Avatar shows Caladin or Brendann the proof, and they will throw both Marsten and Spektor in jail. Speaking to them in their prison, they will allude they have a secret weapon that will destroy Monitor. Lucillia at the pub knows Spektor (she sleeps with everyone it seems), and she will give you a key to their secret room hidden through a hidden mountain wall in town. You go there, open the door, and you find the body of Cantra’s father as well as some treasure. The ‘weapon’ are tons of powder kegs.

Single-handedly, the Avatar discovers the traitor of Monitor is not just the innkeeper but the leader of the Monitor, and ends the War of the Goblins by slaying the Goblin King. With it, the Avatar becomes the head knight.

Note to the reader

You may ask, “Why am I reading all this?” The answer is that the above is a summary of just one city-state in Serpent Isle. The plot of Serpent Isle is large and deep. However, chapters of it are contained in geography such as the story of Monitor. From here on, to prevent spoilers, we’re going to move on into summarized summaries. The narrative is so massive, it would take forever just to keep summarizing it like I did above for just Monitor!

The Silver Seed

Might as well mention the Silver Seed here. This is the ‘expansion’ to Serpent Isle.

The Silver Seed is when you use a special medallion, given to you very early in the game, at a Serpent Gate. This will take the Avatar and his companions back in time during the War of Imbalance. The leader of the castle you are at is an automaton housing a fallen leader. It is the last fortress against the forces of chaos in the area. Similar to the Forge of Virtue, there are various ‘tests’ that one does that radically improves the stats of the Avatar. There are also many nice new items such as the golden chalice which feeds all your characters for you! There is the reagent ring that gives you infinite reagents. And there is the Helm of Light which means you do not have to bother with torches or light spells anymore.

At the end, you plant a silver tree. I know, it doesn’t make much sense. Silver Seed expansion wasn’t done and was rushed by EA. We assume the planting of the Silver Seed is to help restore balance to the world.

Once the Silver Seed is completed, the Avatar and companions travel back to where they left in the Serpent Isle plotline.

Fawn

Outside the towns are towers where the pikemen stay to keep watch for goblins. The pikemen make the roads safe for travel. However, the Monitor knights were losing to the goblins (until the Avatar came along), and the goblins had taken over the Fawn Tower. When you kill all the goblins in the tower, the pikemen will return and stay in charge of that tower from now on.

Outside of Fawn is the Fellowship camp. These are the crew that travelled with Batlin and Gwenno to the Serpent Isle. Scots, a cartographer, will draw you a map of the Serpent Isle. However, since he cannot travel north very well due to it being frozen, he admits there will be inaccuracies in the map. (The map is right for the coastline, but it is flatout wrong for the interior of northern Serpent Isle.)

Above: Iolo sings about Gwenno in Fawn attracting the attention of the people there.

Fawn is a town dedicated to beauty. There is a new tileset here of white marble. Despite being a port city, all the boats won’t go out due to the Teleportation Storms.

The story here revolves around a court trial around Dupre absent-mindedly praising Lord British. Lord British is Beast British in Serpent Isle! There is also a resistance group of people fighting the political power of the lords of beauty inside Fawn.

Sleeping Bull Inn

This is an interesting inn. It was founded by a pirate named Silverpate. He has a treasure hidden and many puzzles and mazes to get to it.

There is also a Xenkan monk hiding out in the stables who has much to say about the imploding world.

There are many people inside the inn. You find out that Gwenno and Batlin, travelling separately, went across the sea to Moonshade. So the game is telling you to go to Moonshade.

In order to get there, you need a boat. No one is travelling due to the storms. Captain Hawk was going to go but he is in jail at a pikeman tower. The Avatar tries to bribe them, but they keep upping the price beyond what the Avatar can pay.

When the Avatar returns to the inn, a woman by the name of Selena shows up and says she knows where she can get money. She joins the party, and she shows you where all the gold is at. (up around the coast) The gold location is actually the Britannian mint! The Serpent Hold lighthouse and the Britannian mint were swapped by the teleportation storm! Sure enough, there are tons of gold bars. But magical creatures keep warping in. As you leave the mint, Selena will say goodbye and use her blink ring to teleport out. A band of warriors approach you and try to kill you. A note from Batlin is on one of them. With the gold bar, the Avatar is able to free Captain Hawk from the pikemen.

Captain Hawk gets you to Moonshade, but the storm destroys the ship. You are now stuck on Moonshade.

Moonshade

Moonshade is probably the most fascinating RPG city out there. It is full of comical evil mages. It is an aristocratic society. Mundanes are those who cannot use magic and serve the wizards. The mages will not speak to mundanes except for a few. Automatons, animated metal statues, serve the mages. They also keep guard over their homes for thieves.

