Saturday, September 5, 2020

Guest Post: The Long Life of the Original "Wizardry" in Japan

The Long Life of the Original Wizardry in Japan
by Alex
Edited by the CRPG Addict
      
Buckle up; there's some explaining to do.
          
When you think about Japanese role-playing games, you probably have a few varieties in mind. The biggest names are Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. The tactics-based Fire Emblem is surging in popularity, after a few decades of being shoved under the rug by Nintendo of America. Hydlide is generally the butt of jokes. However, there is a whole generation of Japanese role-playing games that have never seen Western shelves.
       
Its name is Wizardry.
     
The story is full of gaps, but it goes something like this: Before Sir-Tech USA shut its doors in 1998, Japanese publishing of the Wizardry series was handled by ASCII Corporation; among other things, they published The Black Onyx, which Chet has played. They also co-developed and published the NES and SNES ports of the first five games in the Western Wizardry series.
        
Unbeknownst to American fans, ASCII entertainment began creating their own Wizardry games for consoles and handhelds. Wizardry Gaiden: Suffering of the Queen, a Wizardry adventure for Game Boy, was released in 1991. [Ed.: Of course, we recently covered that.]  This was followed up by Curse of the Ancient Emperor and Scripture of the Dark in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Of these, I've only played the first one; rough translations are available for all three.
    
As they were contemporaneous with Bane of the Cosmic Forge and Crusaders of the Dark Savant, these games include some elements from their Western-developed counterparts: Mooks, Felpurrs, and Faeries are all playable in some of the games of the Gaiden series. But beyond that, they play very similarly to the classic Wizardry titles. You roll characters and explore a first-person dungeon with a party of six, chests are trapped, poison is a nightmare, and the temple might screw up and ash your Level 10 ninja. Nothing we haven't seen before, and I'm sure Chet has had enough classic Wizardry to last a lifetime.
    
1991 also saw an anime adaptation of the first Wizardry, Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981). Information is scant, but it's been translated and can be watched online. [Ed: I (Chet) watched it before posting this, and it's a weirdly faithful adaptation, including Werdna, Trebor, the Amulet, the original purpose of the "proving grounds," Gilgamesh's tavern, classes and races faithful to the game, spells named in the game, the elevator, and the idea of rescuing parties slain in the corridors.]
         
Notably absent from the Japanese Wizardry lineage, however, is D.W. Bradley's trademark sense of humor. Gone are Phoonzang, Phelonious T. Loon, and the Duck of Sparks; there is no Blade of Cuisinart or La-La Moo-Moo. The popular theory, at least according to sites like Wikipedia, is that such jokes didn't translate well; this led unsuspecting Japanese gamers to view the Wizardry series as a grim, serious story. I choose to believe that the average Japanese person is smarter than that, but unless a Japanese Wizardry fan chimes in, we may never know.

This is where Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon's Heart comes in.
    
As always, Wizardry Gaiden IV drops you in the menu town with no ceremony
        
Throb of the Demon's Heart was released for the Super Famicom in 1996; that's a full four years after Crusaders of the Dark Savant. However, it feels like a step backwards: there is no outdoor area, intro cinematic, or obvious backstory in the game itself. The setting has moved from European fantasy stereotypes to medieval Japanese stereotypes, but you still have the tavern, the inn, the shop, the temple, the training grounds (where you create characters) and an icon leading to a separate menu where you access the dungeons. They didn't even change the order, although Gilgamesh and Boltac apparently haven't broken into the feudal Japanese market yet.
          

The default characters have been named after the unofficial translation crew. The bottom two are mine.
         
However, fans of the American Wizardry series will note some changes that stick out like a sore thumb. Each facility now offers a "talk" option, which walks you through the functions available at that building. There are four dungeons instead of just one. Holding "Y" shows a 4x4 area map; not enough to easily navigate from opposite ends of the dungeon, but it helps to get your bearings. Intriguingly, the "Reincarnate" option in the Training Grounds indicates that you can import a character from the Game Boy's Scripture of the Dark via a complicated passcode.

            
Some rich Japanese kid with all the peripherals probably got a kick out of this in 1996.
         
Perhaps the most interesting is the Labyrinth. This area builds as you complete more of the game, filling with monsters that you've defeated in past expeditions. Talking to the gatekeeper reveals that monsters within will never drop money, but will give experience rewards; he'll even bring you to the Temple "free of charge," although I'm not clear if he'll actually pay for resurrections. This is reminiscent of the Veldt in Final Fantasy VI, released 1994; the Veldt was also populated solely by monster types defeated elsewhere in the game. The inclusion of the Labyrinth allows one to grind new characters in relative safety.
     
The Labyrinth's gatekeeper explains how it works.
        
Although not the flashiest or most impressive SNES game, Throb is a pleasing audiovisual experience. It takes a page from Super Metroid's book, using the sound hardware to create a spooky, ambient soundtrack for tense exploration. Footsteps are accompanied by clacking reminiscent of wooden sandals; paper sliding doors open with an appropriate whoosh. Battles are announced with a tense musical sting, followed by satisfying clangs, cracks and thumps as rounds go by. Character death is announced with a sampled scream; resurrections at the temple are set to deep, ominous throat singing.
     
Unidentified monsters appear, after a short animation, as spooky silhouettes.
       
The animations and small touches slow things down a small amount, but not much; battles are still lightning fast, and restocking in town is short and painless. It emphasizes the impact of events without detracting from the gameplay in a way that very few games of the era could pull off.

I explored most of the first floor of the "Tower of Stillness," the first of three dungeons besides the Labyrinth. So far it isn't very difficult; compared to the first floor of Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord, it was a breeze. The area map made it hard to get lost, and monsters weren't really a threat once I reached level two. In what must be a reference to Murphy's Ghost, a spirit in a storage room gave over 1,000 XP; this was enough to shoot my characters from level four straight to six.
         
As I explored, occasionally I found some descriptive text; there was a short description of the tower when I first entered, which I unfortunately didn't capture. A painting of an old woman gave a puzzle hint, and the storage room was described in enough detail to paint an interesting picture.
          

This seems like a trap, but actually leads to a massive amount of experience.
This encounter was set to a pleasantly creepy tune.
           
To me, all of this points to a certain design philosophy among the Japanese Wizardry games; they wanted more classic Wizardry gameplay, but also a more mature and more accessible game. You still have to "start scum" for decent characters, but higher rolls are more frequent and most classes have been given new abilities. Death is still possible if you're not paying attention, but (at least in the short part that I played) you won't be screwed for walking on the wrong square. Special encounters are signaled by a dark brown tile on the floor. The automap greatly simplifies mapping, making it less of a chore to enter a new area and shifting the focus onto combat, and possibly puzzle solving later. The plot is as bare-bones as ever, but the overall tone is serious and straight-faced. (I couldn't find the manual online, so I only know what the game tells me--which is very little.)

Since this entry is just a side note, after all, I leave my account of gameplay off here. The last thing I'll say is that it's a lot of fun and I see myself playing it for quite some time.
           
