Sunday, August 25, 2013

1989/1990


Good or bad, 1989 games took risks. Instead of a pile of Wizardry-derivatives and entries in established franchises, the last year of the 1980s, and the decennial of the first commercial RPGs, produced highly-original games with innovative elements.

Early in the year, we had B.A.T., a cyberpunk adventure-RPG hybrid. The Magic Candle arrived with its complex plot, innovative magic system, and memorable finale ritual. The Dark Heart of Uukrul structured its corridors as puzzles. Hero's Quest, Tangled Tales, The Third Courier, and Keef the Thief blended adventure and RPG elements but all had something new to contribute that went beyond simple hybridization, such as B.A.T.'s macros and Keef's near-real-time combat. Chaos Strikes Back used a familiar engine in a challenging way. Hillsfar tried to make a D&D game out of minigames, with limited combat and magic. Knights of Legend went the other way and introduced mind-boggling length and complexity in the combats. Sword of Aragon crossed RPGs with strategy games but still favored the RPG parent. Space Rogue brought real-time space combat to the RPG world. And Don't Go Alone and Windwalker offered alternatives to the traditional high-fantasy and science-fiction settings.

Drakkhen...I can't even think of a pithy way to summarize it.

But this screen shot does a good job.

Unfortunately, a lot of these games, though innovative, simply didn't work well for me. In innovating, the developers forgot to retain enough elements of the classics. Drakkhen, a game of beautiful graphics and an exciting interface, could have been good with a less senseless plot and a less blunt approach to combat. Knights of Legend could have been good if they'd focused on something other than just the combat. Hillsfar could have been good with a little variance to the "dungeons," maybe a little combat there. Don't Go Alone could have been good if the horror theme was more than just a facade on a traditional dungeon-crawler. The Land could have been good with smaller cities and dungeons, and not quite so many foes. Mines of Titan could have been good if the last third hadn't descended into pointless dungeon crawling and a sudden ending. Windwalker would have been a little better if it had taken itself less seriously; Keef would have been a lot better if it had taken itself more seriously.

Still, I'm glad to see that the top six rated games--all the ones with scores above 50--include a mix of classic series done particularly well (Curse of the Azure Bonds, Starflight II, Dragon Wars) and highly original games that still managed to preserve what I love about RPGs (The Dark Heart of Uukrul, Hero's Quest, The Magic Candle).

Game of the Year Nominees

Choosing a "game of the year" is not a matter of simply choosing the highest-rated game. In such a designation, I look for quality, originality, and a certain timelessness. I want a game that defines the year, that people still remember fondly, and that (ideally) had an influence on other games. I chose Wizardry for 1981 partly for what it offered, but also partly for what it spawned: the entire first-person dungeon-crawling genre, including The Bard's Tale, Might & Magic, and Dungeon Master. Ultima IV was an obvious choice for 1985 because of its highly-original quest and because practically every RPG player who was alive in the 1980s, when asked about their favorite RPGs from the era, would at least put it in the top five.

With these criteria in mind, a couple of my highest-rated games, Curse of the Azure Bonds and Starflight II, have to go. I already gave the award to their predecessors, and while both were tremendous fun, they didn't offer much that was truly new. My finalists are:

1. The Dark Heart of Uukrul. It's my highest-rated game of the year and my third-highest rated so far in my chronology. If the game had simply offered a traditional dungeon-crawling experience, it would have done it well, with an evocative setting and SSI-style tactical combat. But the real joy of the game came first from its magic system, blending deterministic wizard magic and non-deterministic priest magic, second from its frequent encounter options, and third from its highly-original and fun puzzles. In its hallways, you navigate a crossword puzzle, a cube, a pyramid, and several challenging mazes--and all of these elements are given logical explanations in-game. Unfortunately, the game is little-remembered today and was barely played in its own time, meaning it had limited influence on the RPG genre.

 
2. Hero's Quest: So You Want to Be a Hero. In a year full of adventure-RPG hybrids, Hero's Quest was the only one that really worked, demonstrating that a "hybrid" doesn't necessarily mean that we have to make sacrifices. In addition to offering adventure game puzzles, it presented a character development system that beats most RPGs, and it's one of the few games in which the choice of character class actually matters in terms of plot and puzzle-solving. From an RPG perspective, the combat is a little weak, and from an adventure perspective, the puzzles were a little easy, but overall it was a great blend. The four games that followed proved its success and staying power.

 
3. The Magic Candle. I have the same compliments for The Magic Candle as I do for The Dark Heart of Uukrul. It took a familiar interface and style and imbued it with a well-written plot, an original spell system, solid tactical combat, and several other innovations that make it transcend its sources. I unabashedly love games that force me to take notes and hunt down clues, and only the Ultima games rival The Magic Candle in this area. It was weak in some traditional RPG categories, such as equipment and economy, but it made up for that with some excellent features that even today hardly appear, such as the ability to split the party.

 
There are a few other games that I was tempted to put on the list. Dragon Wars exceeded its Bard's Tale heritage and offered some excellent encounters, role-playing options, and multiple paths to the endgame. Sword of Aragon, though not as high in its final rating as the three finalists, was the first game that seemed to be a true RPG-strategy hybrid and not just a "strategy game with RPG elements." Chaos Strikes Back offered one of the most challenging experiences of the year and it's hard to find a game from 1989 with a more rabid modern following. I even toyed with writing up a case for Knights of Legend; it wasn't the game I liked most from 1989, but it might be the game that I ultimately remember the most. Ultimately, though, I knew I couldn't find any reasons to elevate them above the three finalists, so there was no point in toying with them.

I'll announce the winner below, but first let's talk about:


Staying in the 1980s

We're not fully leaving the 1980s, probably not for a long time.

I have by now accepted that my decision to play on PC and DOS games was a horrendous mistake, and if I could start over again, I wouldn't make the same decision. I might still limit my list to non-console games, but I'd take the time to learn Apple II, C64, Atari ST, and Amiga emulators. For the last year or so, I've been slowly trying to rectify my mistake by catching up on non-DOS/PC games, but without some kind of way to prioritize them, I've been giving equal attention to the classics and the dregs, and I remain stuck in 1981.

My master game list now has a second tab for "other platforms," and it includes every additional RPG I've been able to find for any platform, plus a few DOS games that I overlooked on the first pass but didn't think were significant enough to make a u-turn for. It also has DOS games that I played briefly but not long enough to give a rating (e.g., my "backtracking" posts from 2010).

Like my master list, I've simply culled this one from MobyGames, Wikipedia, and other sources. I've made no effort to verify that these are RPGs, nor for the foreign games any attempt to determine if there's an English translation. I don't know if emulators exist for some of the platforms. This is all stuff to worry about later.

There are twice as many games on this list as I've played on the DOS/PC list since starting this blog, so there's no chance that I'll ever catch up if I simply keep going in order. I need a way to prioritize which of these games are the most interesting, noteworthy, and important to the development of the RPG genre.

I've created a quick survey for you to fill out to prioritize which games from this list I should play when I feel like departing from my DOS/PC list. You can fill it out any time while I'm still in the 1990s; I'll keep a permanent link on the sidebar and dip into the list, considering your votes, whenever I want to pluck out a 1980s game. Like I've been doing throughout the past year, I'll probably cover it in a single posting (if sometimes a long one).

(There are console games on the list, but I imagine giving them a low priority even if they get a lot of votes. Zenic is already covering them well over at "The RPG Consoler." Nonetheless, I might be persuaded to play some of the landmarks, if only to contrast them with computer RPGs during the same era.)

If it works out well, I'll update the list for 1991 and re-issue it during every yearly transition.


1990 Preview

Here's what happened to me, in order, in 1990: my Commodore 64 broke, I went to basic training, I started my senior year in high school, and I got a girlfriend. My CRPG addiction was temporarily cured, and I went from spending hundreds of hours per year to 0.

This didn't change until 1998, when I bought my first PC and quickly relapsed. While I did catch up on my favorite series, I don't think I played any games that were not sequels to 1980s titles. Soon I was playing the new classics, like Baldur's Gate and Diablo.

Thus, we are now entering a "dark period" of CRPGs for me. Looking at the 1990 list, I see only a handful with which I have any experience: Champions of Krynn, Ultima VI, probably Secret of the Silver Blades, and Quest for Glory II: Trial by Fire. After more than 13 years playing them, I barely remember the plots and gameplay elements, but fortunately, I don't remember disliking any of them.

Everything else is going to be brand new. That doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to some of them. I hear that the next Wizardry finally transitions out of the same game mechanics and elements that the series introduced in 1981. I'm interested to see what Escape from Hell does with the Wasteland engine. The spiritual ancestor of the Heroes of Might & Magic series, Kings Bounty, is on the list even though it probably shouldn't be, and I've always wanted to try it. I have a fondness for Arthurian literature, so Spirit of Excalibur ought to be interesting. And I can't wait to see how the Magic Candle story continues in Keys to Maramon.

Are there games I'm not looking forward to, the way I was dreading Keef the Thief? A few. I looked at the Worlds of Ultima games a few years ago and thought they were breathtaking perversions. The appeal of Elvira was always lost on me, and I can't imagine loving her game. Ditto Buck Rogers. Someone already spoiled that Eye of the Beholder has an awful ending, so I'm sure that will be on my mind no matter how good the gameplay is. Just like apostrophes in fantasy names, CamelCaps names always strike me as the last refuge of the desperate, and we have both DarkSpyre and MegaTraveller coming up. But if the past is any indication, I'll end up loving a lot of these games and disliking some of the games I'm eagerly anticipating.


Game of the Year

I present to you my selection for Game of the Year for 1989:


For good or ill, the blend of RPG and adventure game was a major theme for 1989. My posts this year were (unintentionally) bookended by them: B.A.T.  at the beginning and the combination of The Third Courier and Keef the Thief at the end. All three of these games are artifacts of the 1980s in their gameplay, themes, and graphics (not to mention hair). Hero's Quest is the only exemplar of this theme that today seems timeless.

Nonetheless, I know the choice is a bit unorthodox. It's small, short, and a hybrid besides. It lacks the tactical combat, dungeon-crawling, and world-exploration of great RPGs. But to my mind, these factors are outweighed by the things it does right, starting with an unparallelled skill- and attribute-development system. We've seen games where skills develop based on use before, all the way back to Wizard's Crown and notably in Dungeon Master and The Magic Candle. But Hero's Quest beats them all with the variety of ways that the skills can develop and the synergistic leveling of both attributes and skills. Consider, for instance, how both strength and climbing increase when you climb a tree, or how agility, weapon use, and throwing jointly increase when you throw daggers at foes.

Although the combat isn't great, it's one of the first truly good examples of action-oriented combat that still manages to draw from an underlying skill and attribute base. The speed at which the player hits dodge, parry, or attack doesn't matter as much as the relevant skills that he's developed. In any events, it succeeds well as an RPG in other ways: the path to success varies depending on the choice of character class; enemies respawn fast enough to allow plenty of opportunities for grinding; and it creates interesting new monsters (some, admittedly, a bit goofy).

In an era when you generally had to turn off the sound in DOS games, Hero's Quest not only offers decent sound effects but fun leitmotifs for various characters, places, and themes. It has memorable NPCs with keyword-based dialogues, and unlike the game that I just spent so much ink complaining about, the Coles had a mature sense of humor and employed it effectively.

