Friday, March 24, 2017

1986/1987

   
Since I retracted my "DOS/Windows-only" rule, functionally in 2012 and explicitly in 2013, prompting the dual lists off of which I now work, we've had some great games--plenty to make me happy that I took that step. I got to play all the Robert Clardy and Stuart Smith games. I was exposed to Galactic Adventures, an important step in the SSI line. I wrote about some of the earliest Japanese RPGs, plus plenty of German ones. I was exposed to John Carmack's early gaming efforts via a series of diskmag titles for the Apple II. I finally covered Questron.

By a certain point--we're almost there on my "later" list--the rule would have been moot anyway, as DOS and Windows became the dominant operating systems and other platforms were discontinued. My 1992 list has 65 games, and only 6 of them do not have DOS or Windows versions. 

Where we find ourselves in 1986, and likely more so in 1987 and 1988, is an era in which most good games had DOS ports. In the late 1980s, the Apple II and the Commodore 64 were waning as the dominant American gaming platforms. Only the Amiga was offering serious non-DOS competition. Most of the titles that didn't have a DOS port were from B-list publishers that couldn't afford it, or foreign publishers offering game for niche audiences. We have, in short, passed the area in which a game that I pick up because of my "rule change" is likely to be very good. I've run through a dozen 1986 titles since returning to the year last September, and only one of them--Phantasie II--has crossed the "recommended" threshold of around 35. Most of the rest have been dreck, with no chance of unseating Starflight as "Game of the Year."
    
It's been so long since I played Starflight and Might & Magic that I could have happily played them again.
    
The more interesting question is why I selected Starflight in the first place. It only had one serious competitor: Might & Magic. While there were elements to like about The Bard's Tale II, Larn, Shard of Spring, Roadwar 2000, Phantasie II, and even Swords of Glass, Might & Magic and Starflight stand so high above the others that to pretend they had a chance would just be cruel. The two competitors excelled in different areas, too: Starflight in its world-building, NPC interaction, and exploration, Might & Magic in its approach to combat, inventory, character development, dungeon construction, and quests.
    
The real best game of 1986?
   
In the first "yearly transition" posting that I wrote, I retroactively assigned "Game of the Year" status to earlier games. Of my 1986 choice, I said:
  
1986: It's a tough choice between Might & Magic I and Starflight. The former took the best of Wizardry and improved on it, creating a series that would churn out fantastic games for 20 years. The latter is an ahead-of-its-time science fiction game with an incredible plot and extremely memorable NPCs and encounters. In terms of sheer influence, I think I'd have to go with Starflight.
   
I wonder now what I was talking about in the last sentence. Might & Magic produced 9 sequels and countless imitators. What is the influence that I saw, in contrast, from Starflight? Did I think it affected later science fiction RPGs? If so, I don't think I've encountered one yet that shows a clear Starflight influence.

Nonetheless, although I'd probably make a different choice today, I don't think the choice was so obviously wrong that I want to reverse it. I'll leave the 1986 "Game of the Year" as Starflight for now, but I'll have done a disservice to the Might & Magic franchise if it doesn't earn the title for at least one of its releases.

I don't see a lot of common themes among the 1986 games, but there are two curious developments:

  • SSI! The publisher released four RPGs this year--Rings of Zlifin, Shard of Spring, Roadwar 2000, and Phantasie II--all of of which offer a very different approach. This is the first time we've seen four CRPGs from the same publisher in the same year (Epyx came close with 3 per year between 1980 and 1983). It will go one better with 5 in 1988 and then exceed that with 6 in 1991 and another 6 in 1992. SSI will, in fact, occupy the top spot for "most CRPGs published" every year from 1986 all the way through 1994, the year it was sold to Mindscape. All the way through 2007 (the latest my spreadsheet goes), no company breaks its record.

  • France! As I remarked in the last transition, we're in a brief "golden age" of French RPGs. I looked at four in 1986--Fer & Flamme, Les Templiers d'Orven, and Tera--and failed to get a fourth (Le Fer d'Amnukor) working. The three games from this year don't have a lot in common, but in general France has shown a curious immunity to the trends of the past. Orven is the most derivative of these titles, and even it showed some starkly original elements that would be unfamiliar to players of Wizardry. I can't even fathom what previous RPG experience influenced the developers of Fer & Flamme and Tera, and I already know that one 1987 title--Le Maitre des Ames--has a similarly untraceable lineage. We'll soon see if the same is true of the other two: Le Anneau de Zengara and Omega: Planete Invisible.
   
French RPGs continue to be just ineffably odd.
    
Boosted primarily by Starflight and Might & Magic, the average GIMLET score for a 1986 title was 27.89, only slightly higher than 1985 (27.56) but nonetheless the highest so far. It is not inevitable that the average score increases with the year: 1984 (20.50) was lower than 1983 (22.94), which was lower than 1981 (23.90), and so far 1991 (33.32) is lower than 1990 (36.15). The minimum score for 1986 (13) was the highest of the 1980s thusfar, as was the maximum (60). Overall, this makes 1986 a pretty good year. It just doesn't seem like it lately because I've been sweeping up the detritus. I played the good stuff during my first year of blogging.
     
I'm looking forward to the pipe-smoking rabbit-horse again.
    
1987 is going to see me revisiting a few titles to which I gave slapdash attention the first time around, including Alien Fires: 2199 AD, Le Maitre des Ames, and maybe even Braminar and Wizardry IV. Beyond that, we see a few themes:

  • The growth of the Mac-only RPG. Regrettably, I couldn't play the first one: 1986's OrbQuest (couldn't find it); in 1987, we'll have Quarterstaff, Scarab of Ra, and The Dungeon Revealed. I want to play the former before I get to 1991's Shadowkeep, but it's been a pain to emulate the Mac so far.
  • The last gasps of the ZX Spectrum. I'll have to endure this platform for exactly two more games: 1987's The Kingdom of Krell and 1989's Tower of Light. After that, the UK firmly joins the Amiga world, with most titles having DOS ports.
  • A couple of new countries. 1987 brings the earliest known Australian RPG (Doc the Destroyer) and the earliet known Finnish RPG (SpurguX). The latter, a roguelike involving a hobo looking for a bottle of brandy, promises to be a barrel of laughs, at least if I can get the translation working.

Between new games and revisits, I'm starting the year with 29 games. Naturally, some will fall to the definition axe. The list is total chaos. I basically know what to expect from Alternate Reality: The Dungeon and The Eternal Dagger (both sequels to games I've played), but that's about it. The rest of the year is full of titles I've never heard of (e.g., Habitat, Land of Spur, Skariten, Tower of Myraglen) mostly from developers I've never heard of (e.g., Compile, Asgard, Balistic, Beam). An awful lot are independent, which makes me anticipate a series of one-offs in which I grudgingly try to say something nice. But at least one, Deathlord, promises to be epically long.

I've been toying with reaching the end of 1991 on my "main" list and then just staying there until I get caught up on my secondary list. That's currently about 80 games, but it'll likely be only 60 after I get done hacking and may be less than 50 by the time I actually reach the end of 1991. If I could do that, I'd feel better about writing more "special topics" postings or even the occasional one-shot on a console game. I'll make that decision in my "1991/1992" transition, but I'm happy to take opinions.

In the meantime, let's leap into 1987 with a second visit to the uniquely bizarre Alien Fires: 2199 AD.



166 comments:

  1. I think Starflight did such a good job that nobody copied it. It just nailed it and nobody could improve or increment it. At least until Star Control 2 comes along. I remember playing and feeling like Starflight was really Star Trek come to the computer, at last. Even things we consider irritating today, like having to switch between menu items to do things like land the ship and scan planets, felt right. It's like I really was on the bridge and had to move around to different stations.

    Moreover it's harder to create a galaxy full of planets, characters, and civilizations than a six-characters-hit-the-dungeon quest. After you maxed out your ship, which happened pretty early on, there wasn't much to do in Starflight in terms of combat mechanics. Meanwhile the 6CHTD games keep leveling up, gaining pluses on equipment, and fighting higher level mobs until the end.

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    1. Can a game be both (nearly) unique and stunningly influential? I think you're right that Starflight "did such a good job that nobody copied it" with the occasional Star Control 2 -style exceptions.