I only suffered one death exploring the first floor, and resurrection only cost 250 gold.
          
As the screenshots throughout this entry show, despite improvements in graphics and sound, Japanese developers never gave up a certain fidelity to the original 1981 game. The shots above are all recognizably Wizardry, containing all the screen elements of the Apple II original. This remains true into the modern age; 2009's Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls for the PlayStation 3 (just ported to the PC this year) uses the same character creation system, attributes, and classes of Proving Grounds. Amidst much nicer graphics and modern touches like NPC dialogue and continuous movement, it still has the same menu town with the same options in each location, the same approach to combat ranks (for both the party and monsters) and the same mechanics for things like unidentified items and unidentified monsters. In America, the post-Greenberg/Woodhead titles (starting with Wizardry VI in 1990) still paid a certain homage to their predecessors while going in their own direction, but Japanese developers have persisted in recreating the original games with remarkable consistency.
   
A shot from Labyrinth of Souls (2009) shows that the series is still recognizable as Wizardry.
      
The persistence of the Wizardry series leaves us with a number of mysteries concerning development and copyright. The first is whether either Robert Woodhead or Andrew Greenberg (or, for that matter, David W. Bradley) had any hand in the Gaidens. What we know is that around 1988, both Greenberg and Woodhead parted ways with Sir-Tech, Greenberg to go on to Masterplay and then law school, but Woodhead to go to Japan, alongside fellow Wizardry developer Roe Adams III. While David W. Bradley took over development of Wizardry games in the United States, Woodhead and Adams in Japan founded AnimEigo, a company that subtitles and exports Japanese animation for American audiences. According to the Wikipedia article, they were pioneers in the anime export trade, known for high-quality releases. If MobyGames' biography is correct in saying that Woodhead lived in Japan for six years, then he would have been there for the first three Wizardry Gaiden releases and a large number of console conversions developed by ASCII.
 
Greenberg and Woodhead sued Sir-Tech for nonpayment of royalties in 1991, the same year that the first Wizardry Gaiden was released. Suffering of the Queen assigns the Wizardry trademark to Sir-Tech, indicating that ASCII developed the game under license from the U.S. copyright holder. But is it possible that Woodhead, keeping a low profile to avoid further legal conflicts with the company that he was suing, materially participated in the game's creation? The only evidence we have for such speculation is circumstantial: First, Woodhead, Greenberg, and Bradley are credited as the "original authors" by ASCII. Since you can't find Woodhead or Greenberg's names on the credits of any U.S. Wizardry of the period, it seems unlikely that it was something that Sir-Tech demanded. Second, most of the Japanese development staff has no credits beyond the Wizardry ports and adaptations. Third, as we've seen, the Gaiden series could easily be additional "scenarios" of the original Wizardry; the game design is that close.
                
After Sir-Tech USA closed its doors in 1998 is where things get really murky (and here we are indebted to original research from Reggie Carollpio in a 2013 article on VentureBeat). Sir-Tech's founders, Robert and Norman Sirotek, had already transferred the Wizardry copyright to Sir-Tech Canada in an ultimately futile (though it took decades of litigation) attempt to deprive Greenberg and Woodhead of royalties. Sir-Tech Canada continued to develop Wizardry 8 but at some point sold the copyright to a mysterious "paper" company called 1259190 Ontario Inc., which turned out to be wholly owned by Robert and Norman Sirotek, the rights transfer apparently being another attempt to complicate the Greenberg/Woodhead suit. While Sir-Tech Canada shut down in 2003, the paper company persisted.
          
A Japan-exclusive PC game from 2001 mentions 1259190 Ontario Inc. in the fine print on its title screen.
        
In 2006, 1259190 Ontario Inc. sold the rights to the franchise to a Japanese company called Aeria IPM, which has an uncertain relationship with Aeria Games and Entertainment. In 2008, Aeria IPM became a subsidiary of Gamepot (which merged with Aeria Games and Entertainment in 2012), which is a subsidiary of So-Net Entertainment Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Sony. Somewhere in that morass the current rights lie.
     
None of these legal dealings stopped the march of Wizardry titles in Japan throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Many are PlayStation and PlayStation 2 exclusives, but at least one (Wizardry: Chronicle from 2001) was an original PC release and has been translated by enterprising fans. A number of them move the setting from fantasy to modern times, including Wizardry Xth (2005) for the PlayStation. After the sale to Aeira, Japanese developers geared up for a "Wizardry Renaissance," but the movement seems to have stalled a bit with the failure of the MMO Wizardry Online (2013-2014). The last Wizardry to officially reach western shores is Wizrogue: Labyrinth of Wizardry (2014); an iOS game called Wizardry Schema released the same year seems to be no longer available.
          
The title screen of Wizrogue shows the license coming from Gamepot Inc.
          
Clearly Wizardry was successful to some large degree in order to spawn so many spinoffs; however, it seems to be a shadow in the background. You don't see Wizardry cosplayers at conventions or doujin creators professing their love for Wizardry. I've never seen a direct reference to Wizardry in anime or manga, even in comedies that reference other games nonstop. No game designer put themselves on the map with an awesome Wizardry spinoff. Being an American who has never left the country and knows about five words of Japanese, I can only guess and wonder what kind of impact Wizardry made in 1990s Japan. Is it a household name? Would you call it a cult classic? Who knows? Certainly not me.

I doubt that we'll see Wizardry 9 from a Japanese developer. Even as Bane and Crusaders brought new gameplay and a continuing story to the series, Japanese players were apparently perfectly content to play the same old game with shinier graphics and minor tweaks. The PC release of Labyrinth fell prey to unspecified licensing issues in late 2019, but proceeded anyway. There seems to be no reason why there couldn't be a Wizardry 9, except that nobody wants to make a numbered sequel. Only time will tell if this supposed "Wizardry renaissance" will gain momentum in the US, remain in Japan for another few decades, or die out entirely.
       
*******
      
A complete list of Wizardry Titles with some commentary from the CRPG Addict
   
1. Oubliette for PLATO (1977, USA), a fascinating early MMO by Jim Schwaiger, John Gaby, Bancherd DeLong, and Jerry Bucksath. Best now thought of as a pre-Wizardry, the game inspired the first generation of commercial RPG developers, including Robert Woodhead and Andrew Greenberg. I covered it in 2013. It introduced Wizardry's races, classes, attributes, alignments, spell system, exploration mechanics, and trap system. Several later attempts were made to commercialize it. An iPhone version is still available as of 2020.
         
2. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981, USA; 1985, Japan), originally for Apple II; later ported to PC Booter (1984), FM-7, PC-88, and PC-98 (1985), Macintosh (1985), Sharp X1 (1986), MSX (1987), Commodore 64 and 128 (1987), NES (1990), TurboGrafx CD (1993), PlayStation (1998), Sega Saturn (1998), SNES (1999), Game Boy Color (2001), and Wonderswan Color (2003). Explore 10 levels to find the Amulet of Werdna for King Trebor. The first game in the official series establishes its most common tropes: a menu town, Gilgamesh's Tavern, Boltac's Trading Post, weird spell names, tactical combat, traps that your thief sets off more than disarms, gridded "blobber" exploration, Murphy's Ghost, and permadeath but with the ability of a fresh party to find and resurrect the dead one, among many others. An absolute classic that I still enjoy playing. My coverage was early in my blog, in 2010.
           