The game is tightly programmed, with nary a flaw nor bug, and it avoids the problem so common in adventure games (especially those with text-based inputs) in which you frustratingly try to get the game to understand what you want it to do.

The 1990s would see the decline of the classic "adventure game," at least in the west, but Hero's Quest showed that its best elements could be blended with RPGs. The impact of this game on the RPG genre is something I'll have to assess later, as I become more familiar with 1990s RPGs.

Speaking of the 1990s, it's time to get started on a new decade, commencing with a game I know I'll like: Champions of Krynn.


207 comments:

  1. For what it's worth, my survey votes were:

    1. Alternate Reality: The Dungeon. The City was rightly panned as not a complete game, but The Dungeon takes the underlying technical brilliance of its predecessor and adds an actual plot/goal. It's the game I've been looking forward to ever since you started doing old games.

    2. Tower of Myraglen. Only a very tiny number of games were actually developed for the Apple IIgs -- almost everything on the system was a port. Myraglen was not a great RPG, but it was an interesting early effort in developing a game using the IIgs' advanced graphic/sound capabilities and mouse-driven interface. Also, I never beat the final boss and want to see someone else try it.

    3. Return of Heracles. Stuart Smith deserves more exposure, and Heracles is a great iteration on the system we've seen in Rivers of Light and Ali Baba.

    4. Magic of Scheherazade. This is purely a selfish pick. I have fond memories of this obscure NES RPG. In addition to the interesting Arabian Nights setting, it made some small effort to combine action-RPG elements and traditional Wizardry turn-based combat, though I don't think it did so particularly well. Finally, it was surprisingly influential on Japanese RPGs, as anyone familiar with games like Chrono Trigger will discover when they see it.

    5. Hack. You've done a great job showing off various versions of Nethack. I'd be interested in seeing a bit more of the series' early history.

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    1. The only one on the list that I really want to see the Addict play is Deathlord. I even sent him an email about it a while back. Hard-as-nails CRPG that tried to be like an Asian Ultima IV. I couldn't even get through the first dungeon or off the first island over many attempts, and I know the Addict likes a challenge.

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    2. Dragon Warrior I, II and III have influenced SO many games since them, including a ton of PC games, that I feel it would be a crime for Chet not to play them, if only so he better understands later games he comes across. You also see the development of JRPGs: You start with 1 character in I, a prebuilt party in II and build your own with a complex class/class change system in III. There were much less grindy versions made for the gameboy (or Gameboy colour) you could play, if you want to burn through them. They also improve the UI and make the translations better.

      Final Fantasy wouldn't be a bad idea wither, given that it revolutionized games in the 90s with FFVII. A detailed plot? In a GAME? With CUTSCENES? GASP.

      I admit, I think everyone should add Hylide to the list, to torture Chet, cus I'm a bad person.

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    3. If he was going to play a few JRPGs, I'd prefer that he play the "best" of the genre rather than the historically important. Zenic covers historical importance (though based on Western releases and the Western release schedule), and I think a Dragon Quest/Warrior review from Chet would be pretty.. negative.

      Personally, I'd -love- to see him play Final Fantasy 6, though that wouldn't hit until 1994 or so. For 80's JRPGs, I'm not sure any are strictly necessary. I think it's a genre that didn't really bloom until 16-bit.

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    4. Oh, I also think that more Western-style console RPGs maybe should get an advantage too. Games like Rings of Power and Shining in the Darkness are, arguably, "CRPGs" in genre if not in platform. There aren't many Western-style RPGs exclusive to consoles, so this wouldn't be much of an addition. Can anyone name any others?

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    5. I'd suggest playing (some entries in) the Dragon Warrior series, as they're really where console RPGs start to diverge from PC RPGs. Phantasie Star probably qualifies as well.

      I'd suggest doing Dragon Warrior 1 (it's fairly short and worth a playthrough for historical significance) and 3 (it's quite a bit longer, but it's only a few millimeters short of being a masterpiece)

      Dragon Warrior 2 is probably just too insanely hard for the purpose of this blog however.

      (Oh, and when the time comes, Chet must absolutely play the NES version of Dragon Warrior 4. It is an absolute joy to play, and blows most JRPGs of the SNES era out of the water. Plus learning to manipulate the AI system should be right up Chet's alley.)

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    6. How about this, we petition Chet to try the following:

      1. Dragon Quest/Warrior 1 - just because
      2. We vote on the best 8-bit JRPG. DQ4 probably has a strong shot there, though I've never played it. Personally, I have few strong opinions when it comes to 8-bit JRPGs. I like FF3 fine. Phantasy Star on the SMS is also a strong pick.
      3. We vote on the best 16-bit JRPG. My guess is either FF6 or Chrono Trigger would win.
      4. We recommend western-style console RPGs, like Rings of Power.

      I think any more than that would be silly, but we might be able to get this passed his defenses.

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    7. The two western-style console RPG that comes to mind is Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun and Shadowrun, both on Genesis. I'm sure there are others.

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    8. Yeah, a couple more came to mind like two minutes after writing this:

      Order of the Griffon (TG-16)
      Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest (TG-CD)

      I'll stop here though.

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    9. I think we shouldn't forget about Shin Megami Tensei games here, probably the closest you could get to a wRPG on a console in the early nineties.

      I'm prety sure Chet would get a kick out of them.

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    10. The more people bring up the original Dragon Warrior, the more I think, "Why are we being so cruel to the Addict? What did he ever do to us?"

      DW is an EXTREMELY BORING grindfest. Yes, I played it, and yes, it's a part of RPG history, but it's... it's... it's A REALLY BAD GAME!!!

      DW II is a much better game, and by the time you get to DW IV you've got solid quality in the series, but argh, the original DW is terrible. Hit enemy with sword, heal with herb, repeat for 20 hours. I think the RPG Consoler already suffered enough in the Addict's place on this one.

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    11. Dragon Warrior II is terrible. I remember grinding not for hours, not for days, but weeks trying to level up everyone for the final battle. I did beat the game, but I have no desire to ever go back.

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    12. I second the Stuart Smith appreciation. Return of Heracles is fun, especially if you enjoyed Ali Baba. Alternate Reality has my first vote by a long shot.

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    13. Raifield - you played DW II on the NES, didn't you? The remake on the Game Boy Color (actually Dragon Warrior I & II) is vastly improved, with a more balanced level-up system. I don't remember terrible grinding on that one.

      All the DWs through DW6 are better experienced as their handheld remakes, unless you're deliberately going for the "purity" of the grindier originals (which often have less content, especially DW IV).

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    14. Yeah, I have all four NES Dragon Warrior cartridges, but none of the remakes. Man that endgame was a drag. Enemies could one-shot the entire party with instant-kill spells before you could do a thing.

      The saving grace of that game was that the final area had a save point in it, but I'm gratefully playing Dragon Warrior III, though I understand the remake of III adds a ton of party content.

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    15. Yeah, you level a lot faster in the GBC versions as I understand it. I never finished DWII though, as I forgot where I was and didn't want to start over again.

      The same thing happened to me with Golden Sun II. I really don't want to start that one again, as I imported my party, by hand, by typing in the multi-page code. Now there is a console series that had some cool mechanics, with the Dijinn and attached/summoned.

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    16. Also: I disagree on the best vs most important. Lots of people do Lets Plays and such of the best console RPGs, but very few do a historical analysis of them.

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    17. "Also: I disagree on the best vs most important. Lots of people do Lets Plays and such of the best console RPGs, but very few do a historical analysis of them. "

      Yeah, but that's why Zenic is doing his thing. Also, Chrontendo. CRPG Addict is doing a history of Computer RPGs. Insofar as console RPGs should be part of this project, they should represent a few footnotes for comparison, not chronology all on their own. If he were to do anything, I don't know what would be better than doing the "most important" console RPGs, whether defined in terms of historical importance or critical acclaim.

      I also think games that are of the Computer RPG genre but released on console should be in the discussion but for an entirely different set of reasons.

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    18. Fair point. I'd go for the ones that influenced computer RPGs the most then, as they will aid writing later posts about computer RPGs. I'm willing to accept that some of the games I've suggested (Dragon Quest/Warrior, Final Fantasy) might not have a huge influence on western CRPGs; fine, then we can pick other games. However, I think we should pick games that will make Chet think about other games in a different light, rather then just the best RPGs on the NES.

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    19. Final Fantasy 6 Advance gets my vote for most enthralling story (I was obsessed over it just reading the wikipedia page for a year or so before picking up the game. It sits by the first KOTOR as my two most-played long-story games- I think I have played through them about four times each doing everything and played and restarted countless times!).

      Final Fantasy 3 (English translation played via nintendulator) and Phantasy Star 1 get my secondary votes. Both are great for exploration with decent backstory (plots are more bland and assembled by talking to people rather than major use of cut-scenes). FF3 has wonderful town designs and treasure catches along with the ability to change your character's classes at any time, making for somewhat of a puzzle element to battles. PS is simply fun to walk around on all 4 planets and in the buttery-smooth scrolling dungeons. I also absolutely loved following the clues npcs gave and the inclusion of some adventure elements (as well as a planet sort of dedicated to the love of STARWARS™).

      If you play no other console game, please, CA, play FF6Advance. It's quite the treat and possesses a relatively huge amount of content for a GBA cartridge (including some of the most beautiful 16-bit monster designs ever and notable use of sprite animations to dovetail emotional impact).

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  2. Worlds of Ultima: The Savage Empire is actually one of my favourite Ultima games, though I admit it plays much like an adventure RPG hybrid (but then, didn't Ultima VII, in a way?).

    -BelatedGamer

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    1. I second this. They took the same game engine and even a few of the same assets and ran off in a completely different direction - it's awesome.

      While not AS good, Martian Dreams is pretty memorable too.

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    2. I enjoyed both The Savage Empire and Martian Dreams, but Martian Dreams was the one I played over and over again. I just found the sci-fi setting fascinating, I loved talking to (and saving) the historical figures, and also the way that the titular dreams were part of the story. I also liked the "bonus guest appearances" from the main Ultima series better in Martian Dreams.

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    3. My problem, and something I'll cover when I get to U6, is that it takes the "Avatar," whose supposed to be an abstraction of the action player, and turns him into a real-world person with specific associates, friends, and whatnot. I remember the manual had a bit where the Avatar says to his professor friend something like, "You know I occasionally do missions for a foreign dignitary named Lord British...." If I'd read that in 1990, I would have been at Origin's headquarters, shooting marbles at their windows from a slingshot.

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    4. "Actual player," not "action player."

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    5. I personally preferred the "Land of the Lost-esque" setting of Savage Empire, but that's just me. And yeah, the Avatar does kind of have an unnecessary back story in the manual's, but it hardly factors into the games themselves, there's actually a surprising amount of role-playing depth when it comes to the actual gameplay and dialogue.

      -BelatedGamer

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    6. "Martian Dreams" also has the distinction of being the first steampunk (or at least Victorian-themed) RPG I can think of, a full ten years before Tim Cain's "Arcanum."

      --BLM

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    7. ...Although, admittedly, "Savage Empire" had a similar relationship to Victorian adventure fiction (H. Rider Haggard and the like), and there may be other precedents of which I'm not aware.

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    8. Martian Dreams is simple, rough, and has its share of flaws, but I have seldom had as much fun dumb fun with a setting.

      I felt like I should be narrating. Haha! What ho, men! Get your sabers ready, these Martian jumping beans shall not get the best of us.

      Drive them into the canals!

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    9. Space 1889 from 1990 also has a strong Victorian flavour.