      I think the Starflight influence on the industry is more subtle than that of, say, Ultima, but it does exist. The Mass Effect series is, I think, the obvious modern descendant (via Star Control 2, again), but there's got to be others. Look away from AAA and there are games like Sunless Sea, but I bet there are also arguments to be made for various open world, conversation, crafting, and so forth systems that take inspiration from this lineage even if the games aren't obvious clones.

      The Digital Antiquarian has some nice Starflight history (probably been linked to before), though not a lot on its modern influence.

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    2. No Man's Sky, however one might feel about it, appears to be a contemporary attempt to simulate Starflight's open galaxy, exploration, alien dialog, and resource collection. It forgot the story, though.

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    3. I believe Starflight is a developer-acknowledged influence on Mass Effect.

      I'm a huge Starflight fanboy, but I do admit that M&M was ultimately more influential. Still, most influential game of the year was not the title being awarded...

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    4. I started to play Mass Effect 1 and Starflight about the same time and it was impossible to not to feel the influence down to the Mako levels. The only "problem" that Starflight was actually more enjoyable than the game that followed it 20 years later.

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  2. +1 vote for maintaining the current "one old, one slightly less old" approach. I think the alternation has worked in the blog's favor in the past, especially with Fate. I imagine the 1987 catch-up games will continue to involve a lot of shorter, breezier one-offs while the 1990s will probably keep throwing longer filler at you. As you say, it might well be a moot point by the time you finish 1991.

    I won't say that I'm not tempted by those console one-offs, though. Maybe a round-up of what was big in that market as part of these yearly summations. I can also think of a number of games with a more "CRPG" style that were console-only, like the TurboGrafx-16's Dungeons & Dragons: Order of the Griffon or that weird Game Boy Advance Eye of the Beholder that was secretly a Gold Box RPG.

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    1. About console one-off. Maybe Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum for NES? It would be nice comparison in between platforms, though it's from 1990.

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    2. If I'm going to suffer dumbed-down gameplay and simplified controls so I can play a group of PCs that look like little girls, it probably isn't going to be for a game I've already played.

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    3. Phantasy Star and Shining in the Darkness are 2 Sega only games (first on the Master System, second on the Megadrive/Genesis) which could be worth a look. Phantasy Star because it doesn't come in the usual Dragon Quest mold typical for JRPGs of the time and it's Sci-Fi setting, the second one because good Dungeon Crawler reminiscent of Wizardry but with shiny graphics

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    4. If you do go for a console game, Dragon Warrior on the NES (1989, though I think the Japanese Dragon Quest was released in '86?) would be an excellent choice.

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    5. ... I say, before reading Steve's post directly above mine, extolling the virtues of a game specifically because it's NOT Dragon Quest. This is just one more example of why democracy should be outlawed, I guess.

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    6. Shining Force which is a sequel for Shining in the Darkness is a very interesting tactical rpg for the sega genesis.

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    7. Stopping to "catch up" would be a bad idea. Quite apart from the desire to reach the glory days of the industry (the mid-to-late 90s, when the classical hardware limitations of memory and disk space had mostly disappeared, but graphical capabilities hadn't advanced far enough to overwhelmingly dominate resources as is the modern AAA case), but the switch between styles will be a useful palate cleanser as you go through the Dark Ages of the early 90s.

      The only real virtue of eliminating the retractive series (as the vast majority of remaining games had too little distribution to make that critical a mark on the industry as a whole, so any innovations are more historical curiosities than anything that will influence how you view later titles), is that it might prevent further fracturing if you ever admit that your "no console" rule is no more sensible than your "Dos Only" rule, due to less games being skipped. Since you've dug in so hard on that rule (although I suspect (and hope) that your earlier post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek rather than genuine PC Master Race-style elitism), it it unlikely that there is anything capable of making you question that rule until and unless a properly ported version of a particularly good game forces you to, thus the only value is lost.

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    8. As someone who mostly plays RPGs and mostly plays on console, I have to admit that it took until the Xbox for consoles to be on par with PCs for CRPGs. Before then, they were mostly cut-down contemporary ports, rereleased in full years after first release, or JRPGs. As-is, we're years away from the PS1 getting a decent Diablo port, and while I may prefer using a gamepad for the Genesis release of Ultima IV, Chet clearly prefers using a keyboard, so there'd be no point in him playing these games unless he finds that he actually likes JRPGs.

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    9. It saddens me to think that Septerra Core might be one of the only JRPGs that end up being covered on this blog.

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    10. Reading this blog's author thoughts about Phantasy Star would be great. I watched a friend of mine playing it and heard lots of good things about it but never played it myself. It is supposedly very good.

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    11. "I suspect (and hope) that your earlier post is somewhat tongue-in-cheek rather than genuine PC Master Race-style elitism." Yes, it was meant to be mostly tongue-in-cheek. But "PC Master Race elitism"--at least, using those terms--is a phenomenon of the 2000s. Most major titles are released across multiple platforms, consoles have evolved more serious controls, and console hardware (plus televisions themselves) have advanced enough in quality that to pretend there's a huge distinction between them is just silly and obnoxious.

      In the late 1980s and early 1990s, on the other hand, the various personal computers were so clearly the better platform, particularly for complex games like RPGs, that I don't think saying so should be regarded as some kind of prejudice.

      I don't doubt there are some good console RPGs from the era, despite the limitations of their platforms, but I do doubt that any RPG that first had its release on a western PC later had a "better" release on a console. I suppose the law of probabilities demands that it happened once or twice, but I'm not going to waste a lot of time searching for those rarities. If I dig into console games at all, it will be those released ONLY for consoles or those whose only English release was for consoles.

      Part of me feels like those of you who look forward to such reviews don't know me that well. Every time one of you encourages me to play the "NES version" of something...it's like I'm a classic literature addict and I'm reviewing something like Moby Dick and you're all commenting, "Ooh! I had the pop-up version of that book! Addict, you should read that! It had pretty pictures!"

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    12. My bad, I seemed to have inadvertently started a recommendation thread/attempt to sway you towards console games. Wasn't my intent. I'm absolutely in favor of the blog sticking with CRPGs, if only because incorporating console RPGs would turn a monumental task into an impossibly huge one.

      There have just been some odd occasions in the past where the console market has produced games which closely emulate what we would consider western CRPG staples, beyond Dragon Quest's tenuous connection to Wizardry. Like the Japanese Wizardry spin-offs, for example. Recently, I was pottering around with a fan translated version of "Wizardry Gaiden IV: Throb of the Demon's Heart" for the Super Famicom: same mechanics, same format, same crushing difficulty, but a completely novel (from Wizardry, at least) historical Japanese setting and story. Unusual cross-format aberrations like that might be worth looking into on special occasions.

      Either way, I'm looking forward to whatever comes next. All this Starflight talk is making me want to play Star Control II again, that's for sure.

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    13. I think what the world needs is a JRPG Addict. I'm old enough to remember early JRPGs on the NES and Sega Genesis, and I had friends in those days who, to put it as nicely as I can think of, were ardent supporters of the artistic style and cultural milieu of games which seemed simplistic and fifth rate to someone like me who was currently enjoying Knights of Legend, Darklands, and Curse of the Azure Bonds on PC. Clearly, some of the audience around here are super duper dedicated to preaching the manifold excellences of JRPGs and console games in general. There has to be a blog dedicated to that somewhere. Please go find it, because if you successfully browbeat poor Chet into embarking upon the Super Famicom emulated Final Zelda XVQ, I'm never going to see an entry for Fallout in this lifetime. And that would be disappointing.

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    14. @ ThirtyNine as far i know there two blogs about JRPG-s.

      http://allconsolerpgs.blogspot.hr/ - US released games in chronology order

      http://superfamicomrpgs.blogspot.hr - super Famicom japanese exclusive RPG-s in chronology order

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    15. I do doubt that any RPG that first had its release on a western PC later had a "better" release on a console

      I think a case could be made for Drakkhen in that department.

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    16. Now I can't stop thinking about my eLit professor earnestly studying a pop-up Moby Dick..

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    17. "Now I can't stop thinking about my eLit professor earnestly studying a pop-up Moby Dick.."

      That's a COMPLETELY different part of the internet you're talking about now. I bet if you Googled "pop up moby dick" you wouldn't see Melville's name until the second page.