The menu town with Boltac's Trading Post and Gilgamesh's Tavern would remain a staple of the series well into the modern age.
         
3. Wizardry: Scenario #2 - Knight of Diamonds (1982, USA; 1986, Japan), originally for Apple II, later ported to FM-7 and PC-98 (1986), PC-88 and Sharp X1 (1987), PC Booter (1987), Commodore 64 and 128 (1988), MSX (1989), Macintosh (1990), NES (1990), TurboGrafx CD (1993), PlayStation (1998), Sega Saturn (1998), SNES (1999), Game Boy Color (2001). Although often known as Wizardry II, this "sequel" is actually more of an expansion pack for the original game. It requires the original game to create and manage characters (and to get them up to a level that's survivable in this game) yet still enforces permadeath. It tells a new story (retrieve the Staff of Gnilda, which protects the city of Llylgamyn, first by finding 7 pieces of armor) but with the same graphics and mechanics as the original. I won it in 2014.
     
4. Wizardry: Scenario #3 - Legacy of Llylgamyn (1983, USA; 1987, Japan), originally for Apple II, later ported to PC Booter (1986), FM-7, PC-88, PC-98, and Sharp X1 (1987), Commodore 64 and 128 (1989), NES (1989), MSX (1990), TurboGrafx CD (1994), PlayStation (1998), Sega Saturn (1998), SNES (1999), Game Boy Color (2001). Yet another expansion pack requiring the original game to create characters, even though they're regarded as descendants of the original characters for the purposes of the game's plot, which is to recover the Orb of Earithin from the lair of the great dragon L'kbreth. Mechanics and content are otherwise the same as the first game. Still fun. I had a good time with it in late 2014.
         
5. The Return of Werdna: The Fourth Wizardry Scenario (1987, USA; 1989, Japan), originally for Apple II, later ported to PC-88 and PC-98 (1988), PC Booter (1988), FM-7 and Sharp X1 (1989), TurboGrafx CD (1994). The oddest game of the series uses mechanics and graphics from the first three but tells a new story in which you play Werdna, having awakened from your defeat in the first game, now trying to escape the labyrinth. Famously difficult to the extent that it even required knowledge of random graffiti in the first game. Character development is minimized and there are different rules about death and saving, but exploration and combat are very similar. My truncated attempt occurred in late 2010.
        
The graphics looked similar in Wizardry IV, but the gameplay was very different. For instance, the lead character assembled a party of monsters at "summoning pentagrams" on each level.
         
6. Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988, USA; 1990, Japan). Released at the same time for the Apple II, Commodore 64, Commodore 128, and PC Booter, then ported to the PC-88, PC-98, and FM Towns (1990), SNES (1992), and TurboGrafx CD (1992). Woodhead and Greenberg left during the development of this game, which was taken over by David W. Bradley. The result is a game that has most of the original mechanics (though with some new additions, like NPCs) but Bradley's silly "humor." Again based in Llylgamyn, the game wants you to stop "The Sorn" from sucking the world into a magical vortex. Long and hard. I played it starting in 2011.
            
This is the kind of thing that D. W. Bradley added to the series.
          
7. Wizardry: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (1990, USA; 1991, Japan), originally for Amiga and DOS, ported to FM Towns and PC-98 (1991) and SNES (1995), Sega Saturn (1996). The first Wizardry game to emerge from wireframes. The new lead developer (David W. Bradley) kept many of the mechanics but introduced his own plot, races, skills, spells, and character development system, as a motley party explores and tries to uncover the secrets of an abandoned castle. It definitely feels like the beginning of something new rather than a continuation of the old franchise. See my 2013 coverage

8. Wizardry: Suffering of the Queen (1991, Japan). This Game Boy exclusive, first in the Wizardry Gaiden series, never had an official western release. Licensed from Sir-Tech by ASCII, it tells a story that could easily be the fifth scenario of the original game. Graphics are new (but not notably better); races, classes, mechanics, and spells are mostly unchanged from Proving Grounds. I played it in 2020.
           
The first Game Boy Wizardry has the same conventions as the first three titles.
          
9. Wizardry: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (1992, USA; 1994, Japan), originally for DOS, later ported to FM Towns and PC-98 (1994), PlayStation (1995), Sega Saturn (1996). David W. Bradley's storytelling and humor are on full display here, with both good and bad results. Graphics and sound finally catch up to the modern era; mechanics remain almost identical to Bane of the Cosmic Forge. The plot tells a continuation of that game, as the party blasts off into space and attempts to recover a universe-changing device called the Astral Dominae before the mysterious Dark Savant. I played in 2018. I didn't like the cliffhanger ending, particularly since it wasn't resolved for 9 years.
         
10. Wizardry: Curse of the Ancient Emperor (1992, Japan). The second in ASCII's Wizardry Gaiden series for the Game Boy, this one has you exploring a desert dungeon, with a "menu oasis" instead of a "menu town," although Gilgamesh and Boltac are still the franchise owners. Mechanics are identical to Suffering of the Queen, which means identical to the first Wizardry. Graphics have been somewhat improved.

11. Wizardry: Scripture of the Dark (1993, Japan). The third in the Game Boy Gaiden trilogy, this one departs significantly from the first two in including races and classes from the David Bradley Wizardry games (and their associated spells and special abilities). Combat looks closer to the original Wizardrys, however, and the spell system still uses the original names, and slots instead of the mana pool that Bradley introduced. Still, this entry shows that Japanese developers were aware of changes to the U.S. series. I haven't been able to find any information about the plot except that it takes place in the city of Dalia and there are apparently multiple endings. Permadeath is removed--in fact, the game now autosaves after every battle--unless you specifically choose the special "Mania Mode."
            
Scripture of the Dark is the first Japanese Wizardry to let you choose the new races introduced in Bane of the Cosmic Forge.
       
12. Nemesis: The Wizardry Adventure (1996, USA; 1998, Japan), released originally for DOS, ported to Sega Saturn (1998) and Windows (1998). This adventure-RPG hybrid shares nothing with the original series except the name. You play a single character, pre-defined, who has to recover 7 talismans to counter the evil meddlings of the Nitherin Mages. The interface is of the typical mid-1990s static-screen, point-and-click type. RPG elements are minimal.
         
13. Wizardry: Throb of the Demon's Heart (1996, Japan). A Japanese SNES (Famicom) exclusive from ASCII, this one is sometimes numbered with the Game Boy Gaiden series as IV.  It continues the tradition from Scripture of the Dark (to which it is a prequel) by taking races and classes from the D.W. Bradley series but otherwise feeling more like the original games.