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    10. @BLM:

      Well, "Space 1889" is one year older...
      http://www.mobygames.com/game/space-1889

      TBH, I didn't play it either at the time and agree with Kizor: Martian Dreams definitely had a great setting. It also felt more polished to me than Savage Empires (which I also liked) and it certainly didn't have a game-stopping bug like SE.

      SE on the other hand (at least the PC version) has a funny ASCII-text hidden in the GAME.EXE:
      "Winona Ryder is a really hot babe"
      ;)

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    11. @PetrusOctavianus and Anonymous:

      I wasn't familiar with "Space 1889," so I appreciate the correction.

      --BLM

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    12. Space 1889 is another game based on a tabletop roleplaying game.

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  3. I noticed Lords of Midnight on the survey which is unlike pretty much anything out there and generally regarded as one of the classics of the genre.

    It's even available on PC and iPad now in relatively pristine form.

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    1. Unfortunately, I don't think you can call Lords of Midnight an RPG. Personally I'm very fond of the games. The original Lords of Midnight is one of the first computer games I ever owned, and I've played it and the first sequel Doomdark's Revenge a couple of times in recent years. Midnight resists a comfortable genre classification, but at the end of the day it is a first person strategy game.

      The late Mr. Singleton's games have some elements of rpg, such a heavy focus on story, characters with statuses (energy and morale) and there's even a few pieces of equipment that the titular lords can find and equip. Still, there's no economy, combat is resolved automatically and focused on the armies commanded, not the characters. There are no real NPCs and no character development. The setup of an RPG, with no CRPG gameplay.

      There's an excellent online resource, www.icemark.com with a faithful PC version (actually it's an opcode swap conversion of the Sinclair version) for anyone interested in giving Lords of Midnight a shot. There's also a just re-released PC version, but I have no experience with it.

      The games aren't overly difficult, although there's a slight learning curve. As a technical achievement they are remarkable, for their time. Contrary to the Lords of Midnight: The Citadel (a real-time sequel released in the mid-ninties) which is a buggy mess. Also innovative in it's own ways, but nigh-unplayable. But something Mount and Blade-like is clearly recognizable even in it's sorry state.

      And since I've already gone totally ramble-o-matic, the Spirit of Excalibur uses the same engine as Singleton's War of the Middle-Earth. It is, however, a more substantial game, and I think the Addict will qualify it as a CRPG.

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    2. I agree, LOM and DD are strategy games. If you want to play one, I think LOM has more of a quest element compared to DD.

      The only other one I recognised from my Spectrum days was Heavy on the Magic, which is more of an adventure than an RPG. It was okay in the day, maybe, but not really worth playing now. Also, they squeezed in lots of large graphics by blowing up characters into 2 x 2 pixel blocks. that may sound okay until you recall that the Spectrum screen was 256 x 192 pixels. It might be a good game to play on a smart watch!

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  4. Should we talk about our voting choices here, or would you rather we didn't?

    Also, you have Quarterstaff twice.

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    1. I guess I don't care, but I worry that everyone's going to get excited for nothing. I might play six or eight games from the "other" list in the next year. You're not all going to see your favorites. Are you sure about Quarterstaff? I thought one was a sequel of the other.

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    2. Still in favour of cloning you. We get 4 Chets going, then watch as you each diverge over time, becoming your own distinct people. Your blog would become both a chronicle of CRPG history and of your battles to slay one another and become the one true Chet.

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    3. Poking around re: Quarterstaff, it looks like the Infocom version is simply a "polished up" version of the original. Given this is a limited backtracking effort we're talking about here, it probably isn't worth it to try both.

      I don't have any dire personal investment in any of the games, I just picked what I thought were important historical points.

      Sweet Home is a Japanese horror RPG for Famicon (1989). It has been called the first survival horror game and is fairly unique.

      The Black Onyx is one of the first Japanese RPGs, first released in 1984.

      (Neither of the games above were officially translated, but there are fan-translation patches.)

      I am a text adventure nerd and just curious what you'd think of Quarterstaff.

      Dungeons of Daggorath is seminal for being an early (the first?) real-time 3D rpg, and also you said your wife had heard of it.

      I already forgot what I picked for #5 so I guess it wasn't too important.

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    4. Yes, Irene and I actually played Daggorath for several hours one night and got reasonably close to the ending, but something about it kept crashing my computer, so I gave up. Absolutely brutal combat. I should give it a try again.

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  5. 1989 was a great year for CRPGs, in my opinion, only beaten by 1992 and 1993. 1990 and 1991 was rather dreary, though, with too many mediocre games.
    But in 1994 it was almost full stop, with the only commercial CRPG of note being the second Realms of Arkania game. But 1994 also maks the beginning of the great indie games; Aethra Chronicles in particular is very good and IMO one of the top 25 CRPGs of the DOS era.

    Regarding your survey, I'm tempted to just say "any game with no Japanese words in it".

    I voted for these:

    Deathlord: considered one of the largest and most difficult CRPGs of all time. A true CRPG Addict (unlike me) should at least try it.

    Eternal Dagger: one of the classics and sequel to Wizard's Crown

    Heavy on the Magick: my favourite Spectrum CRPG, made by legendary Gargoyle Games, who sadly found out that there was more money to be made from action games than from games dealing with demonology and Celtic mythology, and then found out that there was even more/safer money to be made from business software.
    I beat the game as kid, but when trying to replay it I found it ridicilously hard. If you can survive I think you'll like the puzzles and the game world.

    Legend of Blacksilver: Another classic, "related" to the Questron games.

    Tower of Myraglen: I've heard good things about this game over at the Codex.



    Those that didn't make the final cut:

    Lords of Midnight: not really a CRPG, but it _is_ a unique and classic game that you should play.

    Runestone: a real time mix of RPG, Adventure (all commands are text input) and Strategy, and one of the few games that used the "landscaping" technique of Lords of Midnight. Like Heavy on the Magic, I beat it back in the days, but now it was just too difficult to control several (three at start) characters in real time. While I was controling one guy the two others were captured by the orcs.

    Shadow Fire and Enigma Force: I loved these game on my old ZX Spectrum. Very interesting mixture of real time tactics and a time limit. Was made by Denton Design, the Westwood of the British 8 bit era, and had great graphics, sound and a new, novel interface where you clicked on something called "icons". Don't really remember any RPG elements, though.




    Other comments:

    Death Bringer is just another name for Galdregon's Domain, so you can strike it from your list.

    DND: haven't you already playes this?

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    1. On DND, I didn't play it long enough to give it a GIMLET. It was part of my "backtracking" series in 2010. I added all of those to the list.

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  6. I wouldn't fear MegaTraveller: You already played a game based on Traveller (The one that got sued) though it was an innovative system as I recall.

    Traveller was put out in 1977 by Game Designers' Workshop (GDW). In 1987 a new edition was written by Digest Group Publications, a company that did a Traveller magazine, and published by GDW. I don't know why they didn't juts call it Traveller, 2nd edition, but they called it MegaTraveller or MT.

    I wonder if this was just before it was recognized that you could just slap a 2nd edition on a game? D&D had come out with AD&D at this point, but not 2nd edition. GURPS had editions by this point though, and so did Call of Cthulhu (4th would have been out then), but these were both tweaks, not new rules systems, whereas Traveller was a complete rewrite, and had major setting changes.

    Later on there came Traveller: The New Era (GDW, 1993), Marc Miller's Traveller (1996, Imperium Games), GURPS Traveller (1998, Steve Jackson Games, considered the best version mechanically by many since it uses GURPS), GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars (SJ Games, 199?), Traveller 20 (2002, QLI/RPGRealms, based on the d20 system used in D&D3.X), Traveller Hero (200X, based on the Hero system, a point based super hero system), Mongoose Traveller (2008, Mongoose Publishing), Traveller^5 (2012, FFE), AND COUNTING.

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  7. I second that Savage Empire is excellent. Can't wait for you to finally reach U7 though.

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  8. Great post. Getting impatient for Champions of Krynn though :(

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  9. I'd echo the above comments. The Worlds of Ultima games were quite solid and well appreciated by me for their unique settings. I'd particularly love to see some modern games in the same Lost World/King Kong/Land that Time Forgot genre as Savage Empire. An open world, Bethesda style game (with dinosaurs) would be a great change of pace.

    Also, I found the Buck Rogers games to be solid adaptations of the Gold Box engine and not overly cheesy as you might expect. In fact, the first one probably rank in my top 4, behind Pools of Darkness, Pool of Radiance and Champions of Krynn.

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  10. Thanks for the mention; although, I feel you'd cover the games better than I am currently. Even though you said you'd be less likely to do them, all my votes went towards console games. I'm only covering console RPGs released in the US, so there are some gaps when taking the whole history into account.

    Digital Devil Monogatari: Megami Tensei -- This spawned an entire series that only lived in Japan for a long time due to heavy religious undertones. There are a lot of innovations.

    Dragon Warrior III -- I'll get to this game myself, but out of the three Dragon Warriors listed I think this is the one you'd enjoy the most. Dragon Warrior is the largest of the three original NES RPG series that really took off (only leaving out Final Fantasy as I don't think 1 or 2 are that compelling).

    Mother -- I voted for this only because it turns the idea of RPG theme on its head with a scenario based 1988, in the real world. The second game in the series (Earthbound in the US) is a cult classic.

    Phantasy Star -- So far, this is my favorite game I've played in my chronological quest. The first on my list to replay if I were to go back to experience one of those games again. I'm sure it'll be replaced soon, but for what it was and when, it did a lot more than other games of the time.

    Sweet Home -- Someone mentioned this above, but I chose this for the unique setting and techniques. It's a mix of undoubtedly an RPG and survival horror (before the genre existed). It was the inspiration for Resident Evil.


    For those interested there are few other bloggers going through console games listed in the side bar of my blog. Inconsolable is doing all turn-based RPGs, and Wingnut is going through only his favorite.

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    1. One more comment before I call it a night, I've heard Buck Rogers is a good game. That's at least one less game to worry about.

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    2. First one is good, second one is the worst (far too many random encounters, reused enemies with incresed THAC0 and HP, and need to reload heavy weapons manually all the time) of the Gold Box games IMO.

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    3. I think I rated Phantasy Star first on my list - those were wonderful games. I'm not sure I actually played the first one (but think I did). I played Phantasy Star 2 on the Sega Genesis that we won while developing Quest for Glory 2 (Burger King contest - We worked a lot of overtime and the team collected a lot of game tickets - I won the drawing.).

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    4. I purchased the collection for the Gameboy Advance. I beat the first one, using the help of some maps on the later dungeons. I didn't get far in the 2nd one; the first dungeon was huge. I'd read that the 2nd one's dungeons were horrid and lost interest in playing. I never tried III and IV wasn't in that particular collection, but I hear IV is pretty good.

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    5. You pretty much need to have the Nintendo Power or a guide on hand to understand the class system in DWIII, though, don't you? I recall it being confusing as heck, even with the Nintendo Power on hand.

      Interesting Corey, as I recall both Dr. Sparkle (Chronsega) and Zenic trashed Phantasy Star II for horrid gameplay and a weak story, despite the claims about it beating FFVII by years and years.

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    6. @Canageek - Notice that Corey said Phantasy Star 1 is first on his list, not Phantasy Star 2.

      I remember there was one in the series that spans across generations. Can't remember which.