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    18. Inconsolable Nung is also a highly entertaining blog going through consoles RPGs (and translated ones) in release order.

      I would also love to see Chet give his treatment to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. Although I love those games, I'm not going to be offended if he hates them. God knows this blog isn't only about CRPG addict playing games he loves (I appreciate what you do!). It would be a treat to simply see the comparison in his eyes. My guess is DQ and FF would Gimlet better than half the games on the blog. As a community we've got to be open to the possibility Chet hates our beloved babies. Let's not be precious little snowflakes and look at it as a potential treat for us DQ and FF lovers, and maybe it will happen...

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    19. I would also love to see Chet give his treatment to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.

      Major headway has been made on English-language patches for the MSX versions of both games, but I think only Dragon Quest had a patch released, and that in incomplete form.

      (That said, I'd far rather see Chet cover a console game like Tower of Doom than those JRPGs -- I'd actually, like, totally donate to Patreon or something to see that happen. But the Addict will do as the Addict sees fit, pax eocum.)

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    20. Inconsolable Nung writes like how I would and I wonder if I have a long lost twin that I didn't know of.

      Similarly, I'd really like to see how the Chronicles of Mystara would fare. The mixing of genre is pretty weird but works rather well, spawning some Taiwanese clones using the Romance of 3 Kingdoms as setting.

      Come to think of it, wouldn't Dynasty Warriors also be considered a CRPG? XD

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    21. Dragon Quest might be worth doing only because it was so heavily inspired by CRPGs and was the first real attempt to do some sort of RPG on the console -- I'm not sure it would really be worth it, though.

      (Thanks for the link to SuperFamicomRPGs; I'm still just starting out on that but I hope I can continue it for a long time.)

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    22. Dragon Quest is a very important title in RPG history. It was the game that really started the japanese RPGs market and it combines Wizardry, Ultima, Anime and menu based controls very well.
      However, is an entry level RPG. It's very simple (on purpose) so that japanese kids from 1986 were introduced to RPGs in the first place.

      After that, Dragon Quest series has stayed with that Classic feel up until today, and a lot of imitators started showing up, some of them good, most of them quite bad.

      A lot of japanese only games have been translated to english, and applying the patches is quite easy (in most cases only puting the file in the same folder with the same name as the rom is enough).

      Also, take into consideration the original date a game is publish in it's country of origin. Comparing Dragon Quest to 1989 games since Dragon Warrior (the english release) was published on that year is not fair to the game.

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    23. PK: Chet had expressed an interest in looking at Dragon Quest if the MSX patch let him play it in English. Unfortunately:

      1) We may have missed our window since 1986 is over and he probably won't go back for a while.
      2) The English patches seemed to have disappeared from the internet when PassionMSX went down.
      3) Even if the English patches exist, it may not be complete enough for him to play given the amount of plot-text needed to win.

      If you (or anyone) has the English version, I'd love to get my hands on them again. I had them but seem to have purged my Downloads folder since then. All that I can find now is lots of links to a shut down message board and one short Youtube video of someone playing.

      While we might hope that Chet gives up and plays the NES version for us, this is his blog and his rules. (And besides, DQ isn't *that* good. It's good for 1986. Final Fantasy for MSX is the real winner because it's a direct homage to cRPGs while advancing the gameplay style that Dragon Quest popularized in Japan.)

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    24. If you (or anyone) has the English version, I'd love to get my hands on them again. I had them but seem to have purged my Downloads folder since then. All that I can find now is lots of links to a shut down message board and one short Youtube video of someone playing.

      I don't have it, sadly. The relevant filename seems to be "Dragon Quest (Japan) [En by Django v1.0]" if there's any chance it's still on your HD. I think the best bet would be to contact Django at the message boards at msx.org:

      https://www.msx.org/users/django

      He's still active there, so at the very least, maybe an explanation can be found for why his patch(es) disappeared from the Internet. We're not the only ones to notice:

      https://www.msx.org/news/en/django-translations-revival-and-massive-update

      There was some weird stuff going on at one time with monetization of MSX translations, but I don't remember who was involved.

      One nice thing about Dragon Quest (vs. Final Fantasy) is that it's basically a one- or two-post game. The character movement in the MSX version is also much faster, but at the cost of that awful tile-based scrolling...

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    25. For the love of everything holy, please do not cover console RPGs. Seriously. This has been done to death & I get sick just seeing anything Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. My point is: why cover something that so many magazines, youtubers, blogs, websites... have covered in every excruciating detail over the past decades.
      The reason why this blog is so good is because Chet covers the games that no one cares about. And some a lot of people care about like Ultima, Might & Magic, Wizardry, but I've read enough articles on these, I'm more interested in the hidden gems or the weird stuff. And while I'd be curious to see what he would think of Valkryie Profile, Suikoden III, Etrian Odyssey, SMT Nocturne... I have read enough articles about them to last me for a lifetime.
      In the end it's Chet's choice, but please stop pushing the console RPG agenda. This blog is a safe haven for everything non console RPG related (which is a small miracle) and I, for one, would love to see that preserved.

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    26. > Why cover something that so many magazines, youtubers, blogs, websites... have covered in every excruciating detail over the past decades?

      Because only Chet could cover the early entries in the "console" RPG series with the knowledge and insight that comes from playing 200+ games that came before and after. I come here because I know when I read one of Chet's posts that I will get a viewpoint that I cannot and likely will never get anywhere else.

      So *IF* he ever decides to write about Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy (the computer versions or the console ones), he will do it with an insight that will make his take on the experience unique and worthwhile.

      I hope that Chet continues to play games that interest him as he completes the story of role-playing games however he sees fit.

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    27. Well, here are my thoughts:
      - yes, Chet's point of view would be interesting, but more as part of a discussion or one-off entry than a full writen report on these games, we have those by the hundreds (litterally).
      - If he wishes to engage in such a discussion, why not as long as this does not become a regular thing or gets front & center. But once again, his blog, his rules & choices.
      - This is the CRPG addict webpage as in computer role playing games addict, so unless Chet has an interest in console RPGs (aside from random curiosity), I don't see the point of going through them.
      - Also, what makes you think other people don't have the knowledge about RPG releases? There are a lot of very knowledgeable people and it just happens that a lot of them exclusively write about console RPGs. Yet very few write about computer RPGs.
      - Also, while there is some overlap (mostly in the later years), computer RPGs and console RPGs are two very different beasts and require a certain inclination.
      - I firmly believe that the reason Chet's blog is so interesting to read is because he cares about CRPGs. Just imagine if he didn't care about the type of games he writes about. Just going to the extreme, imagine Chet writing about visual novels (although that would probably be hilarious).
      Either way, the point is moot as Chet is free (obviosuly) to do what he wants. I just hope this remains a computer RPG blog, even if, why not, he writes a couple entries on console RPGS (just no FF for the love of god - and yes, I've played them, along with plenty of other console RPGs).

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    28. For the record I'm not advocating Chet covering console RPGs (though I would like to see the Intellivision trilogy get completed, since he did the first two AD&D games; pity there isn't an Aquarius version of Tower of Doom). And I'm infinitely more interested in his coverage of lesser-known games than anything in the wildly overexposed & overrated Final Fantasy series.

      But (also for the record) Dragon Quest is in every sense a computer RPG, released for MSX and PC-9801 the very same year that the Famicom version came out, and it easily passes the Addict's "is this a CRPG?" test. Only the lack of an English-language patch, and Chet's own discretion, would keep it from the list.

      (Final Fantasy, OTOH, wasn't released on MSX until well after the Famicom version had debuted.)

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    29. ("Chet's own discretion" = the fact that it wasn't officially released in English on a computer, that is, notwithstanding the English-language console release.)

