Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Oméga: Planète Invisible: Won! (with Summary and Rating)

        
Oméga: Planète Invisible
("Omega: Invisible Planet")
France
Infogrames (developer and publisher)
Released in 1985 for the Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, and Thomson computers
Date Started: 27 October 2020
Date Finished: 1 November 2020
Total Hours: 7
Difficulty: Easy (2/5)
Final Rating: (to come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (to come later)
    
Summary:

A bizarre French game that uses the same engine as the previous Mandragore (1985), Oméga sends a party on a quest to find an invisible planet and stop its tyrannical leader, Naxorg. This involves visiting six planets, solving their local problems, and collecting a series of hints, as well as saving 3,000 credits to purchase a "detector" that gets the player's ship through an asteroid belt. Nothing about the controls, the theme, and the planetary encounters is quite the same as any other RPG or adventure game of the period. Either it's making a lot of references that only French players of the 1980s would get, or it's just weird. Either way, it's relatively easy and lasts a short time.
    
**********
     
This was the order in which I solved the planets:
 
1. Altair II. I covered this last time. I retrieved a totem stolen by a bunch of road warriors and returned it to the natives for the first clue.

2. Unknown. I never saw a name for the second planet, which wasn't so much a planet as a ship. It was full of creepy children, and there were what looked like children, and people, and dogs in display cases on the wall. I learned on this planet that sometimes you have to kill everyone, whether they're hostile or not, just to find the passage out of a room. Our adventures culminated in a final room, in which the devil was surrounded by flames. We dropped the crucifix and got the sixth clue. 
       
How tough is Naxorg if the devil is one of his underbosses?
         
3. Capella II. This planet was swarming with zombies, ghouls, imps, bats, spiders, and even Dracula himself. We eventually found our way to a palace, where various royals complained about the situation: "The country is transforming into a real nightmare!"; "I don't dare go out"; and, oddly, "the king is nothing more than a poor junkie." We eventually found the king hooked up to some kind of machine, saying, "It's good to dream!" Based on some advice from the queen, we literally took the king from the machine and dropped him off with the queen, getting us the fifth clue.
          
Undead have taken over the land by hooking the king up to a dream machine?
       
4. Hydra IX. This watery planet had the party sailing around on a raft. Various mutant creatures demanded various types of radioactives, including uranium, which we were supposed to bring from one of the other planets, but I sold it all. We fought and killed a "loch beast," but nothing we could do actually solved the puzzle, so we missed the third clue.
         
Once you kill him, his head disappears but his body remains.
        
5. Arcturus X. On this weird planet (even by this game's standards), a bunch of creatures with names beginning with "VER" (I think they were green) encouraged us to stay. Each delivered part of a line that went: "If you desire to live forever and well, stay with us, stranger, and you will know the benefits of freezing!" This last bit seemed to refer to the ice floes in the southern part of the map, one of which ended the game (with no way to return) if you wander too far. The aliens seemed to have captured and turned into (frozen?) displays a bunch of creatures like cats, rabbits, horses, and bulls, as well as a man and woman and, as if the area needed to get weirder, a biplane. We found a grenade on one of the floes and, for no reason that I could see, dropped it on a screen in which the word FREE was written on the wall. This got us the fourth clue.
        
What is going on in this place?
        
6. Deneb VIII. This planet was full of robots holding various aliens in prison. We slaughtered a couple of dozen robots and spoke to the prisoners, who begged to be freed. They told us of an old walkie-talkie that has a powerful explosive in it. We found it and dropped it in an area that seemed to house a shield generator. This rewarded us with the second clue.
       
Prisoners give us a clue, even if it makes no sense.
       
During these explorations, we kept stealing whatever we could for resale. It was a bit weird that as we were hearing the desperate pleas of, say, the residents of the castle on Capella II, we were also stealing their tables and armchairs out from under them. When I was done with the six planets, I had about 3,300 credits, so it's a good thing I didn't waste a lot of money on weapons. These credits were spread over all four characters, and I couldn't find any way to pool them, so I had to have three characters buy items, then transfer the items to the fourth character, then have him sell the items, to ultimately get 3,000 in the hands of the character who needed it. This allowed us to buy the detector.
        
Wow, that's too bad . . . I'll just be taking those chairs.
       