The Mage Lord will eventually summon the Avatar. You will just be walking around, and he will teleport you to dinner along with the other mages. When Pothos comes in saying that blood moss cannot be found, the MageLord will stop the banquet.

The story goes on about getting to the Mad Mage (Erstam) via Pothos. You ride a giant turtle! Also, you gain a new companion of Boydon. By obtaining the Phoenix Egg, you throw that in the vat along with all of Boydon’s body parts lying throughout Erstam’s manor and viola! Boydon is a strong party member, but if he dies, all his limbs fall off. Like Humpty Dumpty, Boydon cannot be put back together again.

From Erstam, the guy who wrote the manual in Serpent Isle, you get the most important item in the game: the Serpent Jawbone. Every Open World has a transportation system it seems, and Serpent Isle is no exception. On the Serpent Gates spread throughout the world and in some dungeons, using the Serpent Jawbone will transport you to the Dark Path. It is a web of gates that lead back to Serpent Isle. The Dark Path seems to just exist in the Ether Void. But the catch is that the correct Serpent Tooth is needed in order to use a gate. The jawbone only has a few. The mages have some. But you need to obtain new serpent teeth in order to go to new places. In other words, the game won’t let you fast travel until the plot allows it.

When you arrive back to Moonshade with mandrake roots, you can get a spellbook. This means you are no longer a ‘mundane’ and all the wizards will talk to you.

News say that Gwenno arrived first and then later traveled north to the Frozen Wastes. Batlin, arriving later, also traveled north. Yet, when you do a seance with the wizard Mortegro, the Avatar can speak with Christopher from Trinsic (the blacksmith who was murdered at the start of the game) who thanks you for avenging him. You are also able to speak to Gwenno. Iolo cannot believe it. Gwenno is dead.

Batlin, however, has traveled north. When talking to Captain Hawk, who just sits in the pub, he says that the catacombs of the mountains south of Moonshade is an underground passage possible to back to the mainland. The leader of the rangers, Julia, has the key. But Julia says that it leads through the ancient Ophidian City of Furnace. It is so hot that one cannot make it there without a way to cool oneself. The Avatar needs a cool spell. Good thing the ice mage Frigidazzi has one.

When you ask Frigidazzi for the cool spell, she asks you to come to her bedroom at midnight. (Yeah.) She will do the dance of passion that not even the Avatar can resist. The Magelord finds you in bed together with her, so he beams you to a mock trial and banishes you to the Mountains of Freedom (nasty dungeon).

The Mountains of Freedom is a long and nasty dungeon where the game puts you alone in a survival mode with nothing on. There, you find the thief Stephano, who steals the stockings of female mages (!), and the two of you get out. There, you find the Blackrock Sword. But in order to get past one particular monster, you must release the demon inside. Arcadion laughs as he destroys the monster and leaves. Your Blackrock Sword is now much less useful than before.

Furnace

The underground Ophidian city is interesting with well fleshed out details that have nothing to do with the plot. There is the ‘coliseum’, the meeting halls, and of course the automatons that attack you. There are the fire elementals that spawn from the lava, as well as skeletons that arise. In typical Ultima fashion, there are tons of mazes and puzzles involving items here. The choice of a gargoyle to guard the entrance is an interesting one.

There is the Test of Purity that should be mentioned. Again, the Avatar is beamed away and put in a scenario. It is several tests. One has Iolo say that he found a moongate that leads home. Do you want to go? You must refuse many times. In one test, you must kill worms which is really boring. Dupre will run in and tell you all this treasure he found. “Stop killing the worms! Come get this awesome loot!” Of course, if you do, you fail the test. But my favorite test is when you are in a room full of hot women. Shamino says there are two buttons here. One frees the women. The other makes them have sex with you! Hahahaha. I don’t think I failed a test so much in my life, hahaha.

The Avatar’s original spellbook is in Furnace. If you take it, it will disintegrate due to all the heat and fire. Either way, you lose all the spells you began the game with. Clever game developers.

Furnace leads you back to the mainland. The serpent tooth for the Serpent Gates on that side are in Furnace as well so you don’t have to go through that accursed fire city again and again.

Gorlab Swamp

The swamp the roads pass through the north is Gorlab Swamp. Walking in it causes your party to fall asleep and enter a dream world. In this dream world, of some sort of rocky trails in space (!?), is the cause of the destruction of Gorlab town long, long ago. There is the Infinity Bow there that shoots infinite fireballs and strange flying squid creatures that keep attacking you. Lord British is there, apparently having a dream of his own. The castle of Lord British is in ruins due the instability of the world.