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    30. I have a secret to tell you, I actually really enjoy Dragon Quest (not the first one, though, it was crap - even rose-tinted sunglasses can't save that one, as significant as it has been to RPG history). The point is not that I don't enjoy console RPGs (I have played an obscene amount of them), the point is that I don't need to read any more articles on them. Especially if they are off-topic.
      At any rate, the point is moot for Dragon Quest since it has been released on computers, so it would only make sense to cover it given the opportunity. The same is true for a lot of console RPGs in Japan that got released on MSX, NEC PC-XXX, X68000 and so on. The real barrier is the language and not much can be done about it (aside from translation). But I would suggest not much effort should be made to cover these since they have already been covered to death. Otherwise, this will turn into the console RPGs that were converted to computers addict blog (it certainly doesn't roll of the tongue...). There are a lot of those (converted games), an awful lot. To me, it falls in the same category as the shareware / shovelware / type-ins RPGs (please understand I am not judging the quality, but rather the pertinence to the project). Not so interesting, I would say and the blog would lose a lot of its identity.
      Also, and to get back to a previous comment, CRPG conversions to consoles have been overwhelmingly disappointing in the early days (Ultima, Might & Magic, Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder, Gold box games... They might have been decent, but certainly nowhere near as good as the originals, to say the least). The only notable early serie that survived the conversion is the Wizardry serie. I also don't think Drakkhen is a good reference as it is rather weak either way (and the least we talk about Drakkhen 2, the better it is). Things have drastically improved with more recent consoles, but by the time we get there, we'll all be dead of old age :) Just kidding, of course and I surely don't mind the time it takes to go through the years when it's done so well.
      Also, it would be a grave mistake to not realize console RPGs are fundamentally different to computer RPGs (exceptions are not the rule). This blog is interesting because it covers computer RPGs and shoehorning console RPGs in there is not going to do this blog any favors.
      Either way, not only is it Chet's choice, but I also believe he has a very strong vision for what he does and will not compromise his ideas to please more people.

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    31. It definitely doesn't make much sense to cover an RPG on the console that's also available on a computer.

      But I think even if you keep the CRPG as central to this blog there's value to covering what the best console-only RPGs where doing at the same time. How did they influence CRPGs and vice-versa? In what ways were they more advanced and more primitive? How do their GIMLETs stack against the best CRPGs of the same era?

      It's not as high priority as simply covering CRPGs, but it is valuable context.

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    32. Actually talking about CRPGs adapted to consoles was in reaction to a previous comment, nothing more, and certainly irrelevant to the rest of my comments. I was simply stating the obvious: ports of computer RPGs were almost uniformly god awful. Not necessarily bad in themselves, but underwhelming compared to the originals.
      As for the value of covering the best (define best...No, wait, I really don't want to know) console RPGs, I would argue that there is just as much value in covering point & click adventures and see how they stack to RPGs (yes, I know, I'm exaggerating).
      The point is why try to change the nature of the blog? It is great as it is & does not need to become something it was never meant to be.
      Sure, I can imagine a couple of posts on console RPGs as a whole or a discussion around console RPGs, but not a full coverage of the best console RPGs. Seriously, if I see another article on Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, Suikoden II, Phantasy Star III, Lunar... I'm going to commit revolutionnary suicide!
      Of course, I jest, Chet can do whatever he pleases, but I really wish people would stop pushing for something this blog never intended to do (as stated specifically by Chet in this blog's FAQ). I just get tired of reading about console RPGs in the comments. Just get over it, this is a blog about computer RPGs.
      I am out of this conversation until Chet gives his two cents about all this, because in the end, it's neither my opinion or yours, but Chet's. I just wish Chet would comment once and for all on this so we can get back to what this blog is: the Computer Role Playing Game Addict blog.

      Delete
    33. See, you are right: Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have been done to death. However, those are FAR from the only console RPG releases.

      But what about Esper Dream? Kaijuu Monogatari. AKA Shell Saurs Story? Etc?

      That said, I think we should stop bugging Chet about it, since the more we do, the less likely he is to ever do it. Unless he gets REALLY evil and decides to cover every console RPG ever....except SMT, just to watch the rage in the people who keep bugging him about it.

      Delete
    34. At any rate, the point is moot for Dragon Quest since it has been released on computers, so it would only make sense to cover it given the opportunity. The same is true for a lot of console RPGs in Japan that got released on MSX, NEC PC-XXX, X68000 and so on. The real barrier is the language and not much can be done about it (aside from translation).

      Most of these won't be an issue since they haven't been officially translated (or translated at all), so that moots them from Chet's list unless he feels obligated to cover games with a translation patch (which I doubt he does).

      But some will come up organically, though I don't know if there's a definitive list of MSX RPGs that were officially released in English or another European language. And then you've got those Woomb releases that, like so much MSX stuff, seem terribly elusive.

      (Speaking of which, will Hydlide II on MSX be treated as a 1985 game or a 2006 game, I wonder? IIRC the English patch was licensed and official, so...)

      In any event, wait long enough and a lot of JRPGs show up on Windows anyway, officially & in English, like Final Fantasy VII. (Sigh.)

      Delete
    35. There are a lot of RPGs on console that are also hidden gems. He is covering other foreign RPGs, and in the case of Japan, they published most of them on console.

      I actually don't see a difference between console and computer really. They are just different platforms. A console game is not necesarily dumbed down. It depends how it uses the control schemes they have and they can be very complex with just 2 buttons if they are well designed.

      On the other hand, Computer RPGs ports on Consoles are a different beast. I don't think he needs to cover those unless they are drastically different (which happens in a few cases, like with the Ultima V, Ultima VII or Savage Empire ports).

      Is not that I want him to cover Console RPGs, it's that ignoring them is basically ignoring the japanese market almost altogether, and they do have some influence on future Computer RPGs. This blog, for me, is like the story for RPGs, and it would feel incomplete if he doesn't cover any of the console ones, specially the most obscure ones.

      Chet is free to do whatever he decides. This is his blog after all.

      Regarding Dragon Quest being a computer RPG because it was released on MSX. I have to say that's not the case at all. The game was designed for console with the Famicom controls on mind. It just got ported, and it's not actually a very good port anyway since the scrolling is way worse on MSX that on the Famicom. Same goes for Final Fantasy. The only thing worth mentioning is that Dragon Quest II has an extra cutscene and armor on the MSX version.

      Regarding the translation, even if he dosn't find a patch, there is a FAQ on gamefaqs that has a translation of all the text for the first Dragon Quest. And it's quite a simple game really, I played it on japanese to learn the language a few years ago. As I said, it was an entry level game for Japanese kids.

      Delete
    36. Natreg, I don't think the issue is whether Dragon Quest is a good port, or designed with Famicom controls in mind, but simply whether it's an RPG that was released on a computer (yes, the MSX, but not an official release in English) and passes Chet's CRPG test (yes). That's it. Quality doesn't really enter into it, nor does it matter how easy a game is to play despite being in Japanese; Chet's rules automatically cut any games in non-Latin alphabets, and if a game had no official English release, it's a fine reason to cut it from a long list, even if a translation patch exists.

      Ultimately one has to draw the line somewhere, and for anything Chet doesn't cover, the blogs mentioned earlier (RPG Consoler, Nung, etc.) will get a lot of it. True, there is a lacuna for those Japanese-exclusive RPGs (console or computer) that haven't been translated, with the exception of that Super Famicom RPG blog and the efforts of YouTube series like Generation-16 and Chrontendo. But I imagine someone will eventually step up to that plate and start a chronogaming blog dedicated to PC-8801 RPGs or something similar.

      Delete
    37. I've thought about doing something along those lines for a while now. Meaning, some sort of "JCRPG Addict" project, as I've had experience with many of these titles since the '80s, when I began importing Japanese games and game magazines. Hardcore Gaming 101 ran a small series of articles on some of the earlier releases a few years ago, on which I offered a few comments at the time, but outside of that and the occasional Black Onyx retrospective, there's not much out there.

      Delete
    38. @ Brain Breaker

      Please do it!

      Delete
    39. @Mento: I'd love to see Chet his those console exclusive CRPGs you mentioned, also including Warriors of the Eternal Sun, that D&D/Ultima game on Genesis, but that is about it. No idea why anyone would want to deal with amount of bad PC ports when there are enough bad PC originals.

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    40. I'd give it a try, though I'm already having trouble keeping up with Chet AND catching up on The Adventure Gamer as it is.

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    41. For what it's worth, I think if Chet can stomach playing games designed for so few buttons, he should stick to consoles games that are a) part of a series of PC RPGs, or b) console ports of PC RPGs that he can't play the PC port of (so long as it's virtually the same game as the PC port).

