Monday, October 22, 2018

Legends II: Won! (Summary and Rating)

             
Legends II
United States
Asgard Software (developer and publisher)
Released in 1989 for TI-99
Date Started: 14 October 2018
Date Ended: 20 October 2018
Total Hours: 10
Difficulty: Easy (2/5); this is partly user-definable
Final Rating: 21
Ranking at Time of Posting: 85/310 (27%)


Legends II started without much of a plot--just four adventurers looking for trouble. There was a hint in the tavern that "they somehow snatched a great king from a parallel world," but that was it. Throughout the game, I was curious how this plot point would resolve, and I'll say this for the game: I absolutely did not see the ending coming.
             
A button puzzle in one of the dungeons. Each one opened and closed different areas.
             
The curiously long north-south island chain had, I think, six dungeons. The nature of the iconography plus my colorblindness made me miss at least one. As I mentioned last time, dungeons in this series are either full of traps and treasure chests, or monsters, but never both. In some ways, the monster-filled dungeons are easier because you can only cast spells (including healing spells) in combat, so if you get too damaged from traps in the trap-filled dungeons, you have to rely on an inventory of healing potions.

You can save your progress outdoors at any time, but saving forces you to quit, and when you reload, you're back at the top of the island in Grumble. At first, I thought this would be annoying, but it turned out to be rather convenient. I'd explore southward until I felt my health was too low, then save and return to Grumble for rest and training. Training was absurdly expensive--so much so that I never trained all the levels I had earned, and I never spent any of my money on potions (though I did find a lot of them).
            
I'm not sure I had this much money in the whole game.
           
The Phantasie-inspired dungeon exploration is really the best part of the game, and I enjoyed it to the end, constantly revealing new areas, solving light puzzles, and stumbling upon the rare NPC or special encounter. There aren't as many of any of those things as in the typical Phantasie dungeon, but the dynamic is still fun. I also enjoyed the way the game offered a label or description to each corridor and room.
             
I continued to enjoy the incremental dungeon exploration.
           
The first dungeon I explored after Grumble was a troll-infested hole in the mountains called, appropriately, Trollhome. It was naturally a monster dungeon. The only special encounter was a book that contained three passwords--"Klatuu," "Nicktu," and "Barada"--along with three numbers. I trust everyone here has seen the classic film that is the source of these words, but if not, you need to go rent Army of Darkness immediately.

The next dungeon was a treasure dungeon called Zem Outpost, and it was here that I got most of the item upgrades that lasted the rest of the game: a star longsword, a wizard's staff (curiously not wieldable by the wizard but rather the cleric), magical robes, banded mail +3, a silver cape, and so forth.
          
I think this was the best weapon I found in the game.
         
Around this time, the outdoor map itself began to take on structure, with limited passages through mountains blocked by sentry points and gates. As we approached, a sign titled "Gorvil's Keep" told us we were viewing the "ruins of an obviously ancient and once majestic fortress," abandoned after peace fell upon the region, now recently taken over.
            
These title cards add a lot to the game's backstory and lore.
          
The keep was full of vampires and undead. The key special encounter was finding an NPC named Urgle, who said he was searching for his brother Clovus, who in turn had been trying to figure out who has taken over Gorvil Keep. He asked if he could come with us. I said yes and then never heard from him again.
            
This combat feels like it should have been harder.
           
Sentry points repeatedly invited us to "buzz off," but we pressed forward. I should mention at this point that combat in the game--whether with guards, vampires, dragons, sabre-tooth cats, or whatever--is pretty easy, and only in the last dungeon did I ever feel in any real danger. My wizard's spells went mostly unused because it was faster just to hold down the "1" key and plow through physical attacks each round.
           
The party reaches the end of the islands.
           
Adamantyr helped me with some information about the dungeon I missed, Fogeek's Deli. A title card indicated that in its heyday, the restaurant was favored by monsters and humans alike. Inside its walls, Urgle would have met up with Clovus and escaped with him, but not before giving the party a set of disguises. Later, the party would have rescued a female NPC named Gina who would have later backstabbed one of the characters and fled after warning the party not to press forward.
               
This was an interesting twist that I missed.
            
The last dungeon, titled "Eagle's Roost," was at the far southern end of the island chain. The accompanying sign said it used to be a guest house for visiting "princes, kings, and other luminaries," but was abandoned at the same time as the keep.