Gorland Swamp serves as a checkpoint. In order to solve the dream sequence, you need three items that are obtained from completing the three city states: Helm of Courage (Monitor), Crystal Rose of Love (Fawn), and Mirror of Truth (Moonshade).

Morghrim

There is one more city quest, though more like a village-quest. In the Northern Forest, a village is taken over by a dictator near Draygen who is invincible. But an arrow treated from a wild plant, the King’s Savior, in the area will put him to sleep where he can be killed.

In the middle of the forest, there is a hut which houses Morghrim. Morghrim, like the Avatar, was not born on Serpent Isle. Instead, Morghrim came from another world altogether: Pagan. This was Origin’s way to further foreshadow the next game (and describe Pagan as well). From Morghrim you get the hound whistle to call the Hound of Doskar. You summon the dog, have him sniff Cantra’s wooden sword, and the dog points the direction you should go. Batlin is wherever Cantra is at.

Castle of Shamino

In the midst of nowhere is this gigantic castle. It is Shamino’s castle from Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness! Shamino used to be a king back in Ultima I. When Mondain’s gem was shattered, Sosaria was broken into four parts. Serpent Island was one of them. There is a story here, much backstory about Shamino, but mostly tons of traps and monsters.

Batlin’s companions ambush you. Batlin is also there with Pathos, his gargoyle bodyguard. He declares the Chaos Bane is his, and Batlin and Pathos leave.

Upstairs, you find Cantra dead body, and Batlin’s medallion nearby. Obviously, you have the Hound of Dosker track Batlin’s scent from the medallion.

Confronting Batlin

The game does not make this easy. First, you have to go through long tunnels to get to the Frozen Lands of the north. Here, everything is ice. If the Avatar and his companions are not wearing warm clothes (fur hat, fur boots, cloak), they will literally freeze to death.

Above: The game gets much harder.

Batlin’s trail then goes through another Ophidian underground city: City of Crusher in the Skullcrusher mountains.

Above: Vasculio is in the City of Chaos. If you have the magebane, he might make a deal with you. Kill him anyway.

From Skullcrusher mountains leads to more of the open area of the Frozen Wastes. There is little but much walking, Silverpate’s treasure, and many nasty critters attacking you.

Batlin’s trail leads to the Spinebreaker mountains which is where the underground Ophidian City of Order is at. After going through the various puzzles and mazes, you eventually get close to confronting Batlin. His henchmen are sent to stop you.

Above: Batlin’s henchmen try one last time to stop you. Pathos the gargoyle is one of them that attacks you. Selena is another. When she dies, she says you are too late and that she will join Batlin in the Ether Void to conquer new worlds.

Above: Batlin opens up the Wall of Lights and is about to become immortal.

The Avatar and the three companions spread out to surround Batlin. Batlin does his final curses and stands before the Wall of Lights about to become omnipotent. But, then, the Wall of Lights does not truly open. In his last moments, Batlin screams, “What have I done? Avatar! I beseech you to help me!” Lighting flashes and Batlin is killed. The Guardian looks upon the scene and says, “See how I reward those who fail me.”

From Batlin’s body, the three pieces of the Chaos Bane swirl and enter each of the three companions. Shamino becomes the Bane of Anarchy. Dupre becomes the Wantonness Bane. And Iolo becomes the Insanity Bane.

The Holocaust of Serpent Isle

Your three possessed companions inflict a holocaust. Everyone is dead.

Above: Everyone is dead and monsters roam the streets.

There are a few survivors. Of course, these few survivors are needed for plot reasons. Gems must be constructed and enchanted. The three chaos banes then sit on their thrones at the Castle of the White Dragon where the Avatar must capture them. Then, the bodies of the companions must be brought to Monk Isle for resurrection. And then, they must be bathed in the holy water from the appropriate temple (the temple being somewhere far in the northern Frozen Wastes). This game is quite massive. The holocaust is quite a plot twist, and it is chilling to see goblins running amok in Monitor… a city that had just declared victory over the goblins.

The reason for the holocaust was not a creative one, but a financial one. Serpent Isle was becoming too expensive and was behind schedule already. So why not slaughter everyone in the game? The original plan was to have more city-state type plots with the NPCs of these cities. In Monitor, the knights would literally be transformed into their animals so you would see wolves, bears, and leopards roaming the streets being the actual people. (The animals are still in the game, they simply do not talk.)

The three cities of Monitor, Fawn, and Moonshade have been destroyed. The inn of Sleeping Bull has been destroyed. The northern village has been destroyed. Practically every NPC in the game has been killed.