      IMO, this is sensible, like how he'd play Phantasie 2 despite not being on DOS, or play the Amiga port of a game with a broken or non-English DOS port. That said, I understand Chet's want to limit himself, both from bad games, and from lengthening his list. I mean, it's not like he'd review GTA V/Online for Xbox, right?

      Delete
    42. http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/FelipePepe/20161010/282896/19821987__The_Birth_of_Japanese_RPGs_retold_in_15_Games.php

      for early japanese CRPG-s, this is great article...

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    43. My blog will cover console RPGs eventually, but it'll be a while because I'm currently playing games from 1978.

      Delete
    44. You really used Might and Magic, a plotless, tedious dungeon crawl series that is no fun to play, as an example of some magical ideal that no console game console could achieve? What a brilliant choice.

      Also, if I want pretentious stories copied from the Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, confusing navigation, relationships written by a subliterate who lives in his mother's basement and boring monster designs copied from Dungeons and Dragons, I have a wide range of choices in the world of C.R.P.G.s.

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    45. i don't understand what the argument is about. I believe that most of us RPG nuts don't really care about the platform. It's what the game is about.

      I've a thing for Chrono Trigger, Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, Langrisser and rolling dice with friends because you really can't beat a table-top multi-player experience (one just needs to watch an episode of Critical Role to feel the energy of such).

      So, love the genre without the hate on the plate it was served on.

      Delete
  3. Frace has had a very rich autochtonous tabletop rpg scene since the 1970's I think, even if most titles have not been a sucess oversees. You may be familiar with Steve Jackson Games In Nomine line, that is a remake of a French classic In Nominr Satanis / Magna Veritas, but this is only one gameamong a veryrich production,rznging from Heroïc Fantasy to Cyberpunk (Berlin XVIII comes in mind) with all alternatives inbetween. Most of these games have original rulesets and probably have influenced the French CRPG scene.

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    1. France has had a very rich tabletop rpg scene since the 1970's I think, even if most titles are not well known outside French speaking countries. You may be familiar with Steve Jackson Games In Nomine line, that is a remake of a French classic In Nomine Satanis / Magna Veritas and this is only one game among a very rich production,rznging from Heroïc Fantasy (Moorkock inspired Bloodlust or dream world exploring Rêve de Dragon) to Cyberpunk (Berlin XVIII comes in mind), with all alternatives inbetween (SF with Polaris, urban fantasy with the Nephilim line, historical RPG with Te Deum pour un massacre, ...). Most of these games have original rulesets that are not closely related with classical D&D principles and these have probably influenced the French CRPG scene.

      Note : This message ought to replace the typo-ridden thing I submitted yesterday, unaware that I was that I couldn't correct it after publication.

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    2. But between revisions you dropped "autochthonous" -- a word one should always savor when the opportunity arises to use it. (Unlike "defenestrate", which is never really necessary.)

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    3. That was my guess as well, it was obviously getting inspiration from somewhere outside of the CRPG world, and western CRPGs almost all rip of D&D, plus I know they've got a strong RPG scene today, with reprints of Call of Cthulhu that are better then the originals.

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    4. I for one will stand up in favor of "defenestrate," which is rife with historical redolence. As far as "autochthonous" goes, I find it a perspicacious choice.

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    5. Yeah, defenestration is a good word. I've been in the room where the Second Defenestrations of Prague took place. (Well, depending on how you define the location, is it the room with the window, the window itself or the moat full of dung and mud they landed in? I've been in the room and see the window, but haven't gone THROUGH the window or been in the moat...)

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    6. Oh, shoot, I forgot about the Defenestrations of Prague. That redeems the word.

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    7. NO JRPGs. This is a crpg blog for real RPG video games, not spiky-haired, angsty dumbed-down kiddy RPG wanna-bes.

      Don't listen to them Chet. JRPGs don't belong here.

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    8. Well, I'm sure that will close all debate on the subject.

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    9. Haha. Yeah. I considered responding, but decided that the statement was of insufficient thought to warrant one.

      Delete
    10. ...and is anyone going to break it to him that those spiky-haired JRPGs are going to show up on PC in 1998? (Maybe earlier, I don't know what if any JRPGs or JRPG-style games in English made the leap to DOS/Windows before that.)

      But maybe the Addict will institute a "no spiky hair" rule to avoid that issue -- though I'm sure any number of cyberpunk-influenced games will and already have run afoul of that rule.

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    11. We've already had small amounts of spiky hair with the first installments of Ys, Xanadu and Rance. The latter was dropkicked because of the rape aspect but the others had a fair review. Knights of Xentar is also coming up quite soon in 1991. Spiky will be fine.

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    12. Ah, I'd forgotten that the Ys translation for DOS and IIgs was official. The other two I figured the Addict could have opted out of, since Rance used a fan-made translation patch and I don't remember if Xanadu had a release outside Japan.

      What's the next "mandatory" (i.e. released on a computer in an official English translation) JRPG on the list?

      Delete
    13. ...that is, other than Knights of Xentar (which I guess will be treated as a 1991 game, then?).

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    14. Depending on how the Addict decides to place it, we could see Final Fantasy V in 1992 - the (properly ported) PC version that came out in 2015 differs from the SNES original only in the graphics (which were badly rescaled for 1080p) and being in English.

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    15. Psychic War is the next RPG from Japan to be covered according to the upcoming list here on the blog.

      Golvellius and The Scheme (1988) might not make it because of definition reasons.
      Uncharted Waters (1990) would be interesting, I don't remember enough to say if it really fullfills Chet's criteria either though.

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    16. My understanding from a thread that I cannot find now was that Mr. Addict is considering all "computer" RPGs. Titles that had a contemporaneous release on both a computer and a console would count, so long as he played the computer version. Games that were only released to PC many years later don't count as they do not document the history of computer RPGs so much as they document the history of console RPG nostalgia.

      At the end of the day the rules are his and he has changed them and made exceptions before. Whatever helps Chet to complete his quest of having the best understood and documented history of computer RPGs.

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  4. I think it depends on how many 80's games are left when 1991 is finished. If there's just a dozen or so then I'd prefer to wait on 1992 and just finish them off. But if there's a lot more than that, then I'd like to mix in some '92 games. But I'll be having fun reading the blog either way!

    And since you brought it up, I think reviewing the top one or two console RPGs each year would be fantastic, especially to give that year context and to find where console RPG ideas influenced future CRPGs. And stuff like the NWN post was great for the same reason.

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  5. I'm particularly eager to see the games I remember playing myself, so the alternation between the current year under consideration and a much older game suits me better. I've really enjoyed your blog, though, so if you have a secret preference, go with the option that will not burn you out. For entirely selfish reasons I hope to follow your efforts for years to come.

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  6. I'm going with the stay with alternating camp. The older games are really interesting, particularly when dealing with ones so very apart from the usual Wizardry/Ultima influence, but as you mentioned, most of them aren't going to be particularly great. I think them being mixed with the more well known (and usually better quality) games makes an interesting and varied read. Of course, going with whatever keeps this interesting for you should be the top priority though.

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  7. I've been waiting for Deathlord since I found this blog years ago. This is one of my all time favorite games, and imo, the best Ultima Clone ever.

    Can't wait!

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    1. Me too! It's one of the few games that I was unable to beat as teenager, and I've been waiting for the Addict to take it on.

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    2. Same here! Been looking forward to this one. I couldn't even make it past the first floor of the first dungeon.

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    3. I'm not sure how to reconcile such fond memories with "unable to beat" and "couldn't even make it past the first floor."

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    4. Well I was mostly agreeing with Josh that it was one of the few games I couldn't beat as a kid. I don't really have fond memories but I really want to see more of the game.

      From what I have read, you may want to use save states to reach a good compromise between playing the game and chronicling it.

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    5. There are no "fond memories" of Deathlord for me. That's the issue.

      I gave it about 10 hours when I was 15. It looked like an Ultima IV clone and promised to be 10x bigger, so I was very excited.

      But the combination of character deletion perma-death and a brutally difficult starting area led me to quit out of frustration.

      Years later, I read some reviews that described it as a lost gem, with some of the best dungeons ever created. I've been intrigued by what I missed ever since.

      I read an interview with the author where he regretted the perma-death elements and felt it took away from both gameplay and the game's popularity. Something to think about when you hit Deathlord in the near-ish future.

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    6. Deathlord is cruelly difficult, but I just loved the setting.