14. Wizardry Empire: Emperor of Naraka (1999, Japan). This Game Boy Color offering has fewer borrowings from the Bradley series but introduces some innovations of its own, including an archer class, genders, and several new prestige classes, including the "Summoner," anticipating the 2001 game.
           
Notice that the copyright screens of the late-1990s offerings are referencing the mysterious "1259190 Ontario, Inc."
          
15. Wizardry Empire: Staff of Resurrection (2000, Japan). A sequel to the previous game, I can find very little about it.
      
16. Wizardry Empire: The Ancient Princess (2000, Japan). I can find almost nothing about this PlayStation 2 sequel.

17. Wizardry: Dimguil (2000, Japan). An obscure title for the PlayStation, this offering from ASCII looks a lot like the Gaiden series, which means a lot like the original games. Characters could even be transferred from the Game Boy titles with numeric codes.
        
The graphics are updated, but otherwise Dimguil has all the attributes, classes, races, alignments, items, and spells of the original games.
       
18. Wizardry Chronicle: Reclaiming the Holy Land (2001, Japan). A rare Windows game from a Japanese developer, I can't tell what's happening in this one except that character creation seems familiar, and exploration is still tiled and textured.
     
19. Wizardry: Summoner (2001, Japan). A Game Boy Advance exclusive from Media Rings, later ported to the PlayStation 2, this game has a lot of graphical improvements but is still recognizably Wizardry. A party of 6 with traditional races and classes, using a menu town as a hub, explores dungeons for a book of power. The "Summoner" class returns from Wizardry Empire, plus the dungeons are randomly-generated. Since it's only in Japanese, I can't otherwise fully tell what's changed and what's the same.
    
20. Wizardry 8 (2001, USA and Japan). The last game in the numbered western series, Wizardry 8 had a troubled development and was barely released for Windows and Macintosh before Sir-Tech Canada collapsed. It nonetheless garnered great reviews and has a dedicated fan following even today. It wraps up the story begun in Bane of the Cosmic Forge, as the party tries to recover the Astral Dominae from the Dark Savant. I think this is the first Wizardry to feature continuous (instead of tiled) movement. I'm otherwise avoiding finding out much about it.

21. Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land (2001, Japan and USA). A PlayStation 2 exclusive, this is the first Wizardry to originate in Japan but also have an official western release. The party tries to find the Queen of Duhan, who disappeared into a dungeon beneath her castle after a magical event devastated the population. The interface is modern, but it's still clearly of the Wizardry line, with the same races, classes, alignments, and attributes (excepting some synonyms). Even the system for rolling the attribute pool hasn't changed. Gameplay otherwise looks similar to Wizardry 8, with continuous movement and turn-based combat with attack animations.
            
Combat may look different, but the options are essentially the same as the first game in the series.
         
22. Monthly Wizardry (2002, Japan). A short-lived series that was only available for a couple of Japanese mobile services. There were two chapters: Melancholy of the Young King and Intruders of Annedale Forest. I don't know what it was about, but it seemed to feature tiled movement along vectored graphics. The game's official site had some graph paper you could download and use for mapping.

23. Wizardry Empire II: Legacy of the Princess (2002, Japan). A PlayStation game from Starfish, the plot has something to do with evil stirring after the collapse of an empire. The player has to rescue a princess and recover a sacred book. I can tell you there's a menu town and character creation options seem to be the same as they were 21 years ago, right down to the pool of bonus points.
          
Graphics advance, but this screen never seems to change.
          
24. Busin 0: Wizardry Alternative Neo (2003, Japan). A PlayStation 2 sequel to Tale of the Forsaken Land.
    
25. Wizardry: Chapter 1 (2003, Japan). Released for mobile phones using the J2ME platform, this game features a single protagonist who wakes up in jail with no memory of having started a tavern riot and punching the mayor's son. To redeem himself, he takes a quest to clear the sewers of rats and grows from there. Some mechanics are drawn from Wizardry but greatly simplified.
     
26. DoCoMo Wizardry (2003, Japan). A 6-chapter series that ran through 2004 and was available for NTT DoCoMo phones in Japan. Chapter titles are Shrine of Bytek Irhai, Mystery of the Underground Ruins, Temple of the Immortal Dragon, Tower of Edith, The Issue of the Abyss of Lead Celest, and Upper Part of the Tower of Edith. I have no idea what gameplay looked like.

27. Wizardry Empire III: Lineage of the King (2003, Japan). The third in this series, released for PlayStation 2 and ported to the PlayStation Portable in 2007. The plot is set 200 years after the rescue of Princess Nilda in Legacy of the Princess. The player must deal with a demonic threat rising in a dungeon. I watched a video long enough to verify the original classes, races, attributes, alignments, and slot-based spell system, although there are alchemist and psionic spells (taken from the Bradley series) alongside the mage and priest slots.
         
Note that Japanese developers are still getting mileage out of the original Wizardry box graphic.
          
28. Wizardry Traditional (2004, Japan). Another mobile phone series with two chapters: Twelve of a Kind and Grace of the Moonspoon. Figuring out what gameplay was like now is impossible.

29. Wizardry Asterisk: The Scarlet Seal (2005, Japan). A remake of Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord by Starfish for the Nintendo DS.
    
30. Wizardry Xth: Academy of Frontier (2005, Japan). Another PlayStation 2 game that keeps the classes and some mechanics of the early series but takes place in a futuristic military school in Europe. The party is composed of students who explore randomly-generated dungeons as part of their training. Again, this one is all in Japanese, so there's a lot I can't tell. The graphics have a much stronger anime influence than any previous Wizardry game.
            
The setting is futuristic, but the combat is still recognizably Wizardry.
         
31. Wizardry Gaiden: Prisoners of the Battles (2005, Japan). Another rare Windows release in Japan, ported to the PlayStation 2 in 2006. A DLC called The Absence of Misericordia was published later the same year. Online videos show all the familiar Wizardry elements during character creation; this one doesn't have any of the Bradley-influenced classes, races, and magic.

32. Wizardry Gaiden: Five Trials (2006, Japan). This PC follow-up to Prisoners of the Battles included a scenario editor.
    
33. Wizardry Xth: Unlimited Students (2006, Japan). Another PlayStation 2 title. A sequel to Academy of Frontier, it seems to feature identical gameplay and a mostly-identical story.
      
34. Wizardry: Wedge of Life (2009, Japan). This Nintendo DS game kicked off what is often called the "Wizardry Renaissance" by Japanese developers. Videos suggest a much different approach--almost Wizardry fused with Dungeon Master, with real-time exploration, action-oriented obstacles like swinging blades and rolling balls, and lots of puzzles.
        
A scene from the demo trailer shows a swinging blade blocking a corridor.
       
35. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (2009, Japan; 2011, USA). This title for the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita (2015) was ported to Windows in 2020 and is available on Steam. Despite beautiful graphics and sound, it cleaves faithfully to the rules and mechanics of the original games--more so than any title since the Game Boy Wizardry Gaiden games. It even features a menu town and tiled movement. For some reason, MobyGames has catalogued about one million DLC equipment packs as separate titles.