The Temples

There are three temples of Order, and three temples of Chaos, that must be ‘cleansed’ and their holy water collected in buckets for the plot to continue. Each temple has their own puzzle plot.

After the holocaust, the Avatar can get additional companions. Boydon is still available. The Avatar can also summon automatons as companions. Wilfried, the traveling brother, will return to the ruined Sleeping Bull Inn (though he is a snot and will leave your party once he gets hurt). My favorite is the automaton babe that is the waitress at the pub in Moonshade: Petra. In one temple that is filled with acid, you ask her to come with you so you can inhabit her body so you can walk through the acid (!). There is body swapping in Serpent Isle!

Above: The Avatar is in Petra’s shapely mechanical body walking through the acid.

Above: A trapper’s cave.

Gwenno can also join your party. Once her body is retrieved from the Gwani Shrine and resurrected at Monk Isle, you must use the water of Discipline on her to cure her. Now Gwenno must help you save Iolo.

Above: The Castle of the White Dragon

Expect dragons, traps, and other nefarious puzzles at the Castle of the White Dragon. At the climatic battle, the Avatar must slaughter Iolo, Dupre, and Shamino and trap the banes in their gems. The Monks can revive the companions and the temple water can cure them. Then, they join the party again.

Above: So much fire in the throne room!

End Times

Xenka, the monk who wrote the prophecies, has returned. The monks are all in worship mode. The rest of the game is about restoring the Chaos Serpent and getting the last items to restore balance to the land.

In order to unite the three Chaos Banes, someone must sacrifice his life. Straws are drawn, but the Avatar took the short straw. Right before the cremetorium opens up for the Avatar to fall in, Dupre pushes you out and jumps in. “The world cannot lose its Avatar!”

Above: The New Dupre

At the Shrine of Chaos, Dupre’s soul is imprinted on the new Serpent of Chaos. The Avatar needs a ton of items for the end of the game.

At Sunrise Isle, through various mazes and more enemies, there are endless puzzles. Eventually, you have to put on all the serpent attire and put all the items in place. At the end, the Wall of Lights Open before the Great Earth Serpent statue. Your last act is to attack and destroy the Great Earth Serpent Statue with your Ophidian sword. This frees the Great Earth Serpent and ends the game.

Above: The Temple of Balance and the statue of the Great Earth Serpent.

Ending to Serpent Isle

Above: Ending to Serpent Isle. Start at 1:50.

The Great Earth Serpent restores balance between the Chaos and Order Serpents. The worlds, including Earth, are now saved. The Avatar floats in the ethereal void before the serpents. Dupre, as Chaos Serpent, is content. The Guardian mocks you. “Here you are poised at the edge of eternity. Where will you go? Back to Britannia? To Earth!? No, you will come with me to another world altogether. We do have a score to settle,” as a giant red hand reaches out and takes the Avatar away.

This is an odd ending that you don’t really see in video games. Most games would end by revisiting Serpent Isle and how your victory saved the world. Ultima doesn’t do that shit.

The ending of Ultima VII Part 1: The Black Gate has the Guardian cursing you. The Guardian vows to destroy the world if he cannot have it! This, along with catching Batlin, was the premise of Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle. The Avatar must stop the destruction of the worlds the Guardian is causing. But in order to stop the destruction, the Avatar places himself in the Ethereal Void which allows the Guardian to kidnap him.

The Guardian never sounds pissed off in the ending of Serpent Isle as he does in the Black Gate. It seems the ‘destruction of the world’, not a very interesting way to go about it, was just a Guardian ruse to get the Avatar to expose himself into the Ethereal Void. The Guardian isn’t about destruction as he is about corrupting people and their Avatar. What better way to corrupt the Avatar than by placing him in his world of Pagan?

The Last of the Oldschool PC Narrative Games

Here is a depressing quote:

There’s no doubt RPG’s were out of favor by the mid-90s. No doubt at all. People didn’t seem to want fantasy stories or post-apocalypse stories anymore. They certainly didn’t want isometric, 100 hour fantasy or post-apocalypse stories, that’s for sure! I couldn’t say why it happened, but it did. Everyone was jumping on the CD craze – it was all cinematic games and high-end graphics puzzle games… That was a tough time for me – I mean, picture yourself sitting in a meeting with a bunch of execs, trying to convince them to do all sorts of cool games and being told, “Warren, you’re not allowed to say the word ‘story’ any more.” Talk about a slap in the face, a bucket of cold water, a dose of reality.