      But yeah, the boss of the dungeon under the castle (the first dungeon?) would always kill me, and as death was kinda permanent... yeah.

      Delete
  8. I join the "alternating" team as well. Those rare and unknown games are fun for archiving/documentary purposes, but it's also fun to read your coverage of some classics, and the period you are entering has a good deal of great ones.

    And about Deathlord, despite its qualities (I haven't played it personally), is there some way that you do not spend an entire year on that like Fate? We've just gotten out of one epically way too long game...

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    1. "is there some way that you do not spend an entire year on that"? Sure, if it's not any fun, I'll be happy not to spend a year on it. If it is, that's what I started this project to find. Either way: win/win.

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    2. Reading a new Fate post was one of the highlights of my day. I personally wouldn't mind another epic journey like that, especially if it was mixed in with posts about other games like you did with Fate.

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    3. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the Fate posts. I'm just wary a bit of the "artificial" length that some of those early games imposed due to extreme difficulty/grinding requirements, which are not necessarily on par with the actual story/content.

      Delete
  9. Dibs for translating Finnish for SpurguX since I'm a native Finn! And for the record google translate doesn't.

    In case someone wonders about the name spurgu = hobo so HoboX though I've never played the game my self which isn't surprising since I was t at the time and games were exchanged in school yard like Pokemon cards.

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    1. Unfortunately SpurguX is more of a joke than a game. It's arguable whether it is even complete, and I suspect it doesn't merit an entry of its own.

      I'm not sure what version of the game you can get these days, but the one I played way back when was so buggy it wasn't possible to complete it. I think it had a move counter, or something similar which would overflow. In fact the game taught me the concept of memory overflows. By entering a really long name you could overwrite the game state, and get a lot of beer.

      I had issues with commenting earlier, sorry if this is a double post.

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    2. There is 1984 C64 game called "Raharuhtinas", which might be categorized as rpg, but more likely falls to adventure section as kind of graphical Colossal Cave Adventure. Need a verdict from jury.

      Anyhow, this blog - http://frgcb.blogspot.fi/2013/08/a-history-of-finnish-games-part-1.html - calls it an "early attempt at Dungeon Master".

      This page - https://zak.fi/RahaRuhtinas/fi - categorizes it as adventure (in finnish, along with map and instructions - well, it has maze, treasure, dragon etc).

      Here is short youtube review (in finnish) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIuXF837BOQ

      Apparently your objective is to travel in maze and collect treasures, while having time limit of 300 turns. Otherwise seems to be lacking as only character attribute seems to be money and no indication if there even is any kind of combat, unless C- and X-ability mentioned in controls are about fighting.

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  10. Another "vote" for maintaining the status quo with posts alternating between 1987 and 1991. The lists will converge eventually, and for now it provides a nice contrast.

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    1. I agree with PK Thunder and others.

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  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  12. I'd be happy to see you clean up the older games. I think the feeling of progression would be cleaner. I like seeing these old games knocked off as we head to a unified list and I think a single list with the occasional variety post would make for a better experience and be more comprehensible for new readers.

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    1. Yeah, that was my line of thinking, too. Plus, by 1987, there really aren't any guaranteed "one and dones" anymore.

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    2. I also favour the clean up approach.

      Delete
  13. Was surprised to see you mention Compile made a list so I checked your list: Golvellius is just Zelda. It could fit your RPG criteria if you counted buying new swords and armor as character development, and there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than playing 'Zelda, but worse', but I don't know that it's RPG enough to be worth the effort of fiddling with a translation patch and an MSX emulator.

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    1. Well, that's good. I'm always glad to slice one off the list for definition reasons.

      Delete
    2. Translation issues could easily be solved by just emulating the Sega Master System version, but that's a little outside your purview. It probably doesn't meet your requirements as a CRPG anyway.

      Delete
    3. I was about to ask: Is this the compile that has done Record of Agarest War and that weird game about the OS-tans? The really creepy developer?

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    4. I'm pretty sure it's not the same developer. Compile was best known for its vertical shoot-em-ups and in the mid 80s focussed on releases for the MSX. _Zanac-EX_ for the MSX2 is a great shooter, as is _The Guardian Legend_ for the NES which adds some Zelda-esque touches.

      Compile also dabbled in RPG-like games such as Jagur-5 and Golvellius. I agree the latter is a slightly inferior Zelda clone, but with added platforming, and vertical shoot-em-up elements (ala _Knightmare_ by Konami). I wouldn't completely rule it out as an RPG by the blog's definitions (maximum HP does increase over the course of the game, so there is a tiny amount of character development), but it's definitely RPG lite.

      I've played both the Master system and MSX versions of Golvellius. The mechanics are similar, but after the initial platforming dungeon, the maps and the monsters are substantially different... they almost feel like different games. I think I slightly preferred the MSX version, even though the Master system had the better graphics.

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    5. When Compile went bankrupt in 2002, their developers went on to found Compile Heart (RPG division, Record of Agarest War) and MileStone, Inc. (shoot 'em up division). So yes, they're practically the same guys. We'll probably won't see them on this blog until 2015 at any rate.

      Delete
    6. They also developed all the Zanacs, Alestes, M.U.S.H.A and Puyo Puyo, I suppose you were just trolling there.

      Delete
    7. Not *really*? There was a thread on RPG.net about the Agarest series that went into its really terrible mechanics, and how it had pay to win DLC, but that it went free if you waited, so you could just waltz through the game if you played it now, then went into the really creepy plotline and generation mechanics. So that was the first I'd heard of them, then the next I saw of them was that strange OS-tan action RPG. Of the ones you listed, I've only heard of Puyo Puyo, but couldn't say what it is.

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    8. They are shmups of a legendary status, but I understand they are not widely know outside interested people.

      More related with this blog, they did Shadowrun for MegaCD (SegaCD), which is a visual novel/tactical RPG with the FASA Shadowrun world. Very enjoyable, but only released on Japan.

      They also did the Madou Monogatari series, which are cute dungeon crawlers in the Wizardry style that share characters with the Puyo Puyo series.

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    9. Puyo Puyo is a classic Super Famicom game and shouldn't be lumped in with Compile Heart/Idea Factory's modern games. It's a tetris-inspired 2 player competitive game that's really fun and spawned a lot of imitators.

      I've played some of CH/IF's games. Cross Edge is the one I enjoyed the most; it had a fun and complex battle system and the crossovers were fun. Agarest and Neptunia (the OS-tan one mentioned above) are forgettable.

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    10. OK, that makes sense. I'm remembering hearing the Compile name related to some of these (possibly on Pat The NES Punk or Chrontendo).

      Now I'm wondering how they went from doing Shadowrun and great Shmups, to doing exploitative action-RPGs and a famously bad RPG with coercive sex as a generation mechanic and famously terrible mechanics?

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    11. Probably because they saw the way the market was moving and that loli stuff sells. Look at the way the Atelier series' leads have changed when you compare Marie and Viorate to Rorona and Totori. Same thing happened to the Kiseki series, which introduces more scantily clad lolis with each release. They're still good games, but the loli pandering has really seeped into a lot of once great franchises.

      Delete
  14. As has already been noted, the chiefest winner for Starflight influence was Star Control 2 (Paul Reiche III, inventor of thri-kreen, currently sleeping on a giant pile of money from Skylanders, worked on both) ... which regrettably streamlined out most of the RPG elements.

    maybe even Braminar

    You're shitting me! Coming here to apologise for the Mobygames filing system throwing my entry for it in your path is the whole reason I ever learned about (and got hooked on) your blog! FWIW, winning it is just an evening's work, once you understand the winning conditions you're shooting for -- largely a matter of landing the random circumstances needed for the game to autoplay itself to a successful conclusion. Before you take this one on, see if you can either arrange for play on period hardware or rig up a printer to accept DOSbox output, because the game legendarily prints out a certificate of completion upon being won... that I have never seen despite winning it.

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    1. I was mostly kidding about Braminar, but these days, when I care more about my win/loss percentages, I feel like Braminar is probably one I could have suffered for a few more sessions to avoid a "No" in that column.

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    2. Braminar, but not Bard's Tale II? Curses! It's seminal I tell you! Seminal!