Another thing I can report is that leveling definitely does make the characters stronger. Enemies that took four or five hits to kill on Level 1 took only one or two hits on Level 4. But I never needed anything other than physical attacks; all of those telepathic options were wasted. Later, I found that some sites (including commenter Abacos's StrategyWiki article) recommend that you just kill off three characters so you can give all the food, healing, and experience to a single character.
     
It was time to find Oméga. I took a look at my assembled hints and had this:

  1. On the great map of the empire . . .
  2. You will have to steer your beautiful ship to the northeast, always further.
  3. ?????
  4. You will only cross the asteroid belt if you hold the key, the only key capable of opening the way to your ship [this is the detector]
  5. Are you a base? You just need to machine forward three times, then starboard four times.
  6. Bravo!
 
Clue 3, I later learned, said something about the shape of the asteroid field that I would find to the northeast. Other than the sixth, it was probably the least necessary of the bunch, since once I found the asteroid field and flew through it, it's "eye" (a circular area in the center) was pretty obvious. There was a starbase in there, too, and I figured from the instructions that I needed to start on the base, then move forward three times and "east" four.
       
Finding the invisible planet.
       
I did this, but no planet appeared, and hitting "P" didn't help. I had to write to Abacos for help, and the solution he gave me--type Naxorg's name backwards (GROXAN)--seems ridiculous to me. I don't know how you could possibly expect players of the era to know to do that. In particular, there's nowhere else in the game in which you communicate by typing random words at the cursor.
          
Somehow, the planet has a crown.
       
But in any event, the word got the planet to appear and allowed us to land. Naxorg's fortress was a long, linear series of rooms with white-suited guards that we had to kill. Various commoners would only say "our lips are sealed" if I tried to speak to them.
          
A couple of guards block our way.
           
At the top of the fortress we found Naxorg's bedroom to the west and himself to the east, surrounded by women, one potentially topless (you really can't tell anything with these graphics). Naxorg was a short man with shocks of white hair sticking out from both sides of his head. "The resistance has found me," he moaned as we approached.
           
Naxorg is surrounded by Mata Hari, Marilyn (Monroe?), and Antinea from the novel Atlantida (1919) by Pierre Benoit.
       
He died in two hits, at which point we got the endgame text:
     
The bloodthirsty despot has joined, in the silence of the void, all the monsters that preceded him through the ages. In the name of freedom, you have defeated Naxorg, and persecuted peoples will now be able to rebuild together a more just world, while respecting differences. Let us wish for the imperium a new era of peace and tolerance and that never again the specters of war and tyranny loom over the trail of stars.

No one can predict the future. . . but it is reassuring to think that, if by misfortune a new threat clouds our universe, adventurers of your caliber would stand ready to defend, again and always, law and life.


On the GIMLET, Oméga earns:    
      
  • 3 points for the truly bizarre game world.
  • 3 point for character creation and development. There are some interesting choices, but they don't seem to affect anything about how the game plays. Races, classes, and even abilities are mostly meaningless. Character development helps a little, and I like how you get experience for successful non-combat actions.
  • 2 points for some limited NPC interaction.
  • 2 points for encounters and foes. Enemies are all about the same difficulty, none hard, and the puzzles just involve picking up an item in one place and dropping it in another.
  • 2 points for very basic combat and magic options, the latter of which barely matter.
       
My lead character goes to attack a robot.
        
  • 1 point for equipment. It exists, but you don't need it.
  • 2 points for the economy, only in the sense that it exists, and I guess you could always keep buying medicine.
  • 2 points for a main quest.
  • 0 points for graphics, sound, and interface. The graphics are awful, the sound non-existent, and the interface is built as if the developers wanted you to make constant mistakes and then have no way to back out of them.
  • 3 points for gameplay. It gets 1 for nonlinearity and 2 for being over quick. But it's too easy and not replayable. 
    
That gives us a final score of 20, several points lower than the 25 I gave Mandragore. The former game was just a bizarre, but the puzzles made a bit more sense, the encounters were more consequential, and there was greater need for the game's many commands.
       
French kids must be smart. In 1985, I would have been saying, "Mom! Please buy me this horseshoe game!"
       
I reach the end of the game still not knowing what the authors were going for, not understanding if its many oddities were references to other media or just deliberately designed to be weird. There's a note on one site that the game originally shipped with a novel or novella by Christian Ballandras. I couldn't find anything about this book, and I'm not sure if it's a novelization of the game (man, that's a task I wouldn't wish on any author) or a novel on which the game was based, which would make a lot more sense.
   