If you ask me, the reason it all happened was that we assumed our audience wanted 100 hours of play and didn’t care much about graphics. Even high end RPGs were pretty plain jane next to things like Myst and even our own Wing Commander series. I think we fell behind our audience in terms of the sophistication they expected and we catered too much to the hardcore fans. That can work when you’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars – even a few million – but when games start costing many millions, you just can’t make them for a relatively small audience of fans.

-Warren Spector, RPG Codex interview. SOURCE.

Some say Warren Spector is nothing more than a sim-hack with games like Serpent Isle and the Worlds of Ultima games. That is laughable.

Here is what is going on. Early video games were more influenced by pen and paper and novels than anything else. But due to the CD, no one wanted to see WORDS anymore. When was the last time you saw a game with as many words as Serpent Isle since? Very, very few. And the ones that did end up becoming games like Planescape: Torment and others. People wanted voice acting. People wanted better graphics and not small isometric characters running around.

Serpent Isle always felt like a JRPG to me. JRPGs had evolved past the Ultima III style frame and put in tighter narratives and storytelling.

Above: The map for Final Fantasy 1.

Serpent Isle exists in ‘chunks’ of the world until it is all opened up entirely. Each area is a type of ‘plot’ that unlocks the next chapter. It is Open World with Chapters. Final Fantasy 1 does this frequently. You must destroy the evil elf king in order to get out of the land locked bay (which opens up another chapter). The game is an open world, but the beginning half is locked in chapters. This opened up profound narrative opportunities.

Above: Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV used a series of ‘chapters’ that stuck the player in an ‘somewhat’ open world until the plot moved the player somewhere else. The party would change as companions came and left. I have to suspect that Serpent Isle was heavily influenced by these early 1990s JRPGs.

But I also wonder about what Serpent Isle influenced. There are some remarkable coincidences between Serpent Isle and Final Fantasy 6 for example.

Above: Final Fantasy VI

The defining scene in Final Fantasy VI is on the flying island. Your party arrives right when Gestahl and Kefka are at the three statues. Gestahl is about to become invincible. But at the last moment, Gestahl is killed by Kefka, and it is Kefka who becomes invincible. A massive holocaust occurs after.

This is exactly the same scene of Batlin and the Wall of Lights. The personality of Kefka is exactly that of the personality of the Guardian including the laugh. The three ‘stars’ of the statues moving out mimic the three banes moving out as well. And then, there is the entire holocaust with a ruined world. I believe in coincidences, but I do not TRUST coincidences. Something is not right here.

Serpent Isle was originally designed to have the continent be the Great Earth Serpent

So the first Serpent Isle design work was about pirates in the Ultima world, with the “surprise” being that the players discover in the end that the winding continent they’re on is actually The Great Earth Serpent.

When Jeff departed, Warren (our producer) let us know that the pirate idea was dead, too. He also told us that Richard Garriott wasn’t too excited about the whole “continent is the Great Earth Serpent” idea, so that was nixed, too.

[Snip]

So the team was waiting nervously for a few days, waiting for Richard’s verdict. At last, we were summoned to the producer’s office… and Richard was very excited with the design! (And gave us permission to kill off Dupre!)

The only surprise? He said his only disappointment was that we hadn’t used the idea of the continent being The Great Earth Serpent!!!??? (A miscommuncation somewhere!)

-Bill Armintrout, the director, nay, canteloupe, of Ultima VII Part 2: Serpent Isle. Source.

What an interesting concept: an RPG designed where the world is actually a giant titan. Either Tetsuya Takahashi heard about this or had similar thinking when he designed his RPG on the backs of two titans in Xenoblade.

Hot and Cold Resistance

When game publications were saying, “Zelda: Breath of the Wild must be taking cues from some classic PC RPGs,” they were pointing to Ultima. Time magazine was reminded of Ultima VI of the ‘two solutions to every puzzle’ idea. However, others thought of Serpent Isle.

There were always fire and water resistances in RPGs. Even the very early JRPGs had fire and water resistances with the enemies and with armor. But there was never something like ‘you must wear warm clothing or you will freeze to death’ or ‘you must chill yourself off or you will burn up’ as you travel to lava infused or ice land environments. The very first game that did this was Serpent Isle.

Above: Zelda: Breath of the Wild took cues from Serpent Isle in having Link acquire different armor to survive in different environments.

 

Conclusion

“Serpent Isle cannot be an Open World game. Game progress is activated by plot triggers.” This is true. Serpent Isle feels like a combination of the Ultima VII engine and the 16 bit JRPG story narratives of Final Fantasy 4-6 minus the ‘evil empire’ trope.