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    7. @Kenny: That would be Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom. It's often considered the outlier of the series. Being able to play through three generations is just about the only thing going for it, I think... Other than the pseudo-medieval fantasy setting, which at first seems to skew more towards the fantasy end of the spectrum compared to PSI,II,IV.

      @Canageek: PSII beat FFVII in terms of specific plot developments. The one that tends to get cited most is Nrevf' qrngu irefhf Arv'f qrngu.

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    8. Right, but it had almost no impact due to the fact that well, read Zenia's coverage or it, or watch Chronsega. Basically the character is so illdefined that you have no emotional connection to her.

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    9. PSIV is easily the best of the series. 1 or 2 is second. 3 is pretty bad. Like Anon said, only the generational element makes it even halfway interesting.

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    10. I've heard 3 is the worst, but I've also heard it has better dungeon designs compared to 2; 2's dungeons are horrid only if you choose to map yourself, and you need to map or you'll be lost in a lot of the later ones. The story in two does introduce a few twists, but they're so far out of left field that it felt forced. I'm looking forward to the fourth.

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    11. "You pretty much need to have the Nintendo Power or a guide on hand to understand the class system in DWIII, though, don't you? I recall it being confusing as heck, even with the Nintendo Power on hand."

      Not really, no, unless you're obsessively min-maxing stats or something. You might be thinking of the personality traits and how they affect stat growth, but most of those can be ignored anyway.

      DW III's class system is: pick a class, level in it, get some spells/abilities, then when you have learned all the spells/abilities you care about, switch to another class. Your stats get cut in half and your level is reverted to 1, but you keep all your learned abilities. Rinse and repeat as much or as little as you feel like it.

      You don't even have to class change at all; the game is still winnable. The Hero can't class change (his class is always Hero), and when I played, I never bothered to class change my cleric because, y'know, healers are good.

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    12. Sounds almost like the job system from Final Fantasy V, except in that one you only gain abilities of another class once it's maxed.

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    13. PS3's dungeons aren't nearly as crazy as PS2's, and the game, in general, isn't as punishing and doesn't require as much grinding. That said, the dungeons.. and the world.. and the characters.. and the battles... are just lazy and uninteresting. The generation gimmick is roughly 90% of the appeal. It was one of my first RPGs, and I still remember thinking it had some weak elements. When I played PS4 soon after, it pretty much blew me away. In retrospect, I think FF6 and CT are both definitely better than PS4, but PS4 is still one of the best JRPGs of its generation.

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    14. Victar: Either I'm getting the game mixed up, or when I was that young I saw pages of numbers and said "screw this". All I remember is you wanted to get everyone to be sage by the end of the game, or something like that. And it was a lot easier to do that if you started with a jester, since they didn't have to do something everyone else did, but they'd suck at the start of the game? Am I even talking about the right game?

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  11. I voter for the 2 AD&D games for Intellivision; Cloudy Mountain and Treasure of Tarmin. Both were pretty fun for their time; Cloudy Mountain has a unique game mechanic where you can look for tracks and listen for noises to figure out where the monsters are.

    Cloudy Mountain, however, probably doesn't belong on the list:
    - You have three members in your party, but this is just thematic representation for "lives" and you play one guy at a time.

    - You don't upgrade anything. No stats.

    - You don't change equipment. Your weapon is a bow and you find additional arrows in dungeons. You need items (axe, key, boat) to traverse the world map.

    Tower of Doom and Treasure of Tarmin don't employ the use of parties, but are more traditional RPGs. Plus, all three games were designed to be played in a sitting. Even if you aren't experienced, they can generally be beaten within an hour.

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    1. Well, this is modern thinking looking backwards. "Cloudy mountain" (not the name of the game at all, but whatever) wasn't intended as a game that you "beat". The entire idea was replayability. Every time you fire up the game, you get an entirely new map and have to devise a new strategy to get to the end. Sometimes you don't need a key because there is another way around the gates, sometimes you have to slog through five mountains just to get to an open area where you have a choice, etc. It's not like Pool of Radiance where you beat the game once and that's pretty much it. The only reason that it was even called "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" was that Mattel had a policy of acquiring licenses from everyone no matter how tenuous the connection. ABPA Backgammon anyone? How many people would have refused outright to purchase the game if it had not been officially sponsored by the American Backgammon Players Association?

      Treasure of Tarmin was a straight-up roguelike. For that reason it's still a playable game today.

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    2. "Cloudy mountain" (not the name of the game at all, but whatever)

      It was an official name, actually, though according to the Blue Sky Rangers it was "added to the name later when [Tarmin] was announced". I've had a few copies pass through my hands and I don't remember ever seeing a box or manual with the name on it, but it's possible that it's mentioned in later manuals.

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    3. Yeah, I never saw it on any copies of the game I had. I wasn't going to nitpick; it was listed as such on the addict's survey and it's generally assumed that people familiar with the game know what you're talking about and if not, googling does not lead you astray.

      I just loved the sound mechanics as a kid. You'd hear the sound of a dragon snoring. Do you fire blindly into the next room? Or if you accidentally stumble into the room with the dragon, the roaring as it chased you used to make me jump. That mechanic has nothing to do with a CRPG, but the game sticks in my mind as a result of it.

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  12. Basic training before senior year? How does that work?

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    1. It was wild. They had this system called "split enlistment" where as long as you were 17, you could enlist and go to basic training the summer after your junior year, then go to AIT the summer after your senior year. I left a pudgy kid and returned in the fall a fit soldier. No one even recognized me. One of the best years of my life.

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    2. From where I come from, we've got conscription. The government would haul your non-studying ass to the forces as long as you're over 16.5 years old.

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  13. Wow! I'm so glad to see that one of my all-time favorite games was your Game of the Year. Hero's Quest is a work of art, one of the few games I go back to and replay every few years. I meant to replay through the whole series and finally play QfG5 now that you can get it on gog.com, but life has been busy.

    As far as the old games are concerned, I think Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior (the first ones) are such seminal works in the history of console RPGs. Despite both being Japanese games, DW became the dominant series in Japan while Final Fantasy became the dominant one in the US. Both are flawed but worth playing. Be aware that the first three DW games are a trilogy so you may lose something of the game world if you jump ahead to the third game. It will still be great, but like playing Ultima 5 without 4.

    I also picked Mt. Drash. This is a game I never played, but worth it for the Ultima history. I used to be a huge Ultima fan (Plaid Dragon in UDIC -- I wrote the "official" (*) walkthrough for Ultima 1) and this is a game that I managed to miss.

    (*) By "official", I mean that they removed my name and stuck the help texts on the CD rerelease around the time of Ultima 7 or 8. I emailed them about it, asking to at least get some credit, but never received a reply and didn't care to follow up-- but the text was removed in the next re-release. I'm not sure all three parts of the walkthrough still exist online anywhere and boy do I hate reading my 14-year old self now...

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    1. That's vaguely funny that rather than write their own help files, the publishers just ripped off what they found online.

      I understand Mt. Drash is really Ultima in name only, but I also hear it's a quick game, so I might do it just fr the sake of completeness.

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    2. DW 1-3 are a loose trilogy. But the in-universe chronology of the games is 3, 1, 2 so there's actually a story incentive to play 3 first.

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    3. Don't play Dragon Quest 3 first, you'll lose the narrative weight of the plot twist at the end. It's like watching Star Wars in 123456 order; it may be chronological but it ruins Vader's reveal in 456.

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    4. "Vader's reveal"

      No one needs to know anything except that the correct order is 4536. It is rumored that Lucas Film LTD numbered the later done prequel to the original trilogy as episode 3 as a gag as no episodes 1 and 2 are known to exist. What you have above is a shameful disregard for use of the spoiler-tag :HARUMPH!:

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  14. I voted for Dungeons of Daggorath, two of the Intellivision games (not a big fan of Tarmin), Dragonstomper, and Super Hydlide.

    Cush1978 probably has a point about Cloudy Mountain being questionable, but it's such a good game (and very short) that I think it's worth giving a spin. If you do all three Intellivision games, you'll have a whole platform covered with comparatively little effort -- though Tower of Doom can be extremely challenging, borderline impossible, if you play as a weak character (especially the Waif).

    Dungeons of Daggorath is just amazing, wildly ahead of its time and atmospheric. Maybe it's the Tandy CoCo kid in me talking, but I've never played anything like it.

    @CRPG Addict: Speaking of TRS-80, I know of at least one game on the TRS-80 Model I/III platform you might add to your list -- a BASIC type-in game from 1983, called Quest for the Key of Night Shade. You assemble and equip an army, head out into the countryside, and try to get strong enough to attack castles to retrieve pieces of the titular key. It's brutally difficult and basically unplayable on anything but the absolute lowest difficulty level (maybe there's a flaw in my copy?) but it has an odd charm.

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    1. Oh, and there's an extensive article that has backstory on all the creatures, etc. It was all in the February 1983 issue of the magazine 80 Micro, which can be found on Archive.org.

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    2. Yeah, Tower of Doom is nearly a rogue-like. You pick a character class that determines your starting stats and equipment, then you pick the number of floors. You start at the top, work your way down, finding random equipment, and try to get out. I agree with PK Thunder in that the Intellivision games are worth the effort. You could probably beat all three on a "normal" difficulty in a few hours.

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  15. Awww...Sword of Aragon didn't win and didn't even make the finals. I was hoping against hope. It was the substituion of a wargame sub-game in place of NPC interaction that killed it in the GIMLET. That and the horrid controls.

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  16. Escape from Hell is in the wrong category }:-)

    Of non-PC games I think you should most certainly play Deathlord - if only for quite possibly the largerst CRPG gameworld ever (we're talking about several continents here). Also it'll probably take you about as much time as any other six games from that list combined, so it should fill your quota of non-PC games for the year ;)

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    1. And sorry for spoiling the EotB ending. If it's so important for you, I'd suggest you play Amiga version, which fixes this problem.

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    2. Yes, I wondered what the problem with the ending was supposed to be, as I played the Amiga version, and while the ending of that was not terribly memorable, I don't recall it being any sort of kick in the teeth!

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    3. I think the original basically just crashed to Desktop as an "ending"... or DOS prompt as it were.

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    4. Nope; It's a text window followed by a drop to dos. (SSI didn't want to pay for a 2nd disk.)

      It's still better than Mines of Titan\Battletech because the game ends where you'd expect it to, as opposed to some random point where the money ran out.

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  17. My picks:

    1) Phantasy Star, partly because of its amazing qualities for its time (nonlinear open world exploration, a plot that is gradually discovered), partly for its historic value, and emphatically because Phantasy Star II *is* a CRPG that the Addict will eventually have to try. Both games are set in the same universe, though II comes many years later.

    2) Final Fantasy - the original FF is very much a fundamental part of RPG history, but what's especially interesting is how it resembled a Western RPG. Later FFs would solidfy character-driven narratives and preselected parties as standard JRPG traits, but in the first FF your heroes were blank slates.

    3) Dragon Warrior III - possibly the most Western RPG-ish of the Dragon Quest/Dragon Warrior series, what with the build-your-own party freedoms.

    4) Sword of Hope - this is an adventure/RPG hybrid (GOTY! ...okay, maybe not :). The interface is very much like the adventure games Shadowgate/Deja Vu/Uninvited, but there is stat growth, equipment, and leveling up. BTW there was a Sword of Hope II as well.