This seems to be the last title attributed to author Marc Cecchi, so we won't see quite this approach again. But we still have plenty of games from the French "golden age" to look at, including Phalsberg (1986), Sapiens (1986), so I'm sure I haven't written outré for the last time.

44 comments:

  1. My only qualm is giving this game a zero for graphics. Can you consider half points in your scoring? As it stands on integers-only, I think it should get a one. The visuals give some idea. Reminded me in a cutesy way of space invaders and Atari 2600 games.

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    1. It's definitely a step above ASCII for sure. Not by much, but still.

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    2. While I personally don't enjoy the graphics too much (give me well done ASCII any day!), I agree that even ugly graphics deserve one point simply for existing.
      However, if the controls are so bad as to make it difficult and tedious to, well, control the game, that would warrant a negative point, resulting in a zero for the category.

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    3. Personally, I feel like giving something a point just for existing is a bad idea. After all, you can have something be such a bad implementation that it makes the game actively worse than if it hadn't been there at all

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    4. Fair enough. I suppose graphics *could* be so bad as to justify not giving any points, or even detracting some. Like, if there were excessive flashing of clashing colours for no reason that makes you nauseous just looking at it, or something like that. We're clearly not at that level for this game, though.

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    5. My opinion is that we are at that level for this game.

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    6. I read your reasoning below after writing that comment. I was thinking of actively harmful graphics, but if they fail to do the job of giving the player the information needed to navigate the game, I can see how a zero is justifierd in this case.

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  2. For some reason this game looks quite fun to me. Of course now that I know the solution there's no real reason to play it, but I dig the pixelated aliens and surreality of the characters and locations.

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  3. I do find the graphics kind of fascinating. They're hard to understand, but they're more interesting to look at than a lot of really basic top-down RPGs are.

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  4. Can't agree about the graphics. They're colorful and original.

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    1. Yeah, I love the look of the sprites. Visually, the game is art. Maybe Chet gave them a zero because his color blindness rendered the graphics less aesthetic? Or maybe he felt that the visuals were so dysfunctional from a gameplay perspective as to completely overshadow whatever artistic merit they might have.

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    2. I find the graphics INTERESTING. Certainly worthy of comment. But they fundamentally impeded the game by showing things that might be important but were not important and not always showing the reverse. As a gameplay experience, text or simple icons would have been better. As an experience in avant-garde art, they are perhaps remarkable, but that's not what I play games for.

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    3. I think they look rad, especially when you consider what other RPGs of the 1985 era looked like. Really stylish stuff!

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  5. I wondered who "Avorton Enrichi" was but apparently it means new-rich runt. It seems my French isn't up to date when it comes to insults.

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  6. You can get the novella here:
    https://www.cpc-power.com/index.php?page=detail&onglet=goodies&num=1560

    I don't think I'm going to read it, my French isn't very good. But here's the glossary entry for Cometoids. I don't think this explains much.

    "Cometoids: Beings originating in Sirius. Their organism is made of a semi-solid, semi-fluid, powerful substance that emits energy. Their spirits, more than any other race, are endowed with great vivacity as well as paranormal powers, which pre-desires them to play the role of telepaths (all Cometoids are, to varying degrees) or mentats. their appearance is that of vaguely ovoid, malleable masses, provided with moving pseudopodia. They float permanently at a variable distance from the ground, carried by their flow of energy; when they move the pseudopods fold back in the opposite direction to that of the movement, forming a sort of tail which, joined to the effect halos of energy, gives these creatures the appearance of miniature comets (hence the name Cometoids)."

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    1. Thanks for digging this up. It looks like it was meant to accompany the game. Reading it would probably make sense of many of the stranger elements of the game. I'm guessing the screens were meant to reference elements in the novella rather than stand alone. Perhaps even the "enter the villain's name backwards" part makes sense with the novella at hand (although a CTRL-F doesn't reveal GROXAN anywhere).

      I could read it, but it would take me a long time. If a native French speaker ever gets a chance to at least skim it and comment on its contents, I'd appreciate it.

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    2. |"Avorton Enrichi" was but apparently it means new-rich runt.|

      "Enrichi" is a term only use about Uranium as an adjective. It Describe the treatment of uranium that make it suitable for power generation (or something, I'm not a scientist).
      The term is used here as an insult.. because it's cool, I guess.


      Make sens in a planet where the locals all look for rare metal.


      The novel:

      Is inspired by the game.
      It is a poor man Dune (F.Herbert) in the writing style/concept.