36. Wizardry Online Mobile (2010, Japan). A prologue to the following year's Wizardry Online, this title uses an axonometric view for the first time in the series history.
         
A shot from Wizardry Online Mobile
         
37. Wizardry: Legacy of Oblivion (2010, Japan). A Nintendo DS sequel to Wedge of Life.

38. Wizardry: Prisoners of the Ghost City (2011, Japan). Despite its recency, I've been able to find very little about this PlayStation 3 title.

39. Tokyo Labyrinth: Wizardry 0 (2011, Japan). A social media game offered by one Japanese mobile provider. Wikipedia says that it "contains elements from card battle games."
   
40. Wizardry Online (2011, Japan; 2013, United States). Sony's attempt at an MMORPG lasted less than three years total and less than one in the west, probably because they went with an "old school" feel, not understanding that old-school players prefer single-player games. The game hewed faithfully to the classes, races, attributes, and bonus points system of the original titles, but the game is single-character and, like Wizardry Online Mobile, uses a third-person view.
       
The logo is the same, but little else remains.
        
41. Wizardry: The Magical Tower of War (2013, Japan). Another social media game, this one for the iPhone.
     
42. Wizardry Schema (2014, Japan). A game for the iPhone and Android that went offline in 2017. It apparently "played itself" after you created the characters and assigned them various tasks and missions.
     
43. Wizrogue: Labyrinth of Wizardry (2014, Japan; 2017, USA). Originally for iPhone and Android, this game was ported to the PC in 2017 and translated to English. It blends elements of Wizardry and roguelikes, and what I love about it from videos is the way that it conveys the "blobber" movement of the six-person party.
   

57 comments:

  1. Very comprehensive stuff, well done. I was hoping you'd cover Throb of the Demon's Heart; it kinda feels like the Platonic ideal of what you might expect Japanese Wizardry to be. That is, one fully committed to the franchise's mechanics and rules but transplanted to a setting more attuned to its native land and culture. I poked my head in briefly while researching the SFC library for something else, and was impressed by the level of craft and fidelity to the source.

    As for Tale of the Forsaken Land, it's a game I've played a lot (and I don't imagine Chet will ever touch it) so I'll add a few extra details:
    Movement is still grid-based for the most part, but the environments are 3D. You tend to see that a lot in modern blobbers like Grimrock or Might and Magic X.
    Enemies are visible while moving, but appear as indistinct shadowy figures until you initiate the encounter (the Persona games also do this, as do a few others).
    One of the game's unusual features, and I don't know if this persisted to other Japanese Wizardry games, is that there are special "allied action" attacks you can employ which involve multiple party members. They can be very dependent on party placement and enemy party placement (like one that strikes the entire back row of enemies, for example). I recall some were a little overpowered. That system relied a lot on gaining trust with your teammates, with new ones opening up as your party got closer. Naturally, if you swap out party members your overall trust level suffers and many of these allied actions become unavailable. It's an incentive to stick with the weaker early-game recruits.

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    1. I feel like the idea of 'allied actions' comes up in several JRPGs. Chrono Trigger comes immediately to mind. I think it also comes up in several tactical JRPGs (Disgaea possibly?), probably due to the additional positioning possibilities in that subgenre.

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    2. If I remember correctly as well different actions/formations were available based upon party class composition (one might be available with a ninja, something different with a samurai). Also Tales of the Forsaken Land had a decent story, but one that strayed into a VERY Adult place in a couple of spots (I.e. Incubus cutscene), that could definitely make someone uncomfortable

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    3. 45 year old (born in '74) here, I played the original Wizardry on an Apple //e as a kid, and many, many others throughout the years. I never completed any of them, but had a blast. In grad school I put an embarrassing number of hours into Wizardry: The Forsaken Land, and really enjoyed that game.

      I picked up a PS Vita a year or two ago, and have been playing through the large number of Wizardry inspired blobber party games on that. When I moved to Japan 14 years ago, I was really surprised to find all the Japan specific Wizardry titles, though as I got married and had kids, I never found the time to dig them up and play through them.

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  2. Roe Adams was also part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms along with Richard Garriot. His alter ego Hawkwind (the same character as in Ultima) appears near the end of Return of Werdna--along with a lot of other authentic SCA organizations and characters, bizarrely enough. Getting the ultimate ending requires doing services for them related to their actual roles in the SCA. I only found this out a few hours ago reading an LP, and it doesn't fit in the article anywhere anyway, but I thought it was a neat tidbit.

    It was a pleasure, I'm glad you liked the article enough to publish it.

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    1. Alex, thanks for the very detailed and interesting post!

      I had no idea of the Sir-Tech / Animeigo connection. Back in the 90's I remember Animeigo imports being really good, especially for Bubblegum Crisis and Macross.

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    2. Well written and informative. Thanks to both of you.

      I remember two methods to play Wizardry as a "multiplayer" game. Four of us would crowd in front of the computer and take turns at the keyboard for around 10 minutes at a time while someone else mapped. The other method was that everybody controlled two characters, and just took over in combat. Did the same thing for Bard's Tale.

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  3. I would still mention D.W. Bradley's Wizards&Warriors in this lineage, which is basically Wizardry 7.5 in everything but title (and even title doesn't stray too far). A great and very underrated game, if somewhat buggy and challenging to run on modern systems.

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  4. Games like Wizardry Chronicle and the Empire games for GB and PC also have fan translations out there. I wonder if someday someone will work through them and be able to fill in more of the gaps.

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  5. Jag är trollkarlen

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  6. Interesting article, thanks.

    I don't know where they fall into the line (probably as homages or knock-offs), but there are tons of Japanese dungeon crawlers that are basically "Wizardry, but with a twist!" and often that twist is that's 100% like Wizardry, but with lots of talking.

    As someone who only played Wizardry 8 from the original line, I'm quite often stumbling into those Japanese offshoots because I came from the other direction: Seeing JRPG dungeon crawlers, I often can't resist because that's a combination of two of my favorite things.

    But while I sometimes uncover jewels like Etrian Odyssey, Dragon III: Code VFD or Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, an astonishing number of times I fall for things like Demon Gaze II, Tokyo Babel, or that weird series of magic fantasy school dungeon crawlers for the PSP. All those games are basically Wizardry if the serial numbers filed off.

    And all those knock-offs, if you account for different monster arts, different stories and some new combat mechanics, seem to use the game engine introduced by Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls. It's like that particular game engine is open source in Japan or something, it's really odd.

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    1. There is a lot of common ground between some of the games you mentioned. For instance Class of Heroes (that weird series of magic fantasy school dungeon crawlers for the PSP) and Lost Souls are from the same company, Acquire (who also made the more recent and somewhat hyped Octopath Traveler). A group of the same devs later went on to make the Generation XTH games which are basically the same games as Class of Heroes with sci-fi theming. I'm confident these games all use the exact same engine, and even the same devs and designers!