    5) Destiny of an Emperor - haven't played this one, but I heard it strongly resembles an RPG if you think of your troops as hit points. Also, the tumultuous warring eras in China's and Japan's histories have become a notable part of RPG and video game culture; this is as good a pick as any to witness the fusion.

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  18. Yay, Quest for Glory! That'd be my pick, but I am really shocked you didn't go with DHoU.

    I didn't vote on that list of non-pc 80s games, because I don't know of half of them. But I really do think that you should feel a historical obligation to play the seminal japanese rpgs, like Dragon Warrior/Quest, Final Fantasy and Megami Tensei, because even if you don't play every sequel to them, you'll find their influence to be very wide even on the western RPG design going forward, and you should know to spot the trends. Since you're writing books on the subject and you've realized your 'pc only' limit was arbiterary, you should devote 6 hours on each of these franchises at least somewhere down the line.

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    1. Thank you for being the one person who commented on that. It was a struggle, I admit, but I think HQ has more longevity--more influence on later games.

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    2. Well don't most say that Ultima III was a major influence in the entire JRPG movement just from the look and feel of Dragon Warrior and its ilk you can see the Ultima shadow looming

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    3. I am also shocked :(

      Well, I am glad that at least DHoU was a game that the Addict enjoyed and one of the last three candidates to be game of the year.

      Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the game had sold well... Maybe dungeon crawlers would not be like they are/were!

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  19. Even though you have some prejudice about it, Elvira is one of the games i'm most looking forward to see your words about. The Amiga version is clearly superior, mostly because of the effective creepy soundtrack who adds a lot of atmosphere. The game doesn't have any of the silliness you would expect. It's a straight horror game with a mix of adventure and RPG.

    King's Bounty is one of my most played games of all time. I loved it so much that i bought the first HoMM on release day. I think it had enough RPG elements to qualify for a playthrough.

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    1. Adventuresofts horror games were a mixed bag really.
      There's lot of 'trail and error' deaths at work that almost tie in with the horror themes, but don't quite work as gameplay mechanics. The key factor here is that they're adventure games first and the rpg elements come second.

      Jaws of Cerberus does have one of the best original settings ever - The haunted\demonic movie studio. That's like a haunted museum (or waxworks) only with complete creative freedom and pop culture references.

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    2. I never got too far in Elvira to be able to make an in-depth analysis. I played it when i was 9 or 10 after all, and maybe that's also the reason why i think it's a scary and unsettling game. The death screens are a sight to behold:)

      Concerning console games, it would be fun to see Chet tackle of the the grindy one just to see his opinion, but Phantasy Star is a genuinely good game that still holds up, unlike Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.

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    3. I just discovered Elvira a couple weeks ago when reading http://www.pcgamer.com/tag/crap-shoot/ and looked her up on youtube. Some of her skits are really funny, others are just mind-bogglingly lame and dull. It is...odd. Apparently she is huge and had her own reality show and things?

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    4. She wasn't huge - Waynes world was 80s huge (and mind bogglingly terrible in ways words cannot describe).

      Elivra was more cult than anything else - Like an early pre-internet mst3k.

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    5. Elvira the game has very little to do with Elvira the movie or her TV show.

      In fact, you don't even get to see much of her in the entire game. She's sort of like Moebius in Windwalker.

      That said, yeah, she was huge... in more ways than one.

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  20. Can we vote against certain games? If so, let's please not do Final Fantasy I. That game is so super grindy. I seriously played it with a 4x XP cheat code and was STILL bored out of my mind by how incredibly much I had to grind.

    I'd also suggest skipping Dragon Warrior for that reason. I'd much rather hear about a greater number of less popular games than have Chet get bogged down in these ones we all already know about.

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    1. Dragon Warrior has as much less grindy version for game boy colour. It dramatically cuts the grinding and adds a suspend (save anywhere, delete on reload) feature. It also improves the translation and adds background graphics to the combat.

      I beat it as a kid. I remember some grinding, but not much, and I was overleveled by the end; I beat the boss with the fire sword, then reloaded my last game so I could beat him again with the Loto sword after using Nintendo Power to find it.

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    2. If we're talking strictly NES versions, I found Dragon Warrior had much more grinding (based on number of hours walking back and forth fighting just to level up enough for the next area with nothing else to do). I actually don't remember needing to grind much after the beginning of Final Fantasy (fought at sea for about an hour to get gold enough for a silver sword). With the right party it should be easy. Final Fantasy is a longer game at about 5 - 6 additional hours.

      All re-releases of both are about twice as fast as the originals (mostly because of faster combat and less grinding).

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    3. Dragon Warrior games have always been miserable grind-fests. All of them.

      Final Fantasy I is bad in its own way, actually. It's so buggy and filled with features that don't work(or work opposite as intended) that it's a wonder it was ever released.

      Example: Every weapon that is designed to do extra damage to specific enemies such as the Dragon Sword...simply don't. A programming error failed to flip the damage multiplier bit for the special weapons. Spells designed to reduce an enemy's evasion actually increases it, while spells to increase your hit rate do nothing at all.

      I wound up sending my Final Fantasy cartridge to someone in order to have the ROM burned with a patched version of the game.

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    4. Glad to hear there's a better version of Dragon Warrior. The later version of FFI (GBA I think it was?) is much better -- I actually beat that one and had fun. But as an exercise in RPG history FFI for the GBA isn't worth playing -- it's hardly the same game. (For example, it fixes the ridiculous amount of bugs Raifield mentions...)

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    5. The reason I'm pressing for Dragon Warrior is how many games suddenly add RPG elements six months to a year after DWI came out on the NES. Chrontendo covers that pretty heavily, and it is one of the things I like about playing the games in order, is you can see what influenced what.

      That said, we haven't seen as much of that here. Possibly as the games aren't ordered in the sub-year timeframe, so it is less obvious.

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    6. That and PC game development was far less concentrated. The barriers to entry for PC game development in the eighties was time and a compiler, both accessible to a small team or an individual.

      Console development seems like it was harder to get into. A quick Google search seems to show that Nintendo did not even produce ready-made development kits for the NES, you were expected to create your own, though I suppose third-party 6502 development systems/software were fairly common then.

      So with fewer people developing for consoles and it being more expensive, I'm guessing there was a big incentive to attempt an implementation of features from successful games into your own.

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  21. How did Black Crypt miss the list? A classic rpg, and great graphics on the Amiga.

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    1. That list is up to 1989, and I think black crypt was about 92/93 (it was after eob and I'm pretty sure that was 90) so am hoping thats why it isn't on the list since it was pretty cool. Nothing on that list really grabbed my attention so will just see how it plays out, if it was 90-94 there probably would be a few titles I would holler about.

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    2. Wasn't Black Crypt released in 90 or 91? I guess that's the reason. A great game nonethless

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    3. Black Crypt was released for the Amiga in early 1992, at about the same time Ultima Underworld was released for the PC. Black Crypt was a good game, but it was still only a "poor man's Ultima Underworld"...

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  22. You are now entering the era where the IBM PC is pretty much just as good as the Atari or Amiga and has more than left the 8-bits behind. Basically once you get VGA and Ad-Lib sound (Soundblaster is better of course), the IBM PC is highly competitive.

    So I wouldn't get too worried about other platforms going forward.

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    1. That's what I figured. In the coming years, anything appearing on the "alternate platforms" list will almost all be console RPGs.

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    2. Don't miss Perihelion for Amiga in early nineties. Maybe not the best gameplay, but the setting is really interesting (cyber gothic?).

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    3. Also, Fate: Gates of Dawn is pretty much a cult.

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    4. Seconding for the Perihelion: The Prophecy. Never played myself but still remember the weird setting from reviews.

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  23. There's a particular situation with at least one game on the other platforms list that spills over into the regular PC list:
    Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes got a PC/DOS port in the middle of the 90s for the Korean and Chinese markets. The only English version of the game was released for the Turbografx CD. Later installments were (re)released for Windows, but it's only the PSP remakes that are available in English to this day.
    Also, as correctly noted on the PC list, Suikoden II had a Windows port; the Playstation release is the only English one. There might be a few similar cases like this.

    I've already noted that the upcoming Lords of Chaos is likely only available on a non-PC platform, so the question is, what kind of treatment these titles get.








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  24. For me, the first half of the 90s is the golden age of CRPGs. Looking forward to your discovery of many a great title!

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  25. Yep, gotta echo the Deathlord sentiment. I spent a lot of time playing that one back in the 80s on my Commodore 64. I got too frustrated with it though. As I recall, I could never level my spellcasters and healers because XP isn't shared and I could never get them to land killing blows. But it had a lot of neat stuff going for it.

    I'm surprised Legend of Blacksilver was never on the PC. Its a semi-sequel to Legacy of the Ancients, which is one of my all-time favorites. Its bigger, though I wouldn't say better, than LotA.

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    1. Blacksilver was supposed to be on the PC but it was cancelled at the last moment which is a shame because it was the last of the Dougherty games with my personal favorite being the first Questron which was the first RPG I completed back in 1984 on my 64.

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  26. I don't expect (western)CRPGAddict to cover all of console JCRPGs but I would really like to see your oppinions on the major series. The first installments are not terribly long anyway, heck even I managed to finish some of them. But it would be interesting as a comparison, background to your usual blog lineup. Supposedly all the rpg craze in Japan started with Wizzardry, only then it took to a whole new direction.

    By major series I mean of course Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and mayby Phantasy Star.

    Regarding Eye of Beholder 1: If you have already been spoilered anyway - ending in PC version indeed sucks but I belive Amiga version was released with an actual outro so feel free to either watch it on youtube once you do complete the game or since you relieved your approach to dos only games even play that one on amiga version. Shame, as EoB is one of my favorite retro RPGs.

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  27. Looking to the future, I wouldn't let the Buck Rogers games scare you. They use the familiar Gold-Box engine by SSI in a way that will make you feel at home while also feeling fresh due to the setting and some new options.

    Also, the stories are really good. They may not be D&D, but they're still worth your time.

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    1. I appreciate it. I have negative associations with Buck Rogers in general, but I'll try to give the game a fair chance.

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    2. "negative associations with Buck Rogers"

      How so?

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    3. I know it primarily from the TV series, which, like most things produced in the late 1970s, was awful.

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    4. Wow - you can be such a snob sometimes! ;-)
      Buck Rogers was more than decent compared to the other garbage of that time. Of course it was no Star Trek but it was very entertaining, IMHO.

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    5. Oh, I played the first Buck Rogers game, Countdown to Doomsday - it was rather good! I remember it being a little short, though. Never played the followup though, as I was still on the C64 at the time, and it was never released on the C64.

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    6. While I have fond memories of the disco-era "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," you'll be happy to know that the RPG wasn't based on it.

      It's actually based on the TSR RPG, "Buck Rogers XXV," which revamped the original source material from the 1930s and brought it into the modern era, adding all sorts of interesting ideas.

      It's best that you treat it as it's own entity and try not to associate it with any preconceived ideas you have about Buck Rogers. It's science fantasy done right, and you can't really go wrong with the "Gold Box" games anyway. Even the worst Gold Box game is better than some other series best games. (Hint: The Buck Rogers games are not the worst ones, anyway).

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    7. There are also about a billion versions of Buck Rogers. The original short story was both highly racist, and nothing we would associate with Buck Rogers: He was an ex-WWII soilder as I recall, who woke up from being sealed in a cave with a preservative gas to find Asia had invaded the US and taken it over, and both sides used anti-gravity packs to make super-long jumps and used guns that fired rockets that exploded when they hit the target.