Is the story for Serpent Isle stupendous? No. It is amazing for Ultima fans because there has never really been an ‘Ultima story’ as all the games are Open World incarnations of the technology at the time. Serpent Isle is for the hardcore Ultima fan with references from all the other Ultima games and fans of the Ultima VII engine. Serpent Isle is also the last of the ‘great text’ RPG games made before CDs came out and changed everything.

Serpent Isle, while featuring combat, is extremely puzzle based and ‘talk to NPCs’ based. There are no ‘bosses’ here except for the Goblin king. Fans of the RPG tropes, based off of Ultima III, will be baffled by this game which long evolved past Ultima III style gameplay.

Looking back, I realize that Serpent Isle did something other Ultimas did not. Each Ultima, especially starting with IV (including both Worlds of Ultima games), created a system of beliefs that a society believes in. In other words, a culture. Each Ultima introduces a new culture. With Serpent Isle, it introduces five cultures: Monitor belief system, Fawn belief system, Moonshade belief system, Ophidian belief system, and Xenkan monk belief system. All five belief systems are shown to collapse in the game. This game doesn’t have towns you enter, it has cultures, you enter. They even have their own currency! (There are four currencies in Serpent Isle.)  How many RPGs do you know where towns have their own unique currency?

The Age of Armageddon Trilogy showing the spiritual rot and destruction of the people and the world moves forward with Serpent Isle. Ultima VII Part I showed a world full of spiritual rot, of people who stopped believing and ripe to be destroyed. In Serpent Isle, we see people who never believed in the spirituality in the first place. We also witness the destruction of the world. Due to the Gorlab dream and teleportation storms, the game does illustrate (and through a conversation with Lord British and the Avatar during the dream sequence), that Britannia is being destroyed and uprooted.

With the spiritual destruction of the people and the world of Britannia, how is it that the Avatar remains untouched? Would the Avatar be the villain, do the unvirtuous, and become power hungry? This is why Serpent Isle ends with the Guardian literally yanking the Avatar away. The Avatar’s spirituality must be destroyed in Ultima VIII.

Above: Soundtrack to Ultima VII Parts 1 and 2.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 20, 2017

Email: Why even bother with the Virtual Console?

I get wanting the original cartridge for the original hardware, but why bother with the Nintendo VC? It’s just emulation anyway, not the real thing, but there is no account system and the emulation options are abysmal. Even the (S)NES mini is better because you at least get a physical product. Just get a single-board computer, load it with ROMs and enjoy all the Turbografx display options you could ever want. Or hack your Wii (homebrew might work on the Wii U as well, no idea). Piracy is a service problem, and if Nintendo’s service offers me less than what straight-up piracy does there is no reason to give them any money. GOG is pretty much the only digital distribution service I use because they realized that if they want to get me to buy something that has been on every abandonware site for over a decade, they have to do better than that. You get the game pre-configured, complete will all the documentation (and no, that HTML help menu thing Nintendo throws together is not the same), all the content (many abandonware downloads are missing the audio CD image) and nice goodies like the soundtrack.

I completely agree.

But there are exceptions…

I am currently playing Xenoblade (Wii) on my Wii U. I bought the digital version for $20.

Why?

One, it is cheaper digitally than physical. Wii copies are $50 or more and going up in price.

Two, I doubt I’ll ever replay the game. I don’t necessarily want a physical copy of it.

Three, the Wii U download allows the game to be streamed to the Gamepad which is actually pretty cool since it is a Wii game, not a Wii U game.

Four, it is not emulated as Wii U has the Wii hardware in it.

Now let us look at the Turbografx 16 games.

One, I like having a tough shmup to play after a long Wii U game session because that is how I’ll ever get good at the damn game. Fuck these tough games hahaha. It is seamless to load it up.

Two, $6-7 isn’t expensive. If it is, you have bigger problems in your life.

Three, the Turbografx 16 games can be very expensive to get. Soldier Blade, for example, costs $100 for physical.

Four, anyone who owns Turbografx 16 hardware, versus the posers online, will tell you that the hardware absolutely sucks. You need a turbobooster to get even composite. It is nice to have it upscaled.

Five, it SAVES which it will not do on a Turbografx 16 unless you use a duo or turbobooster plus (which are impossible to find anymore like the CD attachment).

Six, an emulator is written for each program.

Seven, you can use the Wii U Gamepad which is pretty cool way to play it.

I always recommend against buying anything digitally from Nintendo, and I still do. If you want to use PC hardware to play those games, go ahead. I think that is probably the best way to get access to the Turbografx 16 CD games especially the Japanese ones for those uber 16-bit RPGs that not even SNES and Genesis fans know about.

Do whatever the hell you want.