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    2. In some cases those are made by people who started off doing licensed Wizardry games but then went independent (or lost the license, who knows). Tokyo Babel actually WAS a wizardry spinoff originally, then got remade without the brand name attached.

      Makes sense, I suppose--you know how to make that kind of game and there's clearly a market, however small. Might as well make your own and just hope nobody sues.

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    3. Starfish (the company behind Wizardry Empire) also later went on to make Elminage, which despite shedding the name still hews exactly to the classic gameplay formula with the Bradley additions.

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    4. Oops, I somehow managed to mangle the name of Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy when typing. I didn't know there was another game also called Tokyo Babel!

      @くだらない, it turns out I even own two of the games from the Generation XTH series. And now I know Tokyo Babel is a completely different game which is also a Wizardry-like, fancy that.

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    5. No, in fact I was just making the exact same mistake you were and was also thinking of Operation Babel. If there's a game actually called Tokyo Babel then I can't claim to know anything about it.

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    6. I found it when I accidentally typed "Tokyo Babel" into Steam search and hit enter without thinking.

      Also apparently I was wrong, "Tokyo Babel" is a visual novel, it's backstory just made it sound like a dungeon crawler.

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  7. I think the lure of Wizardry-type games is the "purity" of the game loop. There is very little fussing around (menu towns, no long exposition, not much inventory micromanagement, quick but intense combats), and a lot of meaningful decision, discovery, and play.

    It seems like the core gameplay has only been gently extended as the Japanese side of development has gone on, and there is some real resistance to "muddying" it... wedge of life got some really bad reviews, and people called it stuff like "Wizardry without being Wizardry" on Japanese review sites.
    Better recieved games added nice features but didn't mess with the core gameplay loop. For one, newer games either have a fully accessible automap, easy use of it via items as well as spells, or even "class mastery" features that render it available.
    "Missions" is another thing I didn't see mentioned, that started being a thing at some point (definitely exists in labyrinth of lost souls and the Empire (PC, not GBC) line. You take on side-quests and get rewards.
    Crafting is a thing in several of these games, with the players getting drops from monsters they can alchemize with, for instance.
    The story side of things also got more development as time went on, but in the Wizardries it was kept pretty minimal. In Labyrinth of Lost Souls, there are both predefined characters that have story arcs as well as the ability to make custom chars. I think you always have to have one of the "story" characters as the party leader, for instance.
    I don't think the Elminage games were mentioned in this article. For people who like Wizardries, these are good and available in English on PC as well as several other platforms (not all translations are quality, though).

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    1. I suppose it's the same sort of appeal games like Doom and Quake have for a certain segment of FPS fans. You know exactly what to expect and they're not going to waste your time.

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    2. To elaborate on Elminage a bit: the first one (Elminage Original) and the fourth one (Elminage Gothic) are available in English.

      Elminage Original is available in English on PSP, 3DS and PC. The original PSP release has an atrociously awful translation, but the game got an update patch eventually that fixed some of the worst of it. The 3DS and PC versions are in turn based on that update patch. In short, none of the versions are especially perfect. Additionally, the 3DS version has an unpatched bug where tripping a Mimic trap on a chest will crash the game. As such I'd have to say the PC version is the definitive one.

      Elminage Gothic is only available in English on the PC. The translation is reasonably serviceable (a lot of obscure mythological references in item names seem to have been missed by the translators).

      There's presently no English versions of Elminage 2 or 3 that I'm aware of. If someone else knows of one, please let me know!

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    3. Some players prefer a simple approach: explore, fight, divide treasure, rest, and repeat. There is role playing in these actions, especially in a Wizardry game. D.W. Bradley did add NPCs and dialogue to the series. Your mileage may vary. It is a long way though, from the more modern titles such as Baldur's Gate and its successors. There are no "party management"issues in Wizardry and your party is a single unit moving over dangerous landscapes. Put some Hawkwind on to give it the best vibe.

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  8. Okay, just one more post, unless someone has questions I can answer:
    There are three things I think would entirely improve the series and not pollute the gameplay...
    1. No rolling for characters.
    I hate this aspect, and it feels like a giant waste of time. In some games, you can just mash reroll until you get an acceptable score, in others you have to complete the "creation cycle" and hit cancel at the very end. Ugh, awful.
    My solution(s):
    A. Dump the numeric stats. Base important stuff off of level and class, and set experience needs accordingly. The base games already mostly did this! Only the bishop (poor thing) needs some adjustment. Allow multiclassing anytime, as well.
    B. Keep it how it is, but with a "point buy" system and get a stat to spend every level, no more random stat up/downs that encourage save scumming.
    2. Always available and free automap. Yeah, it's 2020, and most of the new games approach this anyways.
    3. No full-on permadeath, no losing CON for resurrecting. This is just some old DND-era cruft. I still love the idea of full party wipes and needing to put together a rescue team (not hard with some of the teleport spells), but your level 10 ninja should never become irrecoverable ash or get stuck in a wall. With all the instakill enemies and crazy traps, we just don't need full permadeath. It's not a roguelike.

    *I made a romhack for the SNES wizardry 6 that lets you set your points however you want (works on Japanese and Fan-Translated versions) that's available at romhacking dot net for any interested parties, cause I hate rolling so much!

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    1. Wizardry 8 did all of your requests: automap(middling to fair, but useable); point assign, with being able to choose any class/race to start (able to make faerie ninjas off the bat); never encountered permadeath, don't think you can ash, but their might be the possibility of it; however there is also no mechanic to wipe and then recover your party with new characters

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  9. Can you please be clear and state that Oubliette is not actually wizardry. It´s not the first in the series. Oubliette was an inspiration. It had a different author. This has to be said for the sake of integrity.

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  10. "Greenberg's silly "humor.""

    I assume you mean D. W. Bradley?

    Anyway, great article.

    I've played two of the games translated from Japanese: Wizardry: Throb of the Demon's Heart and Wizardry Chronicle.

    "Throb" is the more original one of the two IMO, with some interesting non-combat encounters, but also more variable in difficulty and quality of level design. But overall pretty good.
    One sentence of advice: never pick locks unless you really have to. If you pick locks you will not be able to complete many of the item puzzles, and will end up having items cluttering your inventory, and the event texts will still be present, which I found quite maddening.


    Wizardry Chronicle is quite different, and is the most hard-core Wizardry I've played yet. It's the first game ever I had to resort to grinding. Very traditional, though, with nothing original or novel, but a solid game if you can't get enough Wizardry.

    くだらない, I generally agree with you about perma-death. It works well enough in a short and relatively easy game like Wizardry 1, but not in a game like Wizardry Chronicle, so I ended up save-scumming when resurrecting characters.

    I disagree about the auto-map. Mapping challenges and making your own maps are half the fun of the Wizardry games, IMO.