      No jetpacks, no space ships, nothing like that. All on earth, all about fighting a resistance. The original comic followed this plot for a while, then went to Canada, and so on. Later versions kept getting more and more science fiction, only keeping the names and the fact Buck Rogers was woken up from the 20th century in the far future.

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    8. Canageek is close, but got the wrong war. I read the original comic strip in reprints, and Buck Rogers was definitely a WWI soldier (not WWII). The strip premiered in 1928 (and was originally called "Armaggedon 2419 A.D."

      But, even still, none of this has anything to do with the TSR RPG aside from historical reference. You will just have to trust us when we tell you that they are pretty good.

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  28. Oh, dear lord did I open up the floodgates on this one. Please remember I am primarily a COMPUTER RPG Addict. If I try a console game, it will be a rare lark. Don't get all excited about a massive reconfiguring of my blog.

    I won't try to reply to all of your valuable comments on games I don't otherwise know anything about, but if I decide to dip into them, I'll do a search of past comments and see what you wrote.

    In the meantime, didn't I generate ANY controversy on the GOTY selection? Y'all are always too eager to move on to the next thing.

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    1. I'd imagine the majority expected the winner. Hero's Quest was enough of an RPG to attract RPG lovers, yet accessible enough to "casual" players from the adventure/point-and-click crowd. I think it appeals to the widest demographic of computer game players at the time and thus had the biggest influence of the year. Glad to see it win.

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    2. Reviews/ratings in general and GOTY in particular are extremely subjective. I'm not sure about your pick of GOTY, but I follow your reasoning. I do wonder what draws the line between an adventure/RPG hybrid and an RPG with lots of puzzles, though.

      Anyway, some more comments on games you listed:

      Amulet of Yendor - what is this, and why isn't it on your main list? Rogue being a big deal for CRPGs everywhere and all.

      Castlevania II - no, if there's a Castlevania you should play, it's not this one, it's Symphony of the Night. SOTN is a genuine action-RPG (leveling up, non-puzzle inventory management) and possibly the most beloved of the classic Castlevania series (most of which are action/adventure/exploration games).

      Digital Devil - Shin Megami Tensei is a big part of RPG history, but shouldn't you start with the first SMT game to be brought overseas (Revelations: Persona circa 1998, I believe)? Japan-only games of any kind wouldn't have impacted CRPGs that much.... would they? Then again, many SMTs including Revelations: Persona have strong WRPG elements in their first-person perspective dungeons and meticulous party customization.

      Double Dungeons - It's just a gigantic dungeon crawler with (almost?) no story. Only innovative thing was the multiplayer option. It didn't make a splash in RPG history either. Pass.

      Final Fantasy II - do you mean FF IV, originally released on the SNES as FF II? The real FF II was Japan-only for a very long time. FF IV was emphatically JRPG - there is almost zero opportunity to customize your preselected party, and its main selling point is the character-driven narrative. It's also been written about before in the RPG books you already own.

      Ghost Lion - this is a genuine RPG on the NES, although you get level ups through exploration and discovery rather than combat. A little-known game, it's probably best left to the RPG Consoler.

      Hydlides - you have committed no crime deserving 6 hours of this. Of any of these.

      Mother - never officially released in the US, and its sequel Earthbound is both a sales flop (poor marketing) and a beloved cult classic. Mother is notoriously unbalanced/unpolished. I'd love to see you play it, but cannot justify a place on your list.

      Sword of Vermillion - action RPG. Nothing special, probably best left to the RPG Consoler.

      Swords & Serpents - dungeon crawler with almost zero story. Very simple and boring game. Feels like a WRPG. Let the RPG Consoler take the bullet on this one.

      Willow - RPG Consoler did it. Supposedly it was an original action-RPG that got the Willow license pasted on it to sell more copies.

      Ys series - action-JRPGs. Some of them are on the PC in English, so you will have to do them sooner or later.

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    3. The GOTY for 1989 isn't problematic to me but I just realized that it took you more than a year to wade through the games of 1989!

      Of course you had many detours to earlier games but now I fear that I won't be able to see the games of the 2000's if you include all sorts of console games...

      I mean, is this an endless project or do you have a planned end year?

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    4. My personal nominees would have been the same as yours. I guess most people feel the same about this.

      Hero's Quest is the best choice imho because it basically created and dominated a sub-genre (which will see a big revival thanks to kickstarter) and is today the best known rpg from the list.

      The Dark Heart of Uukrul is already in the top 3 which is a great achievement for such an underdog rpg that unfortunately never got the attention it deserved.

      Personally I see The Magic Candle as the my favourite rpg of this nominations. But this is mostly my personal preference how an rpg should be: open world exploration with simulation aspects like hunting etc., decent combat and dialogues. It only lacks in the loot department and the dialogues are often too cryptic / nonsensical for a "real" conversation. The latter one is clearly a restriction of the time it got made.

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    5. Anonymous, I don't have a planned end year, but it does bother me a little that it took me more than a year to get through 1989. I guess I'm hoping that without NetHack, I'll do better in 1990, even if I play as many "off-list" games as I did during 1989.

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    6. Castlevania II: ....I don't think this had stats, though it did have an inventory. However, it is supposed to be a terrible game. It was one of the first ones the Angry Video Game Nerd covered.

      Final Fantasy II - do you mean FF IV, originally released on the SNES as FF II? The real FF II was Japan-only for a very long time. FF IV was emphatically JRPG - there is almost zero opportunity to customize your preselected party, and its main selling point is the character-driven narrative. It's also been written about before in the RPG books you already own.
      Yeah. Nintendo just HAD to rename Dragon Warrior and renumber Final Fantasy, didn't they? *grumble, grumble*

      Hydlides - you have committed no crime deserving 6 hours of this. Of any of these.
      Ok, ok, fair point. I retract my 5th place vote.

      Mother - never officially released in the US, and its sequel Earthbound is both a sales flop (poor marketing) and a beloved cult classic. Mother is notoriously unbalanced/unpolished. I'd love to see you play it, but cannot justify a place on your list.
      Fair, and you don't have to play it to play Earthbound, though, right? When he plays Earthbound we should hook him up with one of the better translation sites to read through as he goes. http://legendsoflocalization.com/earthbound/ covers every single change between the two versions (Also: Super Mario Bros, Legend of Zelda (Both of those are much shorter articles, due to the very limited text in the game), and ongoing: Final Fantasy IV)

      Willow Yep, he can skip this one I think.

      Ys series - action-JRPGs. Some of them are on the PC in English, so you will have to do them sooner or later. They are STILL making these. Also remaking them. Some of these have been on more computers and consoles then I knew existed. I almost feel this one should be played, JUST because it is such a long running series. There must be SOMETHING good about it considering they are still remaking it for modern PCs. I mean, you can get it on steam for crying out loud.

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    7. Mother 2 & 3 are the shiznit. Also, "Heroes of Mother 3" just got their Kickstarter funded.

      Also, honorable mention would be Nekketsu High School. It's an action game but there's character advancement in the form of leveling up via XP from fights against rival high schoolers, buying manuals from comic shops to learn new moves.

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    8. I've played all 3 of your top games for 89 and liked all of them. I thought Uukrul would win based on your comments on the game but Hero's Quest is a fine choice (and more well known). I was wondering what game you would choose as the game of the decade?

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    9. I'd have a tough time choosing between Wizardry, Ultima V, and Pool of Radiance. Each was a perfect example of the state of the art at the time, had a significant influence on later games, and is fun to play today.

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    10. There might not be a NetHack on your 1990 list, but I see Bane of the Cosmic Forge. That might prove to be just as big a time sink.

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  29. I see that you added Mandragore to your non-PC list, but I couldn't find Omega: Planete Invisible/Der geheime Planet. It's quite similar to Mandragore, apperently. I think both games were only released in French and German though. I have a copy of the German manual for Mandragore - and you'll need a manual to play them: doing anything requires you to type in a string of numbers and abbreviations (which character does what to which item on screen...). They're interesting games, but I don't know if they're any good. My only serious attempt to play Mandragore ended almost immediately with my PC freezing and breaking... But yeah, if you decide to play them and no one turns up with a French manual (which would be more helpful to you, I guess) I might be able to help you out.

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    1. Like the main list, I assembled the alternate list out of primarily MobyGames and Wikipedia. If they didn't have the game, or didn't consider it an RPG, it didn't appear. I'll comb through these comments and add the other ones people mentioned at some point.

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  30. I just saw that there actually is an English version of Mandragore.

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  31. While I don't think I would have chosen the same GOTY as you (I think Uukrul would be suitable as GOTY), I think the most surprising part of this end-of-year post is that you had *no* words on the game that you spent 260 hours on: Nethack. It's almost as if you want to forget about it. :)

    I'm more looking forward to 1990 than the looking back on other platforms. I think you will begin to enter the most interesting period when the genre really tries to find different aspects and finding the "soul" of the RPG.

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    1. Yeah, that's a good point. I guess I fundamentally didn't see NH as a 1989 game. I gave GOTY to it in 1987 for 2.3e, and the 3.0 edition wasn't a HUGE change--it just happens to be the one that I spent the most time on.

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    2. That is understandable.

      On the 1990 list: You have 42 games on the list. Compared to the 36 games on the 1989 list (10 games you didn't play, 3 were later relabeled on other years which makes 23 games played). So if the RPG hit ratio is about the same you should look forward to play about 30 games the coming year. Hopefully you can find some hidden gems in there.

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    3. I wouldn't worry to much.

      Your average time to finish a game is 18 hours. However, the median time is only *8* hours. So a few really long games are dragging the time *way* up. If you remove nethack v3.0 from the list the average drops to 16 hours a game.

      So, now that you don't have to spend 262 hours playing Nethack the next year should go faster. I mean, 262/16= ~16 games, so you should be able to do 15 more games next 'year' in the time it took you to do Nethack. Also, next time you beat nethack I'd be willing to put money on it going a *lot* faster, as the real trick is figuring out how to play. Also: You've beat it once, so long as you at least see the new content each version, I don't think anyone would blame you for not ascending again.

      Now, games are getting longer; not counting Nethack the average time to finish a game in 1989 was 22 hours, Median 17. But still, that isn't too bad, and that IS counting the 2nd longest game, Knights of Legend. If you take it out then the average drops even lower.

      Nethack has taken up 13% of the total time you've spent playing games for the blog. Knights of Legands was another 5%. The chances of hitting two of those in 1989 is pretty low.

      In fact, the top three games have taken up 22% of your total playing hours. The top five: 30%, top ten: 42%. Half your time has been taken up by the top 15 longest games you've played.

      The longest games:
      NetHack 3.0 series
      Knights of Legend
      Rogue
      Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom
      The Magic Candle
      Might & Magic II
      Might & Magic I
      Ultima V
      The Bard's Tale
      The Bard's Tale III

      I'm not sure what to say about this. People all really wanted you to play Nethack, Knights of Legand, Wizardy, The Magic Candle, Might & Magic, etc.

      So, how can we modify things to make things go faster? Well, as much sa I hate to say it, we could reduce the number of versions of Nethack (And Roguelikes in general) you have to play, the same with other roguelikes. Or you could just cap yourself at 100 hours or something like that, so long as you have another version coming up to play, since you will have another chance to beat it.

      Now, Rogue is basically early NetHack, and it was beaten before you even started the blog, so we can ignore it for now. Knights of Legend was an oddity; I think what we have there is just an outlier, plain and simple.