      Prologue:
      Show a Mutant fighting and being deported by Naxorg army. Heavy WWII imagery.

      ch1:
      Our hero Florian, a very skilled fighter but opposed to war as a solution against Naxorg is commissioned to go find the Invisible planet.

      ch2:
      Florian recruit a powerful robot

      ch3:
      Florian go to a primitive planet where there is a clue about the Naxorg location. Florian recruit a young princess who's mother crashlanded here

      ch4:
      On its way to another clue, the ship is attacked by Naxorg force. Florian died and get the young princess and the robot to promise to fulfill his mission.

      Glossary:
      Dune's like description of opposing faction, and
      secret fighting power, and old history.
      ---

      Reading about the game, I dont thing it make any 80' reference. The dev was thinking all of thoses weird stuffs were cool. And somehow, they are a little bit

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    3. Thanks for taking the time to skim that. So it sounds like the novella is more like a prelude to the game than a retelling of it.

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    4. this is why I love this blog, many thanks.

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  7. Something about all the weird ball creatures and kangaroos you can recruit reminds me of Little Big Adventure. Adeline made that series and most of that studio were formerly Infogrames, so I wonder if there's some shared staff/ideas there.

    I don't recall many RPG elements in Sapiens, but then I don't remember much of it at all except trying to carve my own spearheads and failing miserably.

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    1. I have fond memories of Little Big Adventure. It was the pinnacle of the isometric action-adventure, a genre which seems quite forgotten today.

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. Sapiens has all elements of a RPG, some of them 20 years in advance, except (as far as I remember and could recheck quickly) stat progression. You build your character, you equip stuff (weapons and consumables), you talk to people according to a weird "dialog tree", and you can have them so upset that they attack you, you progress in faction rating so people who attacked you stopped attacking you, or the other way [which I have not seen much except in MMORPG), you "explore" stuff, you bring the companions of your choice with you and they help you in battle, you do quests (no secondary quests though). For me it is definitely a RPG.

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    5. Sapiens is a great rpg.

      It also had Character visual customization, you can change height, face, weight, hair , and even 2 or 3 primitive clothing apparatus to choose from.

      Full 3D: When you climb a mountain, you go up.
      Charisma being useful. Since you can even seduce wolf. I think my win was with a charisma build character.
      And the weird but relaxing mini game of carving a stone for a spear head.

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  8. I had an anthology of French sci-fi as a teen, it's all similarly weird. I remember e.g. a story about a sex cult worshipping (carnivorous?) fungi whose fruiting bodies took the shape of beautiful women.

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  9. Are there any differences between the different computers this is released on?

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  10. In Gaming history, French games of the past were often not of this world. I bet even French players had their problems playing those.

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    1. The few times everything clicked, early French games were great.

      Alone in the Dark and Another World were bold and innovative for the time, still some of my all-time favorite.

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    2. Not a RPG at all, but I think the game that put me the most in awe when I was really small was a French game called "L'arche du Captain Blood" ("Captain Blood" is the English name). It was something different, I could just play now, the game just clicked and I don't think of any equivalent right now.
      I guess I ll do a Let's Play of it somewhere.

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  11. Well, congratulation for playing this game. I think the only CRPG of the era that had a large player base for the era were ERA, le Maître des Âmes, les Templiers d'Orvenn (which I did not have) and Sapiens (which may or may not be a CRPG). The rest are pretty or very obscure, at least to me and to the few people I talked about on the topic - maybe it is my group.

    On the other hand, there were a LOT of French adventure games of very various qualities.

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    1. Thank heavens for your edit. Hearing about yet another French RPG from the 1980s might have put me over the edge.

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    2. I don't want to depress you, but your French fans had found a stash not so long ago, and it looks the French RPG from the 80ies are like Pennsylvanian ballots - you can stop finding some around :).

      Anyway, here is the check I had done, 100% based on youtube videos, from the Joueur du Grenier Secret stash :

      - RPG you already covered :
      Mandragore
      Fer & Flamme
      L'Anneau de Zengara
      Templiers d'Orven
      Tyrann

      - A game that has been debated on whether it is a RPG or not for a while :

      Sapiens :)

      - Totally RPG and NOT covered so far by the CRPGAddict

      Danse Macabre
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paMOLjAqywM&t=405s

      By far the most interesting. Ultima like with some cool features (the "world" is the British Isles, you cannot be attacked outside in the plains, dungeons are top-view, enemies you encounter are displayed with a small graphic as in Bard's Tale (but horrible quality) ...)