I do really enjoy playing Salamander on my Wii U though. I play it everyday for about 5-10 min as it thrashes my ass. I get a little better each time! Is it worth 6 bucks to me for that? Sure.

BTW, Nintendo.com has reduced the price of refurbished Wii Us to $175. Nintendo is getting rid of them. This is going to be your very last chance to get a ‘new’ Wii U. This is also the last chance for the Wii U games to be cheap. I expect them to start rising in price soon. I’m snatching them up as fast as I can.

I doubt there will be any Wii U games available at retail after this holiday season.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 19, 2017

Email: Wii U games

NSMBU does start off bad but it gets better much quicker unlike the other nmsb which got kind of worse as they went on. There is creativity there but you have to get past the beginning to find it.

You should give 3d world a chance. It is not like a true 3d Mario game, I find it more enjoyable.

It is amazing how much more enjoyable NSMB U is when you ignore those stupid giant golden coins. Why is that even put into the game? Why are collectathons put into everything?

Oh no, I can’t play Super Mario Brothers 3 because it doesn’t have any worthless giant golden coins for me to collect. What a joke is this worthless game design from modern Nintendo.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 18, 2017

Email: Wii U

Congrats on getting a Wii U. Honestly, 3D World is fairly fun. I mean the post game/100% stuff is nuts but any can have fun with the game if they don’t obsess over that. Normally I love the freedom of the 2D games, but this is the best of the 3D games. It takes everything that made Galaxy 1 good and makes it better. It stole a can of 2D Mario paint for its’ production values and styles. A 2D Mario game with this level of production values would eclipse this game easily, but it is worth the $20 or less that it costs now.

New Super Mario Bros. U + Luigi U is both fun and a bit disappointing. It feels a bit off sometime not just because of its’ production values (music) but because it feels a bit sanitary/play-by-numbers. I feel like it had great potential but was purposely kept on a leash. Once you get used to the physics you can enjoy the game, just don’t expect this game to remove your need to replay Super Mario Bros. 3. Yes, even with the additional content and challenges. For what it’s worth, I’d drop $40 without thinking about it if the game was ported to Switch without any changes.

For Bayonetta, I like the idea of Bayonetta more than the actual game itself. Once again, it’s not my exact cup of tea. I’m more of a Devil May Cry fan. Still, the game is in my collection and I have both discs as well.

You are going to love Rayman Legends and Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze. I can already hear some of your criticisms, but overall I say that those games would be worth their original retail value. I would have double-dipped on Switch if the game hadn’t received a slight content cut and if I hadn’t played the hell out of it in February while waiting for the Switch to release.

If the anime influences don’t bother you, Xenoblade Chronicles X will feel great. The exploration, world and sense of progression are awesome. The only things that the developers got wrong would be the pacing at certain points and making the battle system just a bit too complex. I knew enough to not die in my first few hours, but it definitely took some time for all of the layered systems to just click into place. If Breath of the Wild could be called simple, this game is highly complex when compared to it. It was also a bit of a surprise that this plays like more like the Last Story and Final Fantasy XII (liked it) than something like Grandia or Tales of Symphonia.

I haven’t played Hyrule Warriors. I’ve been hoping that it would come to the Switch or would receive a big price drop soon for Wii U. It looks like it’s a lot of fun. Repetitive, but it looks like it would be a good balance for everything that you have.

My nephews enjoyed SteamWorld Dig and I found it to be a good time waster. I wasn’t expecting to like it much, but I got it super cheap digitally when it was part of a Humble Nindie Bundle.

NES Remix is what you would get if Warioware just straight up made everything NES based, but removed the Warioware personality. It’s enjoyable, but I’m greedy and it didn’t feed me enough.

Shantae games are always fun. They start off slow, but as the narrative pulls back a bit (but never entirely) it becomes enjoyable. I like the simple stories and fan service in them. Honestly, the release on the Switch is far superior than what you’re going to play on the Wii U. I hope that doesn’t sour it for you, but I don’t want you to write off future games if this one has too much exposition in it for you. Wayforward were still smoothing things out with this release. They’ve really grown as a studio over the years, they actually make licensed games that are worth playing.

I bought Darksiders II because it was cheap, I stopped playing it shortly after launching it because my time was too expensive for it.

I don’t have Deus Ex, but I’ve wanted to pick it up. I’ve also heard that the Wii U Splinter Cell is the definitive version as well.

I’m still too fat to play Wii Fit U. I’ve worked off over 50 lbs this year, but it looks like I won’t get to play the first game in this until sometime early next year.