      The rest of the list. Well, you've got some of the highest rated games on the blog on there, as well as some of the lowest. I'm not sure what they have in common. Lots of grinding? Anyone else see anything in common about them? Are there any traits shared by them that are going to dissapear, or get more common over time?

      Regardless, I think you took the crazy amount of time in 1989 beacuse you hit two outliers that took up a TON of time, and that 1990 might infact go faster. In fact, if you discount the top two games, you took *less* time to do 1989 then you did 1988, and if you discount just Nethack, then you took about the same time.

      So yeah, anyway, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You are still moving through most games at a very rapid pace, so chill out, play some Champions of Krynn and have fun.

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    4. Yeah, I think the Addict will have reasons to revise his roguelike policy in the future.

      I just check through coming years and most of the nineties seem to be between 40 and 55 games per year.

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    5. Darklands will suck the time (and soul) out of Chet yet!

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    6. I suspect Darklands will rank a lot lower than people hope - It may be free roaming but it's a deeply flawed and repetitive choose your own adventure book.

      A classic 'big game, little content' title that would make Bethesda proud.

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    7. Yeah, but it would seem Chet loves Bethesda games.

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    8. I've loved one, really liked one, and mostly liked a third. That said, I don't really understand Vic's comment. I thought the last three Elder Scrolls games had big worlds AND lots of content.

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    9. Chet, we all know that's an illusion. There were very little dialogue compared to, say, the Witcher series. Most quests are triggered fetch/kill/craft solutions.

      Heck, I'd even go so far as to say that GTA 4 had twice as much game content than Skyrim.

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    10. Kenny: I disagree. My Dad decided to wander around Skyrim trying to visit every location without using any map but the one in the game, see everything, etc. I don't know what his play time is, but I'm pretty sure it is over mine, and I was at 160 hours when I got bored of it.

      Sure, there isn't a lot of DEPTH there, but there are a ton of small dungeons, a ton of hidden little areas, a ton of mountains that you can climb up and look off of, etc.

      So sure, it doesn't have much in the way of plot, or story or character interaction. However, those aren't the only type of content available.

      Now if only they'd put in a few more enemies so I didn't see the same few over and over again. I think I've seen them all a thousand times, except for the Storm Ateroch, which I only ever saw once, when I summoned it. Oh, and two of them during a certain quest in Solitude, but you don't fight those.

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    11. R.E. 'big world, little content' - Bethesda have got better (as their games got smaller), but it's still their trademark. Size over depth.

      Depth is the big factor - All those repeat-random dungeons and encounters are not depth, they're width. Width is not content, it's padding. There's not enough diversity to the content and it becomes repetitive.

      Canageek hits the nail on the head when he wrote 'a few more enemies so I didn't see the same few over and over again' - Their games needs this - More variety (i.e. more content).

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    12. I always thought they had tons of content due to mods. I get bored add a mod that gives me more monsters or quests. If your playing on a console then yes you have half the game.

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    13. I think you're all on drugs. Granted, I haven't played the Witcher series or GTA, but to me, TES games are LOADED with content. They don't have many dialogue options, sure--one of my chief complaints--but the sheer number of quests, dungeons (all with some kind of purpose), NPCs, books, and so forth is almost overwhelming in its content.

      Perhaps the worlds are, in some respects, bigger than the content, but that doesn't meant the content is low. And if the world seems too big, all the games offer plenty of ability to fast-travel and only visit the content-rich locations.

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    14. I have only played Oblivion to a high degree (I have played Morrowind but tired pretty quickly, mostly because of the boring combat system and the amount of walking needed).

      The thing with Oblivion for me was that yes, there are tons of quests, tons of dungeons, tons of NPC:s, books etc. But the problem is that the variety was so low that it could have been the same three NPC:s, the same three quests and the same three dungeons repeated (and in the case of the oblivion gates that was actually true). There didn't seem to be any fundamental difference between the thief, mage and fighter guild quests. And almost all quests were of the fetch or kill X variety. And little of what I did (apart from the main quest) seemed to affect the world.

      All this made it feel very empty to me.

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    15. I disagree that think you are misusing content. Content is anything in the game.

      Oxford English Dictionary:
      Content:
      I. That which is contained in anything.

      c. sing. The amount (of a specified substance or material) contained; the amount or quantity yielded. Usu. with defining word prefixed.

      So anything in the game is 'content'. If you can play it, see it or do it, then it is 'content'. Just because you think it is boring or shallow doesn't mean it isn't content.

      That said, I did find the world of Skyrim got boring after a while. However, that was 160 hours in for me, as I crafted things, made potions, hunted down reagents, killed dragons, explored caves, etc.

      I wish it had been more like Oblivion and had more different types of caves and whatnot, and more quests, but they did an admirable job making the world feel more distinctive, creating several good aesthetics (You could tell if it was a bandit cave, a dwemer ruin, a falmer cave, etc pretty much on entering). They also managed the most impressive world yet in gaming, and people often forget this: First really awesome feeling dragon fights that aren't scripted, not 'press X to hold on' bits.

      I know it is very unsatisfying how shallow the conversations are, how the world didn't update, and how...what was it, Blood on the Ice was one of the only non-Assasins guild quests with any major variation in the formula, but each dungeon was different, had interesting tactical bits etc.

      It had content, lots of it. It may not be a flavour you like, but that doesn't mean it wasn't there.

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  32. Despite the fact I was expecting Dark Heart of Uukrul to run away with the title so to speak, I can't really say I'm surprised with your choice: judging from your posts, you did seem to have A LOT of fun playing that game and it is a great blend of RPG and adventure game.

    As for your holistic view of 80s CRPGs... I voted, but rather than making a case for individual games, I'd rather say that the best approach - as far as I'm concerned - is to pick a few representative titles for each of the major platforms and go on that. Getting a good picture of what was going on back then should at least include 2-3 titles on platforms such as the Atari 8-bit line, the Commodore VIC-20, 64 & Amiga, the Apple IIgs and Macintosh, the ZX Spectrum, the BBC Micro.

    As for consoles, I wouldn't look beyond the NES and, maybe, the SEGA Master System.

    Of course, there was also a plethora of Japanese PCs back in the 80s as well, but I'd say those are best left for the Japanese CRPG Addict :)

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    1. Zenic would be covering those, I think.

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    2. I thought he only plays console games and only US releases. I may be wrong, 'cause I don't follow his blog much, since I'm not very interested in consoles in the first place.

      Japanese PCs, like the MSX, PC-8801 or FM-7, are a different matter. There were plenty of Japan exclusive RPGs on such computers. Those I'd be interested in hearing about.

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    3. That's true, I'm focusing on US releases only. I may dip into a few Japanese only console RPGs, but I don't think I'd get into any of the Japanese PCs. I don't even know any titles to seek out other than Legend of Heroes.

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    4. Terranigma is JP and EU release...PAL release was om December 19 1996.

      And there must be some other JRPGs that were released in Japan and Europe only...

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    5. Yes, there are also a small number of games I've seen have a PAL release, but no US one that I would like to play (and some that fit the blog theme). Knights of the Temple is another more recent one.

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  33. I have two more games you can add to your "Other Platforms list"

    1987 - Legends for the TI-99
    1989 - Legends II: The Sequel for the TI-99

    You can find binary copies of the disks at this link, as well as PDF's of the instructions. I'd recommend the Classic99 emulator for game-play.

    http://tigameshelf.net/

    Adamantyr

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    1. Really? We are going to try and get him to play games made on a calculator? I now understand why it was originally PC/DOS only.

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    2. Just to clarify, in case someone missed Canageeks humor, Texas Instruments named all its calculators and early computers with same naming scheme (TI-XXX). And TI-99/4A was an early home computer.

      I did play a very primitive rougelikeish game on my TI-85 calculator. The levels weren't randomly generated, but there were monsters (sqaures), treasure (score) and hitpoints. I wonder if my calculator still works.

      Also a search for roguelike or role-playing produces a few results at http://www.ticalc.org

      Of course one has to note, that TI-89 already has a Motorola 68000 chip inside it, the same CPU which powered early Amigas, for example. The earlier T-8X calculators had a Z80 variant inside them.

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    3. If my calculator had RPGs in them, I'd never pass a single Math class.

      Then again, having to take into account subtraction of HP from damage, exponential increase of attributes upon leveling up, reduction of skill points from being level-drained and etc. might have improved my grades instead.

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    4. I remember having a pretty decent Ultima I clone for my TI-83+ back in the day. Good times.

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    5. Nope. That was me forgetting that TI made a computer. I mean, common people! I was born in 88, my all rights I shouldn't know any of this stuff, I just have spent too much time reading Wikipedia and old stories of the early days.

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    6. They sold well initially, holding quite a large market share for a while, until Commodore quite literally drove them off the market in one of the great price wars of the early 80s.

      These days the TI-99/4A has been largely relegated to the footnotes of history. I often forget about it myself :)

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    7. @Canageek - I thought, from your blog, that your dad might have those stuff probably breeding dust bunnies in a forgotten corner somewhere.

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    8. @Kenny: Nope, we didn't have much money back then. We had a C64 into the 90s, then moved up to a 386, which tells you how long we kept that C64 for. After that we got a really bad 486 used, and finally a decent P3 500 MHz, and then we eventually started each getting out own computers. I think we've got 5 or 6 of them around my parents house these days, not counting phones or consoles, as we never thrown them out.

      Anyway, we have so much Commodore stuff because my Dad and I collect it. When his friends have gotten rid of their C64 stuff, they give it to us, and when we see some by the side of the curb, we pick it up (More common then you'd think, though I've not found any since I stopped having a dog to walk). Once or twice we've found stuff at garage sales as well, but I've never seen anything other then PC/DOS or C64.

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    9. Are you and your dad planning to build a C64 museum or something? XD

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    10. Kenny: Not really, it just seemed like the thing to do, as he still likes playing Elite every few years, and it was hard to keep it running: I think I broke half the floppy drives we had, or more, trying to get Battletech running. For some reason that disk would destroy any drive it was put into.

      I feel even worse now that I've seen Chet play it and know how terrible it is.

      But it isn't like we spent much on it; Perhaps $20 at a garage sale every 5 years? It was mostly gifts and curb grabbing.

      Delete
    11. @Canageek bad floppies destroying drives is an actual thing, you are not imagining it.

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  34. I truly thought that Magic Candle would have won with its innovations and epic scope. Well, QFG is still great though. Can't wait for Hero-U!

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  35. The way I see it, the best reason to diverge from your computer only policy would be to play something truly unique.

    Thus, if you play only a single console RPG from this era, Sweet Home is the one you should pick. It's a rare genre (horror, in this case) and was probably the only RPG to spawn an entirely different genre (despite being a genuine RPG, it's in many ways a precursor to the survival horror genre, thanks to the limited inventory and complete lack of resurrection.) There's a few other neat mechanics as well.

    Also, there's a handful of non-PC computer releases in the next couple of years (Centauri Alliance (The Bard's Tale IN SPACE) for the Apple-II and C-64, for example). Have you decided what to do about those?

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    1. No. I was hoping that by 1990, the number of CRPGs that never received a DOS/PC release would be so small it wouldn't be worth adding them to my master list. I suppose I should actually verify that rather than just "hoping."

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  36. I don't see why this blog should be doing console RPGs at all. There is an entirely separate blog by a completely different person doing only console RPGs (and it's a really good blog!).