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  11. >Notably absent from the Japanese Wizardry lineage, however, is D.W. Bradley's trademark sense of humor. Gone are Phoonzang, Phelonious T. Loon, and the Duck of Sparks; there is no Blade of Cuisinart or La-La Moo-Moo. The popular theory, at least according to sites like Wikipedia, is that such jokes didn't translate well; this led unsuspecting Japanese gamers to view the Wizardry series as a grim, serious story. I choose to believe that the average Japanese person is smarter than that, but unless a Japanese Wizardry fan chimes in, we may never know.

    I don't think this has to do with being "smart". It can be very difficult to tell what is humorous and what is not when you're dealing with this kind of thing in a foreign language. If you see the names Kusunoki Masashige and Kusotare Onarako, can you tell which one is a famous military general, and which one means "Shithead Fartchild"? The Japanese wikipedia article agrees that most of the jokey names went over the heads of the Japanese players.

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    1. That makes sense. I had supposed the names would be literally translated (in the case of things like "Duck of Sparks" or "Blade Cuisinart") or phonetically translated (La-La, Phoonzang) but I now realize a lot of things in the latter case would be missed if their language/culture has different concepts of what a "funny" word or sound is.

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    2. Also, Cuisinart is only recognizable as a joke if you know what a Cuisinart is in the first place.

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    3. But Blade Cuisinart is in tbe English ports of the earlier Wizardry's (1-5)

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    4. Blade Cuisinart was actually translated as a legendary sword forged by the master Cuisinart (since the product name was apparently not known to the translators).

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    5. I had no idea what Cuisinart is until looking it up just now. I always assumed it was a made-up French-sounding word. It didn't look out of place next to the (real) Bec de Corbin.

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    6. At least at 90s, there's fansites about wizardry games and Cuisinart thing were explained there. and from wizardry 4.. language and art can't stop their silliness. duck of sparks? rubber ducky of water breathing? super strong camel god? lol. idk what people thought about elevator from #1 back then, but My understanding is that 1-3 games were translated into "grim" games, along with arts and actual gameplay(permadeath and overall difficulty). and that went good so they rode with what they "made", even after they see what happened after wizardry 4.

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  12. Quick question, but has anyone played Stanger of Sword City? It looks like a modernization of the PS2 era Wizardry titles without the license and possibly more sci-to elements? Just curious since no one I know personally or by reputation has

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    1. I have played it a few times and think it is one of the better newer dungeon blobber I have played with a lot of QoL features

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    2. I platinum'd the Vita version of Stranger of Sword City. It has lovely graphics and I liked the multiclass system. However, I'd recommend its handheld competitors first: SoSC's gameplay grind doesn't hold a candle to Etrian Odyssey, and its plot starts strong but is told so clumsily that the story wilts compared to Persona Q and Operation Abyss.

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  13. Slight pedantic correction to Chet's bit of this article, in referring to Throb of the Demon's Heart. Apologies if the confusion was only typographical rather than a matter of understanding.

    The Famicom is not the same console as the SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System). It's a generation of technology difference plus also a somewhat different version to what we got in the West.

    The Famicom is the the original Japanese release of the console called the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) elsewhere in the world. It's a meaningfully different machine to the NES, but largely equivalent. (The Famicom, for example, was supported by a disk system peripheral that was neither sold in the West nor compatible with the Western NES.)

    The Super Famicom (SFC) is the Japanese equivalent of the SNES (the next generation up from the NES), and while I've never had my hands on a Japanese SFC I understand it's functionally identical to the SNES rather than being a slightly different machine as was the case in the previous generation.

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    1. Also it's possible you're right about what went wrong with Wizardry Online but I'd err towards the simple fact that 2011 was a terrible year to release an MMO. The market was saturated, audiences were tired, all but the biggest titles were shutting down or scaling back, and mostly transitioning to free-to-play, and anything launching in 2011 was going head-to-head with Final Fantasy XIV (2010) and Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011), which were both expected to dominate the market, but which then had catastrophic launches, disappointed playerbases, and which both needed to fundamentally reinvent themselves to survive.

      There simply wasn't room in 2011 for any MMO that wasn't both exceptional and popular right out of the gate.

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    2. It was also extremely terrible. You essentially had to redo the same floor of a dungeon for hours on end to level up enough for the next one, and even MMO players have better things to do with their lives. It basically lacked all the trappings that help make grinding palatable or disguise it as progress, which was probably on purpose because it was a cash shop game. But even as far as F2P MMOs go it was extremely lacking in content. I don't even think the multiplayer elements were particularly well-done, from what I remember.

      It was pretty much a complete failure on every level. I don't think it would have made money if it came out back when MMORPGs were huge.

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    3. I was intrigued by the trailer for Wizardry Online. Looked real grimdark with permadeath dungeon survival mechanisms (torches, food, etc.).

      What we actually got was some strange dungeon-crawler in which every character appeared to be eight to sixteen years old. For me that was an immediate turnoff.

      I'm still waiting for my grimdark dungeon-crawling MMO in which part of the challenge is finding and securing a safe place to log off. It'll never be made.

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    4. "I'm still waiting for my grimdark dungeon-crawling MMO in which part of the challenge is finding and securing a safe place to log off. It'll never be made."

      All due respect, that's because it would be unplayable. You'd login every time to find that some griefer had murdered your character in their sleep and thrown all your equipment down a pit. Any online interactions that rely on other people not being pointless assholes are doomed to failure.

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  14. Feeling a bit nostalgic, though I really only have extensive experience with Wizardry 1. My best friend in high school had it on his very ancient hardware and we played it intermittently between 1990 and 1993. It was slow and grueling and we died a lot. We had some theory that the character name might help with stat points (untrue of Wizardry, though I guess true of other games) and relied on lucky staples like "Red Dragon" and then in desperation turned to some 1980's era globe for town names like "Verchneimbatskoje" -- a name I've never been able to find anywhere else, not even online -- as party members.

    I didn't have the game at home so didn't play much until maybe 1998, when I must have bought one of the last available Mac copies before the company went out of business. Something was broken with the sound and I couldn't navigate any squares of darkness, so it was a short-lived pursuit.

    One funny note: the CD came with a sticker that said "by opening you agree to the terms of the EULA" which was itself a file on the CD. I actually called up tech support (maybe for a different reason) and scolded them for making me agree to the terms of a file I couldn't read until I'd opened and run the software. The bemused tech support agent agreed it didn't make sense, but I suspect he just wanted me off the phone. I can only laugh at myself now, but at the time it seemed vaguely important, legally speaking.

    I also had a subscription to Dragon Magazine during the years of Bane of the Cosmic Forge, but as a Mac household couldn't play it, and only looked at the ads with jealousy. A few years ago I picked it up somewhere and played through a large chunk of it, sometime after Chet did it. I really liked that edition of the game, but spent so much time trying to optimize characters for imports into the two sequels that I burned out and never finished. Yeah, and I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. Old fogey writing in the year "dickety-dickety," over and out.

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    1. "I can only laugh at myself now, but at the time it seemed vaguely important, legally speaking."

      Speaking as a former tech support guy calls like yours are the bright spots in an otherwise very dark world.