Zombi U is the most pleasant surprise on this system. The asymmetrical gameplay that comes from combining the action (tv screen) and resource management (game pad) looks like an unpleasant gimmick from the outside but is extremely enjoyable and immersive when playing the game yourself. You owe it to yourself to set the right mood/tone (lights off, no noise) when playing this.

Wii Sports U was a good idea that someone ate up and pooped out. All of the good bits are the undigested corn but somehow they still managed to crap on that. The core of the games work, but they either feel like missed opportunities when nothing changes or complete pieces of crap when they do things like have you use the gamepad as a catchers mitt.

I haven’t played Legend of Kay or Captain Toad. Kay has always been cheap, but not appealing to me. Toad looks like it may be a fun diorama puzzle game, but I can’t find it cheap enough to buy it yet.

My nephews liked Need for Speed, I didn’t play it much since I didn’t realize that I didn’t like the style of this game. It’s like Tokyo Xtreme Racer, but with prettier graphics, an American locale and a push to feel like you’re in a Fast & Furious movie without all of the cool bits.

Get all of the Donkey Kong Country games on the VC and maybe mod the Wii mode on your Wii U for playing DKC Returns. Not for pirating purposes, but it’ll be the only way to remove the motion controls from that game. Even if you have the physical versions of DKC, the save states lets you “cheat” easily when you don’t feel like dealing with the challenge head on.

I can also recommend the original Warioware for GBA, Advance Wars 2 and Advance Wars Dual Strike. Dual Strike is easier than Days of Ruin, but it both has more content and is actually on the VC. Days of Ruin has a superior story for the campaign while it mixes things up pretty well for the balancing. These portable games would honestly be better on a portable system, but they are good for playing between bigger games or instead of them when you need something that isn’t as epic as a home console game.

I’m hoping that the Switch isn’t taken over by epic home console games. As nice as it is to have Breath of the Wild on it, some days I’d be happier with having the choice to play something like A Link Between Worlds. Mario Kart 7 is superior to 8 for me. I’m still pissed that it never received real content updates.

I hear “Wii U is a very underrated console,” and that “Wii U has a great collection of games.” Now that I am in, I will see the truth of these rumors. So far, Nintendo Land has been a dud. Remember, I need at least six GOOD to GREAT games for a console to declare it… worthwhile.

I’ve played through the first world of NSMB U. I was so bored I turned the console off. Who the hell directed this game? It is extremely boring and lame. Was Nintendo trying to get the game to fail? And why do the Koopa Kids have airships when they actually have castles? WTF is this shit? It is like someone made bullet points of highlights from Super Mario World and Super Mario Brothers 3 to try to combine them for some ‘ultimate Mario’, and they failed. I’ll report more as I go through the game’s additional levels.

Wii U has two really cool things going for it so far:

One, it is backwards compatible with the Wii and even allows transfer of Wii software to the Wii U. This is great because Wii U uses HDMI connection which is what TVs today have. Wii U is really two consoles in one, a Wii U and a Wii.

Two, the Virtual Console on Wii U is AWESOME. Of course, I am seeing only the end of its lifespan where there is actually a collection of games to choose from. I love how they placed DS and GBA games on it as well as Wii and Wii U games. Metroid Prime Trilogy is $20!!!! What a steal even digitally. Xenoblade is $20. Super Mario Strikers Charged, a fantastic Wii game, is $20. I love GBA titles there like Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. This is some good shit.

Best of all: Turbografx 16 games. Turbografx 16 games alone make any console worthwhile. Say YES to Soldier Blade, YES to Salamander, YES to Devil’s Crush. I put these games up there with the golden classics of Super Mario Brothers 3, Legend of Zelda, and so on. And they are upscaled with the hdmi!

Do you know how HARD it is to get good display from a Turbografx 16? The turbo-booster alone, which makes AV stereo out is $100!!!! Turbografx 16 games never get old.

Time to fire up Xenoblade. Everyone is still talking about the game, so it is time that I finally stop avoiding it.

Posted by: seanmalstrom | November 18, 2017

Email: Metroid Prime 3 – wait, really?

I thought you had played it since it was my impression that you owned the Metroid Prime Trilogy disc – perhaps I was wrong?

Anyway, I just want to say that if you haven’t played any of the Wii versions of the Prime games, then definitely keep in mind that setting the in-game option for “sensitivity” to ‘Advanced’ can make a world of a difference for both new and veteran players.

I do own the original Metroid Prime Trilogy disc with its steel type cover. I got bored and never finished Metroid Prime 3. Maybe now I will finish it. It is time to wrap up loose ends on Wii and plough through the Wii U library.

Switch is just beginning to get its legs. 2019 will be a very big Switch year.

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