    That blog does console RPGs, this one does computer RPGs. I'd hate to see this blog's original purpose sidetracked in favor of games everyone has already seen a dozen times now.

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    1. The fact that there is another blog out there doesn't mean that Chet shouldn't do what Chat wants to do. We are all passengers on this ride of his. The fact that he's asking his readers for advice on games doesn't mean we should judge him on the games he plays.

      That said, I think there are still plenty of "computer" RPGs of other platforms for him to play if he desires. I'm personally torn between wanting to learn about new games (which would be mostly CRPGs because I was a console addict as a kid) and seeing him discuss, and probably destroy, my old favorites. I would stick around for both.

      Delete
    2. I don't want to "do" console games as a matter of course, but I wouldn't mind checking out a small handful just to see how the genre developed in parallel to CRPGs. The results of the survey give me a good idea how to prioritize what I check out.

      Delete
  37. I'm probably opening myself up to ridicule here, but missing from either of your lists is Pokemon Red/Blue, released 1996 on Nintendo Game Boy.

    There's a decent RPG hidden under the kids theme.

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    1. I think that list includes 80s games only.

      Delete
  38. nice summary of '89
    Can we see the results of the survey? that would be interesting

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    1. I imagine it'll be ongoing, but so far the top games by votes are:

      1. Phantasy Star
      2. Final Fantasy
      3. Dragon Warrior
      4. Deathlord
      5. Alternate Reality: The Dungeon
      6. Zelda II
      7. Lords of Midnight
      8. Phantasy Star II
      9. Dragon Warrior III
      10. Moria

      So two computer games out of 10. The top scores if I weight the first responses as 5, the second as 4, etc., are:

      1. Final Fantasy
      2. Phantasy Star
      3. Deathlord
      4. Dragon Warrior
      5. Alternate Reality: The Dungeon
      6. Dragon Warrior III
      7. Lords of Midnight
      8. Moria
      9. Phantasy Star II
      10. Questron

      The lesson I'm getting is that despite having a lot of readers that seem to like my blog the way it is, almost everyone nonetheless wants to see me play console games. I guess it's time to invest in a controller and a drool tray.

      Delete
    2. Don't you already have a 360-controller? If you have a wired one, that should work no problem with your computer. Perhaps supplemented with a program like xpadder.

      Delete
    3. I just finished reading the post and now I have a bunch of comments to parse, but I want to weigh in on things before everyone moves on without me.

      First off Yay moria! Please keep it in context as after rogue but before nethack.

      Looking at the results I also had some console (turbo grafix 16) games to add. I think the console votes are mostly because we have seen you do the PC style games and would love to hear your take on the games we played as kids. Many of the games on the list no one heard of before so they would not get voted up so much.

      Speaking of those turbo grafix games you have another 2 player dungeon crawl on the list in "double dungeons" so if you play you might try to bribe your wife to play with you. I remember this being fun when I was younger but it probably is a basic and easy wizardry style game with the 2 player simultaneous play as the big innovation.

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    4. Actually, I don't think you should think of that as the result at all.

      Your poll included the scions of console role-playing games, the best of the breed. Lots of obscure ones, too, but the "Ultima 4" and "Might and Magic" of the console world. Games that many people love.

      And they went up against the dregs of computer games: obscure games that had their place on a specific system but which didn't gain the popularity that would have entailed a port to DOS, or you would have played them already.

      So with that, I don't think you should consider this a verdict against computer games at all. Just a bit of selection bias.

      Delete
    5. I was kidding in my comment, but you still make a good point, Joe.

      Delete
    6. I'm not really interested in consoles, yet I still chose a console game among my five picks simply because I'm really curious to read your thoughts on one.

      Delete
    7. I love weirdness and varietyAugust 27, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      I recommend Crystalis, a flawed but interesting and fun game from around this time period; Final Fantasy 4 and 6, excellent SNES games and two of my favorite R.P.G.s; Chrono Trigger, a near-perfect mixture of fantasy, Nihilistic Lovecraftian elements and time travel; and Landstalker, a fun little action-R.P.G. with a literally skewed perspective.


      Is your Playstation 3 a backs-compatible one? You can play Persona 3 regardless, and Persona 4 if it is compatible. I would also recommend getting a cheap used Wii or a WiiU for Little King's Story and Xenoblade Chronicles, and a probably even cheaper PS2 for Persona 4. Persona and Xenoblade Chronicles honestly have better characterization, plots, originality and fun than most of the Western RPGs I have played, and yes,those include Ultima, Bioware's games, The Elder Scrolls--but maybe not Quest for Glory, that might be a better series. I think Persona and Xenoblade would be interesting interludes before you started 1991, and they would give you a little more time before you had to play through Ultima 8.

      I reviewed Xenoblade Chronicles in the comments on the post about meaningful choices, so here are reviews of Little King's Story and Persona 3 and 4:

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    8. I love weirdness and varietyAugust 27, 2013 at 8:03 PM

      Economy: You have to build structures to produce the right units and maintain morale; you have to balance things so you spend enough on each without exceeding and not having enough funds for the other. An unit may be lost in battle, costing the money required to train him, but only one unit can die permanently in any battle: The rest, or perhaps the entirety, will wash up the next day. Your character's death, which happens very easily as this game can be quite difficult, is an immediate and grim end to the game. Score: 8

      Equipment: An interesting system in which limited equipment can be created, thus you have to choose what troops will get the equipment carefully. Simple, but effective. Score: 7

      Graphic, sound and interface: Simple interface, lots of classical music and nice cartoon graphics. Sore: 8

      Gameplay: Lots of fun, challenge, a good test of both reflexes and tactics, perfect. Score:10

      This gives us a score of 82, which is a bit unfair since I prefer Xenoblade, but really shows you how much fun and complex the game is despite the simple appearance.

      Persona 3 and 4:

      Delete
    9. I love weirdness and varietyAugust 27, 2013 at 8:04 PM

      Game world: An intriguing one, filled with a unique variety of enemies, environments and bosses. These enemies, however, are only presented in the dungeons, for the other half of the game is exploring the modern world, searching for characters to develop and side quests to complete. Looking through the human world is important, as your actions there determine your efficacy in the monsters' worlds. Pacing is imprtant, as you often spend long periods of time in your world, interacting with characters and advancing the story, but the environments are interesting enough to keep your interest. Score: 10

      Character creation and development: Your character has an interesting method of development: He captures mythological monsters, then fuses them together to form more powerful creatures. Fusion is produced by a freakish dwarf who lives with beautiful women at the beginning of dungeons, but his methods, as he admits, are imperfect: Sometimes, unexpected side effects will occur, which can be advantageous if the right skills are added. You party members have fixed personae, but if they are treated well enough, they can develop more powerful helpers. Score: 8

      NPC Interaction: This is what makes the games unique: A complex system of interactions with each character. Every character has different goals and ideas, and most can become your friends. A relationship's success determines the amount of experience you receive when creating a creature of the relevant class, thus you must maintain strong relationships in order to be effective in combat. I enjoy this more than the system in Bioware games, as the characters are better written, more varied and less cliched. Score: 10

      Encounters and Foes: I said before that most of these games have large numbers of skills, but only use a few of them, but there were some exceptions, like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. Persona is a huge exception: You have a lot of skills, and you will learn every one of them, exactly how to use them, what creatures are strong and vulnerable to them, how to conserve your energy for them, how party members react to them or you will die. Persona shoves you in the deep end, teaches you little to nothing and forces you to swim while holding your head underwater, and you will love it. All of the foes have imaginative designs, different strengths and weaknesses, a lot of power and will take you down if you are careless. Score: 10

      Magic and Combat: Adding to the above, you cannot stay in a dungeon forever: You will run out of resources, or in the case of the third game, your characters will get tired. This limits level grinding, so you had better learn to manage your time and resources. Score: 10

      Economy: A simple monetary system, but one that limits your resources so you cannot stay in the dungeon and level grind endlessly. Score: 7

      Equipment: Standard, unexceptional but efficient. Score: 7

      Graphics, sound and interface: Good graphics, acceptable sound, awkward interface. Score: 5

      Final Score: 67, I think it should be higher but it is a very high score that reflects the greatness of the games.

      Delete
    10. I love weirdness and varietyAugust 27, 2013 at 8:40 PM

      Part of that Little King's story review was not copied for some reason, so here is the rest of it:


      Game world: An intriguing one, filled with a unique variety of enemies, environments and bosses. Each area is distinct, there are plenty of tangible and intangible rewards for exploration, and there is an insane but clever and satisfying explanation for everything. There is a sense of mystery, of what lies within and beyond everything, and you are constantly seeing new things. Persona 4 has a clever, morally ambiguous twist, reminiscent of Crime and Punishment near the end. Score: 10

      I am going to give 10 bonus points to the game world because of the subtlety: There are a lot of implied ideas and metaphors and questions about the nature of existence behind the game, surprising given its cartoonish appearance. You will get the most out of the game if you think about it.

      Character creation and development: You can assign different roles to your party members through shops that you build, which is a simple and efficient system. There is more depth than that, though: Certain obstacles can only be overcome by certain classes; some classes are better for certain bosses than others; and you often need to mix combat and support roles to make progress, which challenges you to keep some troops protected. Score: 8

      NPC Interaction: Small number of characters, but the characters are great. Your advisers are hilarious, well-developed and important to the story. Bosses are all clever, talkative and unpredictable. All the princesses you save have separate personalities and side quests. Simple, but well done. Score: 6

      Encounters and Foes: Lots of enemy types, a simple combat interface that encourages both tactics and skill, and an eclectic mix of bosses. You have to maintain your troops, keep specific types of troops alive, and tread carefully, or will not survive. Score: 9

      Magic and Combat: Combat works well; magic is not really a factor, but individual skills are important. Score: 6

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    11. There is also the 'I've heard of that' factor, which is, I picked games that I've either heard of, or have played. I havent' heard of many Atari, Amiga, etc games. I have heard of a bunch of NES, SNES, Master System, Genesis, etc games that have been brought to more modern systems.

      Delete
  39. I think maybe the CRPG Addict underestimated the ridiculous power nostalgia has on people. I chose CRPG games but I have to admit my inner child was telling me to pick Castlevania and Zelda.

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  40. I'm late to the party on recommendations but here goes. I left out console RPGs because Zenic does a great job on those.

    Alternate Reality: The Dungeon - My god the memories of playing this game when I was a teen in the 80's on my Atari 65XE. The music, the graphics and the only game my younger sister would play with me as she controlled the character as i mapped out the dungeons on grid paper.

    Eternal Dagger - I love the Wizard Crown series and in Eternal Dagger they made a few improvements that made it more enjoyable.

    Deathlord - I hear it's one of the largest and toughest RPG's out there so i would love to see you tackle it.

    The Legend of Blacksilver - Sequel to Legacy of the Ancients.

    Realms of Darkness - Interesting adventure / RPG game.


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  41. Deathlord - one of the first RPGs I ever played - and what I didn't realize at the time is that it's also one of the largest and most difficult. I never even came close to beating it (and I've never quite stopped thinking about it), but I feel the CRPG Addict could.

    Tunnels of Doom - an early 80s dungeon crawl with features and technology quite impressive for its time.

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  42. From Mobygames list of DOS RPGs of 1990, this year you will face Ultima 6, and Lord of the Rings 1, both on my list of "top 10 RPGs ever" and also Wizardry 6, which is on my "top 10 1st person RPGs ever".

    So you should be fine :)

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