      L'Antre de la Peur
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOiCzt3v-Go&t=143s

      Clearly an RPG, but this one LOOKS really low-quality and low-interest. Dungeon-crawler with Wizardry/Bard's Tale type of combat

      Argolath
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-81r5gWv46I&list=PL6WErXbMLBuehm8rO1Kp4Lx8VRhA9tdO2&index=14&t=0s
      Top view dungeon crawler. Looks awful but well 1984 and fully qualifies. Actually could be interesting to check because it took some design decisions that were never copied later)

      Le jeu des six lys.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiRV20gyDco&list=PL6WErXbMLBuehm8rO1Kp4Lx8VRhA9tdO2&index=15
      Technically qualifies, but in the video the youtuber says he talked to the author who claimed to have had to program it in 48 hours and well... it shows. No need to play that.

      - Weird stuff that I would check

      Graal
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJA8amWKgeo&t=74s
      Supposedly an "education game", it is an Ultima-like (barely) with ONE reason for which I put it in there : apparently to win you must get the Graal but ALSO raise your virtues (which double as your statistics, and are the traditional chivalry virtues : Wits, Strenght, Agility but also "Goodness", Courage, Wisdow, Courtesy). The game is full of mini-games in addition to the usual, so for this reason I am not sure whether it qualifies as a RPG especially since there is only some 15 minutes of gameplay showed, but eh, if it did Ultima IV before Ultima IV it may deserve a mention

      - Adventure / RPG hybrid:
      Les conspirateurs de l'ombre (it looks terrible though)



      CYOA-book

      Citadelle
      Crystal 5
      Troll
      Turlogh le Rodeur (but high quality with image)
      La Geste d'Artillac (but the videos needs a viewing because it is incredibly creative in the way it is showed)

      Not even a CYOA
      Chevalier Arthur
      Chateau Noir et Dragon Rouge
      Le Dragon du Donjon
      Necron (adventure game I think)

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    3. Argh. I'll give them my own review when I get a chance.

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    4. I Love how all of us blogfans like this kind of post... Just put these on the list and go back to it later... Still looking forward to the next couple of games on the list

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    5. Turlogh le Rôdeur was the follow-up to a CYOA comic - in the comic you appropriated a crystal ball* to know where the kingdom-threatening evil was, and in the game you went and took care of it

      * from an evil archmage whose castle was under siege by another evil army

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    6. I rejected Turlogh a long time ago, at the bottom of this entry: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2018/06/game-291-unreal-world-v-100b-1992.html

      These days, I'd have made that a BRIEF.

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  12. We eventually found the king hooked up to some kind of machine, saying, "It's good to dream!"

    Lotus-Eater Machine.

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  13. Yeah, they were going for this absurdist style - having the big boss at the end killed without any hassle in his harem.
    I think they're meant to be played tongue-in-cheek, or something.

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  14. Wow, not only you mentioned me twice, you even posted a link to my Strategywiki guide! I am flattered! Thank you!

    Some random comment:

    "Unknown. I never saw a name for the second planet, which wasn't so much a planet as a ship."

    I am pretty sure the game calls it "vaisseau fantôme", that is "phantom/ghost ship". This is why I assumed all the children were undead.

    "If you desire to live forever and well, stay with us, stranger, and you will know the benefits of freezing!"

    I interpreted this as a trap: they wanted to freeze you, and then maybe eat you. The bomb can be dropped in either of the two rooms that together spell "FREEZER", instead of just "FREE".

    "the game originally shipped with a novel or novella by Christian Ballandras. I couldn't find anything about this book, and I'm not sure if it's a novelization of the game or a novel on which the game was based."

    The "novella" is just the backstory. If I remember well, it should answer many of your questions about Oméga. I can send you a copy, but it is in French.

    I am looking forward to your coverage of Phalsberg. I gave up on that game.

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  15. Was it poorly translated, or was someone a fan of the Go-Go's with the "our lips are sealed" reference?

    I appreciate that the Dragonlance world is not one you're familiar with beyond the SSI games, but in the 2nd novel of the original trilogy (Dragons of Winter Night), the land of the Elves they visit, Silvanesti is plagued by the nightmares of the Elven King, which manifest through a magical 'Dragon Orb'.

    It was released in 1985, could it have been a source of inspiration for what plagues the King?

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