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  16. Thanks for great post! 43 wizardry games!? I didn't expected that. this is indeed long history. there's still some Japanese people loves "old style".
    http://thu.sakura.ne.jp/games/javardry.htm
    java based wizardry clone with scenario editor, I didn't checked it personally but free system and editor sounds like sustainable future for fandom, only if there's new blood...
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wandroid.ofmo.f&hl=ja
    wizardry clone roughly based on scenario #1. I've played this one and was actually good. currently series has 7 games as I see.
    My favorite? 8. sorry but not sorry, nostalgia can't beat this one. and there seems to be enough people thinks same way, I've heard Japanese version sold for premier of 50000 yen! 8 is one of peak performing blobber for me. riddled with many flaws but this game is fantastic at what they did not screw up.

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    1. I played Wandroid too when I was first getting into Wizardry. I didn't play it very long, but it amused me that one of the potential traps in a chest is "Google AdMob."

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    2. Ha, guess beggars can't be choosers, I'm pretty sure AdMob trap is not in payed version. decided to play this again but I don't feel it's that good this time...? rosy glass I guess, but still does well for nostalgia.

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  17. "1991 also saw an anime adaptation of the first Wizardry, Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord (1981). Information is scant, but it's been translated and can be watched online. [Ed: I (Chet) watched it before posting this, and it's a weirdly faithful adaptation..."

    I beg to differ.

    The chest NOT exploding in the ninja's face makes it not at all faithful. :)

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    1. Actually, it's faithful to the original Apple II Wizardry 1. The problem with the thief class in the PC version is that the stat improvement is broken. In the Apple II version, you typically gain about 2 or 3 more stats than you lose each level up and the thief gets better with better stats. In the PC version, you're luck if you can gain on average 1 stat more than you lose per level up.

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  18. I've made it part of my life's work to gather as many of these Japanese Wizardry titles as possible and play through them! Currently my collection is limited to Empire and Gaiden I-III, but one day...

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  19. I've played a lot of these! Dimguil is a Very Good Game and I highly recommend it, should it ever get translated. Very good classic Wizardry-style rpg action and doesn't overstay its welcome on anything.

    Tale of the Forsaken Land is good for a while but it devolves into very tedious combat where you're spending the majority of your time waiting on increasingly long animations to finish, which is unfortunate. It had some interesting twists on the format with a map that, while it was still grid based, had three dimensional aspects and curved paths and such.

    Its sequel, BUSIN0, improves on it in virtually every way, including a much more interesting story. The gameplay's better mostly because they let you disable animations entirely, which, uh, makes the game feel a little bland in combat but, y'know what, it keeps the pace up.

    Wedge of Life is A VERY NOT GOOD VIDEOGAME. As good as the art is on it, I really can't adequately describe how bad that game is. Highlights include: Enforced story characters, enforced pauses on combat messages(when some rounds can have over a hundred such messages!), serious class balance issues, 'real time' traps that you will never ever get hit by, 'dark areas' where you just hold the stylus down on the DS touchscreen to light them up, treasure minigame where you do fights with randomly chosen restrictions (eg, no basic attack) for better drops, etc. It's ... argh. It's bad. I did an LP thread on the first quarter of the game just to get it out of my system, just google for: selectbutton wizardry wedge of life

    The sequel/followup game to it is drastically improved across the board, but ultimately it's just a very forgettable entry into the Wizardry franchise.

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  20. Thank you for this article! Your blog is a joy.

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  21. Something I just discovered revisiting the NES/Famicom version of Wizardry 1: Greenberg is credited on the opening copyright screen, yet Woodhead is not. Furthermore, the map that spells "RJW" has been replaced with a map exclusive to the NES version, while the following "ACG" level only suffered a minor edits, losing the A. Considering that fully half the games' maps (levels 1-4 and level 10) are directly ported from the original, there's no way this was a technical limitation. The mystery deepens...

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    1. That is bizarre. It certainly goes against my speculation that Woodhead might have helped with the conversions.

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    2. At the time it was common for Japanese studios to credit their employees under pseudonyms, or not at all, to prevent poaching by competitors. Since Greenberg was still in the United States and no longer a game developer, there was little risk of him being picked up by a Japanese studio, however if Woodhead lived in Japan (and assuming he actually participated in the conversion) it might have been a problem in their eyes.

      That's starting to leave the realm of speculation for tinfoil hat territory, though.

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  22. I still wonder if there is a fellow names "Catlob" somewhere behind all this.

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  23. Woodhead did't touch any conversion/making of japanese version wizardry.
    at least, officially. (Few Japanese people knew that he had lived in Japan to begin with.)
    Even his "media interviews" were few and far between at the time.

    about Wizardry IP(title, and #6-8. didn't know #1-5 property). This is currently held by a Japanese company called GMO Internet. This is the parent company of Gamepot.
    However, they shut down Gamepot three years ago and are no longer in the gaming business at all.
    The producers of wizardry Renaissance and others have already retired and the project has been completely "lost".
    Labyrinth of Soul was released on Steam only because some Japanese companies finally learned to put the game on Steam and sold their past assets.

    But for the Japanese, the majority of the meanings shown by Wizardry are only #1-5, Gaidens of #1-2. (For some people, this includes Gaidens #3-4, and Dimguil, Prisner of Battles, and Five Ordeals. [These three are in the vein of Gaidens])
    Anyway, this is the main reason why Wiz 9 is not made in Japan.
    They love the serious fantasy world that was adapted by a famous game novelist based on #1-2 at the time, and the appearance of the game as a retro game, and they don't want a new game that is just named Wizardry.

    Also, many Japanese do not mention Wizardry because of copyright issues. especially #1-5. which are not clear and are difficult to mention in Japan, which has strict rights-related laws.

    However, the retro Wizardry game system and mindset of the retro Wizardry. The game's system and philosophy are well known to "all gamers of a certain age and knowledge in Japan", and are known as a parody of sorts, even if they don't mention the game's name.
    They can mention Wizardry without mentioning it by name.
    (Most recently, for example, "Goblin Slayer" has had a hommage on that. When Japanese game creators and writers mention "frequency-based spells system", nearly 90% of them are from Wizardry, not D&D[It's not that well known. At least not as well known as Wizardry]. about "Goblin Slayer", Side Story 2: Daikatana of Singing Death is heavily hommage of Wizardry)

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Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

I read all comments, no matter how old the entry. So do many of my subscribers. Reader comments on "old" games continue to supplement our understanding of them. As such, all comment threads on this blog are live and active unless I specifically turn them off. There is no such thing as "necro-posting" on this blog, and thus no need to use that term.

I will delete any comments that simply point out typos. If you want to use the commenting system to alert me to them, great, I appreciate it, but there's no reason to leave such comments preserved for posterity.

I'm sorry for any difficulty commenting. I turn moderation on and off and "word verification" on and off frequently depending on the volume of spam I'm receiving. I only use either when spam gets out of control, so I appreciate your patience with both moderation tools.