      Delete
  15. I kind of like the idea of returning solely to the 80s to catch up, but my main concern would be that you would be faced with 50 games in a row that will probably be mediocre at best. Do you really want to do that to yourself?

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  16. Braminar? Wasn't that the yes/no game? Some games are memorable because they are THAT bad. And that's why I like you reviewing those "B-list" games. But I guess it's best if you continue alternating between the lists, especially since 1992 has a lot of good to go with the bad.

    I guess 1991 might give the M&M series a "game of the year" award?

    Starflight might be ripe for a remake or successor a la Wasteland 2. Mass Effect 1 was on its way to become something like that but the sequels went the other way.
    Today, the problem seems to be that you either have those massive open universes with not much to do, like No Man's Sky or Elite or sci-fi operas with plot railroads (you'll soon play Project Nomad). It's too much effort to do both. Starflight got the mix just right. Imagination filled the technical gaps.

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    1. I think the reason Wasteland 2 happened was because of it's known influence on Fallout, which is easier for people to remember and appreciate. There's no big mid 90's title equivalent for Starflight; I think very few people are aware of it, sadly.

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    2. I would love to see a new version of Starflight with an interface and combat like Wing Commander. I do not want it to be like Wasteland 2, however: That game was horribly buggy, pointless, poorly written, covered with filler and poor design decisions and creatively bankrupt.

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    3. How about Wing Commander: Privateer?

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    4. Starflight was one of the better PC to console ports I've played. The combat was streamlined, which I liked.

      As for sequel, there was a Starflight 2. I was really hoping No Man's Sky would be comparable.

      Delete
  17. The Amiga version of Alien Fires has really cool/scary digitized speech. I'd love if you could record and share the weirdest dialogue bits.

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    1. That would give me an excuse to buy and download SnagIt again, or some other screen recording software, which I've been putting off because I had an issue with it on my last computer. That's mostly why I haven't done narrated video for a couple of years.

      The bizarre thing about the AF digitized speech is that it's ONLY digitized, as far as I can tell. I mean, since it's digitized and not recorded, there must be a script somewhere, but I can't find any way to get the text to display on-screen.

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    2. OBS is free and works great, it's primarily used for streaming but records just fine.

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    3. OBS is quite easy to use, I've been streaming with it at http://twitch.tv/canageek and the only part of the setup that is a pain is the webcam, recording game footage is quite easy with it, doubly so if it is in a window rather then full screen.

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    4. +1 for OBS. Setting it up isn't completely intuitive, but once you get it going it's pretty solid.

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    5. More videos! The fans demand videos!

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  18. One thing that would have vastly improved M&M1's quality, in my opinion, is to greatly raise the XP awards for the various quests and make it so that each one can only be done once. This would solve two of my biggest problems with the game, and it would mean that you could gain necessary levels by doing the quests (which are often rather good for the mid-80s) rather than grinding battles.

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    1. A persistent world is much more difficult to build (and much more resource intensive) than a static one, particularly in an era where playing from multiple floppy disks was the norm.

      Might and Magic I was already an absolutely massive game by the standards of the time (it isn't exactly small by modern standards, and the non-linear nature made things even more complicated - while a linear game could essentially just place a bookmark and keep a page of notes, a non-linear game has to make a note on every map. It isn't suprising that JVC just went with the much simpler item-based progression and removal of fixed events from RAM (so they reactivate when you leave the area and come back) instead of trying to keep track of the changes to every area.

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    2. Would it really have taken that much extra memory? It seems like you would just need a 1-bit flag for each quest. I don't remember how many quests there are, but it's 25-30? So that's only 4 bytes of additional information in the save file.

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  19. Some sources list Dungeon of Doom as coming out in 1985, which would make it the first Mac-first RPG, predating OrbQuest. Dungeon of Doom was released as shareware by John Raymonds and then an updated version was released commercially as The Dungeon Revealed by Woodrose Editions in 1987. It's just not completely clear whether Dungeon of Doom was first released in 1985 or 1986.

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    1. If I could remember where I was when I first played Dungeon of Doom, I could definitively answer this question -- at least up to a point. Specifically, I knew two or three families with Macintoshes in the mid-1980s, and if I played the game in the home of Family A (with whom one of my parents had a business relationship from 1984-1985) or Family B (whose son my sister dated in 1985), then it must have been 1985. I know categorically that both of them had Macs that I got to play with, but I can't rule out Family C (whose son my sister dated afterward & for quite a bit longer), who may have had a Mac too, though I don't have the same highly specific recollections as with Family A & B.

      BTW how do I know it was 1985? Because I lent my sister's boyfriend, aka the son from Family B, my recently-arrived copy of what turned out the final issue of Computer Entertainment -- August 1985 -- and he never gave it back! It's quite hard to find now, too...

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  20. I think Starflight is a perfectly good game of the year... there isn't that much like it before or afterwards. I'm biased having never played Might and Magic, but if nothing else, fantasy CRPGs had a history by then that its creators could pull from. I think we should divide up into a couple of mystical religions that follow each game as the GOTY, and then argue about it for evermore!

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  21. What is the problem with Mac emulation? Afaik, Mini vMac is fairly accurate, but I usually use it only for production software. If you have the ROM it is fairly easy to setup, just have the rom in the same folder as the exe. But it needs the same ROM that works with the emulated machine(128k Mac Plus rom for Mac plus).

    And from that point on it is just like with a real machine, except that floppy images, Mac HDD images can be mounted with a hotkey.

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    1. btw, hfve explorer is a good but bit outdated and clunky tool to work with classic Mac HDD images, it can help transfer files from the system HDD to the emulated Mac. The only pain I had was with stuffit compressed files, because some required pretty late versions which work only on system 7+ with more than 8 megabyte RAM and I had to use my Basilisk II setup for that.

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    2. feamatar, you've been around long enough to know that one of the things that really sets me off is when people characterize hard things as easy. The very fact that you need external tools to transfer files to the emulated mac hard drive makes it harder than most other emulators. Then you have the fact that the Mac changes a lot over the years, so unless you want to master 6 different emulators (which I don't), you have to choose the ones that sit at the right moment in time to cover the games you plan to play. Then you have the fact that the Mac has much different customs and configurations than any other platform, and if you didn't use one back in the day, your knowledge of other platforms doesn't really translate.

      When I first tried the Basilisk II emulator, I had some black screen issue for a while, then had trouble extracting "stuffed" files, the had trouble with speed. I think I got them solved, mostly, but please don't pretend it isn't a pain, particularly compared to say, the Apple II, where you put a disk in AppleWin and run it and that's it.

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    3. My only experience with classic Mac emulation was on an old (circa 1999) iMac that I had at the time. It used an early-ish version of Mac OS that still had some sort of built-in support for "classic Mac" software. It crashed from time to time, but I was able to play Quarterstaff on it. I doubt you'd want to bother, but you could probably get one of those dirt cheap somewhere.

      Speaking of Quarterstaff, you may want to bump that one forward to your 1988 replay list. While the original version of the game was released by Simulated Environment Systems in 1987, it's exceedingly rare and I doubt the disk images are floating around out there. The widely released Infocom version that you'd be playing came out a year later (I bought it as a new release) and was significantly enhanced and upgraded. You can see the different versions at MOCAGH, and the Infocom version says 1988 on both the box and disks.

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    4. I think the problem with emulators might not be the emulators themselves, but that they were originally written for earlier versions of Windows. Either that, or our brains are just getting older and less flexible.
      I remember trying out old Mac games from the HotU site some 10 years ago, using their Basilisk II guide, and having absolutely zero problems with it, but I also have the same memory of Amiga emulation, and when I tried that again last year it was a pain to get running. But I'll leave that link here just in case you haven't seen it (you probably have): http://www.homeoftheunderdogs.net/nonpc.php#a1

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    5. I am sorry, but I really only meant that that the most basic use case is easy for Mini vMac compared to some other emulators.

      If you download a default Mini vMac, you get an emulated Mac Plus with 8 Megabytes of RAM. You only need a copy of a 128k ROM file which was used in the Mac Plus. You copy this to the Mini vMac folder, and you can start the emulator. If you have the disk image for the game, you can mount it with Control+O and you are ready to go (you don't even need the OS).

