Love and hate for Nintendo, plus Ultima pulp

My relationship with Nintendo is akin to that of a spurned lover, or a spiteful once-friend. Back in the days of NES and SNES, Nintendo was my jam. The latter system remains my favorite system of all time, by and large. It was around the time of the GameCube that the company started to lose me, and I was gone with the advent of the Wii. I suppose it was the multiplayification and criminal IP serialization of each successive console that really did it.

SNES has arguably one of the best RPG libraries (or at least boasts the highest quantity of iconic titles) of any console part or present. Plus a mess of cult classics and smash hits of other genres! And yet as generations progressed, Nintendo became mainly the home of Mario (Noun) and Zelda (XXX of YYY), plus random increments of Metroid and smatterings of winners like Boom Blox.

Now I can understand the move to corner the “casual” and “family” segments of the market. It’s been a long time since I had two or three nearby friends to rub together (trouble me not about inappropriate idioms!), so not for me, but I get it. Even then, I remained faithful to Nintendo handhelds. In spirit, the DS was really the successor to the SNES.

But then they started doing stupid shit like region-locking. Granted I’m probably in the minority of consumers who would want to play both English and Japanese games, but now I’d need to buy a separate Japan-region 3DS. Fuck that.

Their official line is some bull-hookey about region-locking making content release more efficient, but lo and behold they followed the pack and did away with the region lock for the Switch. And yet they still refuse to unlock the 3DS (which is software, not hardware locked).

Smoke you, Nintendo!!!

And then came the NES Classic Edition shortages and discontinuation…

My embitterment is well-documented at this point.

Nintendo

Still, we’ll always have SNES, I thought.

Alas, my fond, untainted memories were not to go unmolested. Someone on Twitter (which really ruins everything on so many levels) was waxing nostalgic about Ultima VII not too long ago. “Ultima VII?” I thought to myself. But Ultima VI was the awesome one! Indeed the False Prophet was an amazing game unlike any I’d played before at the time. Not only was the world open, but the main quest was ambiguous. You had to go figure out that crap for yourself.

Thinking back, Ultima was my Elder Scrolls at the time (before knowing of Elder Scrolls). That is, I’d just go wander around the woods killing gnomes and wisps and finding wizard towers to be looted. Sometimes I’d happen upon a cave or tomb with some random magical armor and some serpents or headless dudes to kill. Once in a while I’d run into those badass gargoyles and they’d murder my ass back to Lord British. He sure was swell for res’ing me all those times.

The turn-based combat, the ability to recruit all kinds of random NPCs, the looting and stealing of almost anything that wasn’t nailed down…man, what an awesome game. At the time I hadn’t yet gotten into the world of PC gaming, and the SNES port served me well.

I remember some years later I tried a ROM of the Black Gate and…everything was different. No turn-based combat; simplified inventory; the graphics looked almost worse, and I kept running into monsters in the starting town that would one-shot me. Man, what a bad game.

So I tried it again yesterday. I had a little more patience this time, but my experience went approximately like this — come through moongate and talk to my old buddy Iolo, explore and pick up some items, go into villager’s basement and get almost instantly killed by goblins shooting magic at me. I was then forced to repeat this process twice more, except I was killed by rats in a different basement, and something else on the ground floor of another house that killed me so quickly I was unable to identify it.

Brutal and unfun.

Still, this may partly be the fault of the SNES port!! Apparently the PC version was a bit different. At least it looked different. I can only hope it played differently, too.

ultima-vii-the-black-gate-02

hqdefault1

Above is the starting spot in the SNES version (top) vs the PC version (below). What gives, right?!

Anyway, apparently this is available on GOG, so I may be buying more games that I don’t have time to play! Yes, “games” plural. I found this cool video about Ultima 7, and the dude mentions two expansion-type games that don’t seem at all like expansions.

He describes Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire and Martian Dreams as weird Ultima VI-engine (!!) installments where you explore strange pulpy worlds rather than Britannia. It’s hard to imagine an Ultima game without Lord British, but I think I could be persuaded to play one set on Mars or in “the savage world of Eodon.”

eodon

mars

Lo! It looks like the Avatar has become John Carter of Mars!

So many undiscovered/unplayed gems. I was recently informed of my Sword of Aragon deficiency, too. Eventually, friends. Eventually.

-Bushi

bushi

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4 thoughts on “Love and hate for Nintendo, plus Ultima pulp

  1. “It’s hard to imagine an Ultima game Lord British”
    should be:
    “It’s hard to imagine an Ultima game *without* Lord British”

    Also, I’ve restarted Sword of Aragon 4 times in the last week, just to try different character combinations and strategic paths.

    Liked by 1 person

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