      And this is why I was asking, to understand what was your problem and if I can help with that. I wondered which emulator you use, and if you work with .sit files because that is the most annoying part of Mac emulation. Often, but unfortunately not always, early Mac software is available in .dsk format. If you have that, I suggest to go with Mini vMac and it is no different than AppleWin. Otherwise I agree that i can get real complicated real quick, and I mention this above regarding hvfexplorer and .sit files.

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  22. Could you alternate between lists? Because let's face it, most of the games from 80s/early 90s were terrible,especially 8bit/CGA ones (I've played them at that time) and the interest in them is driven mostly by nostalgia.

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    1. Most games from every era are terrible! Hence Sturgeon's Law.

      I haven't experienced much in post-1995 games that I'd call an "improvement", any more than Beethoven is an "improvement" over Bach; it's just a change in style, priorities, and technical resources. And I personally prefer the aesthetics and priorities of older games, whether or not I played them BITD (hard to get nostalgia for something you're playing for the first time, let alone if it's on a platform you never owned and couldn't afford in those days).

      Plus a lot of post-1995 developers ended up using all that newfound hardware power to enact the world's corniest plots, gameplay, and (especially) aesthetics. At least games' hardware limits sometimes helped to disguise the fundamentally bad taste of their devs, since one of the enduring truths of every art form is that nearly every creator -- no matter how brilliant -- soon falls prey to their worst traits as soon as their accustomed limits are gone & they can do whatever they want. Amazing how often that "resistance in the materials" makes all the difference.

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    2. What has improved in the last decade is stability (because utterly broken games get patched to playable) and usability (there are borderline no games that you cannot play without a manual).

      If that improves quality is a question on what you are interested in, for the average gamer even a lot of good 80 cRPGS are as interesting as reading Ovid in it's original Latin.

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  23. My vote is alternating between lists, for a reason you allude to in the post: the average quality of the 80 games on your backlist is likely to be lower than the average quality of games generally, and you'll need to play the occasional real gem to stay motivated.

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  24. Come on man, you just dangled Ultima 7 and Underworld right under our noses. I can see why you'd want to clear out that backlog, but as a reader I'd prefer to see you continue as you have been doing. Maybe you should wait and see how many backlog games you have left once you knock off 1991.

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  25. You can probably guess, but I'm firmly on the two lists side. I think it helps keep your ratings grounded, as you are still replaying older games. Bad ones, but still seeing the old graphics, seeing the old gameplay conventions and seeing how much better the modern ones are.

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  26. Also, if you don't mind telling me: What is the game with the people playing poker?

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    1. That's the Mafia game he played not too long ago.

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  27. @Chet
    I'm reminded that you rarely turn on music for CRPGs. However, I do hope you make an exception for the tavern song in Realms of Arkania. It is one of, it not THE, best I've ever heard.

    The Witcher series ain't bad but it still pales in comparison. I guess European developers know their watering holes way better than their American counterparts.

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  28. Yes, RoA has great music. I never really got tired of RoA III's tunes except maybe for the out-of-doors theme, which blatantly copies "Tears in Heaven" iirc.

    Another doozy is QfG4!

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  29. A good milestone: with the completion of Fate and Martian Dreams, you are officially in the back half of 1991! You will be playing Ultima Underworld before you know it.

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    1. I know that's supposed to sound like a good thing, but I would have thought I was in the "back half" quite a while ago.

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    2. To help you with that a bit:
      Obitus is still on your playlist - this is denfinitely not an RPG per your criteria: No leveling/increasing stats at all.

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  30. Also "Alien Fires" and "Time Horn" have spectacularly interesting-slash-terribad names and I don't think I could live if you postponed either of them.

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  31. Good news! There's a 1987 game for Amstrad CPC that's not on your list yet: http://www.mobygames.com/game/cpc/inquisitor-shade-of-swords
    Interestingly enough, it's a French game that doesn't seem to be weird, but rather a fairly standard dungeon crawler.

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    1. Good news!

      I'm trying to figure out whether there's an implicit < /farnsworth > tag there.

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    2. Hehe, and it happens to be from the author of Les Templier d'Orven :) Good times, but I'm biased. That being said, the game is quite good and somewhat innovative for the time.

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  32. Might and Magic III should be the frontrunner for 1991 game of the year. It takes the classic Might and Magic formula, gives it VGA graphics and a mouse driven interface that were both WAY ahead of their time, great music, a great adventure, fun puzzles, and that goofy JVC attitude that all M&M games have.

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    1. Personally I'd rate Disciples of Steel and Pools of Darkness over MM3. MM3 was in some ways a decline compared to MM1-2, with its simplistic combat.

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    2. I took Chet's comment "I'll have done a disservice to the Might & Magic franchise if it doesn't earn the title for at least one of its releases." as a veiled hint that he'll be giving it to MM3 for 1991. I don't think you can give it to 4,5,7 or 8 as they didn't expand much on their predecessors, and MM6 has the misfortune of being up against Baldur's Gate and Fallout 2.

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    3. While Pools of Darkness was a good game, I think the quick draw nature of combat and the lack of warning Chet got for the changes with the final battle will keep it from being goty. I think Disciples of Steel could have done it if it wasn't for the bugs so I think he'll give it to MM3 but we'll have to wait and see.

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    4. For me MM3 was the first game of Might and Magic world and it was great.
      I have never played GoldBox games (I hope I will try them sometime in not so far future), but it seems to me that although I don´t mind more tactical combat in the style of GB games (in this moment I enjoy Avernum very much), I slightly prefer that simplistic combat of MM. For me the exploration and story or quests are more important than "realistic" simulator of combat.
      But of course I fully understand people, who think opposite.

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    5. "I took Chet's comment 'I'll have done a disservice to the Might & Magic franchise if it doesn't earn the title for at least one of its releases' as a veiled hint that he'll be giving it to MM3 for 1991." No, no. I wouldn't do that. I haven't even played it yet.

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    6. You've never played it at all or you just haven't played it yet for the purposes of the blog? If it's the former, then it basically set the M&M formula for the rest of the series (M&MX even went back to do a modern version of the M&M3-5 engine).

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    7. I played it years ago; maybe 2000-2001. I don't remember enough about it to know whether it's a candidate for Game of the Year.

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  33. Hey Chet,

    I don't often post on my blog, but given you're at this juncture, just thought I'd use this to say.

    a) I've loved reading through your blog. Both as an account of RPGs just a little before my time, and as an insight into someone's elses tastes and preferences. You've even inspired me to give some of the old Ultimas and Might and Magics a proper go. If I never write anything else, I at least wanted to express my gratitude.

    b) Whilst my preference of reading would be alternating between years; I think the more important factor would be your own preferences and enjoyment. These sort of projects usually die a quick death as the ennui sets in. That you've managed to keep this going for the past 6-7 years is remarkable. So, whilst I would err myself for alternation, whatever facilitates YOUR enjoyment, I will happilly enjoy in turn.

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  34. I love the discussion about M&M and Starflight, as I commonly refer to both as my favorite game series of all time.

    If you were going to look at console gaming at all, I'd love to see your thoughts on the Sega Genesis Starflight conversion. I submit it's one of the only times where the game was arguably improved by the console conversion.

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    1. Starflight on Genesis is definitely one of the better ports from PC with very little cut while streamlining combat, which seemed cumbersome from Chet's coverage. However, unless Chet has completely forgotten everything, there's nothing stopping him from completing the game in 10 minutes or less.

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  35. Hi Chet

    In one way I am waiting for your new entry (I usually check blog few times a day) but in other hand I have time to catch up with yours older posts which I haven't read yet.

    I hope you're doing well.

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    1. I'm fine. I just decided to take a week off from games. I'm having a little trouble getting into The Magic Candle II despite liking it on paper.

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  36. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Before anyone else goes to that link, it's 25 minutes of one of the reviewers cutting the disk apart with wire cutters. There's about a minute of dialogue and the rest is completely silent except for the clipping of the wire cutters.

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  37. Just to say, I would love to read more special topics postings, and if you got to clean up games to do that I think it's great. Along with that, any chance you'll add the special topic posting to got to the bottom of your index? Sometimes I'm looking for them and it would be nice if they were all in one place.

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  38. If your goal is to complete the backlog before moving on to 1992, then you could include more titles between 1991 games. That way you still have the variation, but also reach your goal without a glut of older more obscure games.

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