There were four levels to Eagle's Roost, and on the first three, I ran into automatons called "validators" who challenged me with the three words (which are of course from The Day the Earth Stood Still in case you're still sputtering from my statement above). The countersigns were clued on a document that shipped with the game. I had downloaded it but forgotten about it by the time I reached this part of the game, so I couldn't figure out anything that worked. Fortunately, I was able to just fight the validators. They were easily the hardest enemies in the game, capable of killing a character in one round if they concentrated their attacks and got lucky. I had to have both my ranger and cleric cast heal spells every round while my fighter and wizard did their best to whittle away the creatures' 999 hit points. In the last combat, the validator did get lucky and killed my cleric. I finished the game toting her dead body.
               
Gort has developer Donn Granros's initials on his chest.
             
Past the third automaton was an "oddly dressed man bound with heavy chains." With tortured dialogue meant to suggest a southern accent (sample: "Ah sho would be much obliged if you could get me out of these thangs"), he suggested we take a hidden exit to the north.

When we left the dungeon, the endgame commenced. The party and their companion hopped into an unattended ship and sailed away from the islands. There were a series of text screens confirming that the "great king" we had rescued was, yes, the King of Rock and Roll--Elvis Presley himself. I suppose this text ought to be preserved. I stress that I am not making any of this up.
              
              
And so it came to pass that your party and Elvis, your newfound friend, set sail on yet another quest. A quest to find the interdimensional vortex that plucked him out of his world and plopped him down in yours. Knowing only that the vortex was located in the ocean not far from Femble Isle, the search is long, relying only on Elvis's memories, dimmed by the time spent shackled in the depths of the palace.

Now just as everyone had given up hope, a shimmering haze is seen off the bow. Moving closer, your ship suddenly surges forward as it is drawn into the heart of the vortex.
                 
            
Your world fades from view as another materializes. You tumble downward and everyone lands in a jumbled heap in the middle of a great black expanse.

Your party seems dazed and a bit confused, but Elvis exclaims, "Well, I'll be an ole hound dog. A parkin' lot! Look, there's my pink Cadillac just a-sitting there." Turning to your party, he says, "Much obliged, friends--and welcome to Vegas. Here, I am the king and I owe a real powerful debt to you guys."

Several crazy women carrying National Enquirers spot the King and scream, "Elvis! It's really him! Ma god." A crowd forms and carries the King away.
             
The party enjoyed several months in the city before they were bitten by wanderlust again. On Earth, however, "the market for persons of your unique talents is a bit limited." Thus, my fighter took a job as Elvis's bodyguard; my ranger disappeared in the Rockies; my wizard performs a nightly show at the Golden Nugget; and my cleric became a televangelist. 
             
No, I wasn't kidding.
            
I gave the original Legends a 29 on the GIMLET, rating its encounters and foes and economy best at 4s, its NPCs worst at 1 (I considered the people you meet in the dungeons encounters, not NPCs), and everything else in the middle at a 2 or 3. Legends II doesn't do so well. Even before the silly final minutes, the story isn't as fleshed out, magic plays a less important role, and equipment upgrades are rarer. The gameplay is more linear, the challenge less intense, and the economy absolutely broken when you never earn enough for leveling. With these various incremental modifications, the rating for Legends II drops to a 21.

I'm curiously ambivalent about the ending. If Crusaders of the Dark Savant pulled this kind of nonsense, I'd go through the roof, but Legends II wasn't exactly the sort of game that engages you with its story in the first place. I think I'd be pretty miffed if I were a 1980s TI-99 owner, though. The last screen ends with a dedication "to the TI and its users, long may we run," which would be a nicer sentiment if the developer hadn't just made a shaggy dog joke out of the last RPG the platform would see for the next 30 years.

Despite the sentiment, Asgard closed up shop the same year Legends II was released, and the platform saw only a handful more games of any genre before the modern "retro" revival. (For more on Asgard and the developers, see the end of my summary of Legends.) Unless I actually make it to the 2010s, this will be the last time we see a TI-99 screenshot. There were only four RPGs released for the machine, and I needed Adamantyr's help to set up three of them, so I'm not sorry to see this one disappear.

Our plod to the end of 1989 continues but is about to be interrupted by an incredible mire of a game called Legends of the Lost Realm.


36 comments:

  1. Agreed that Army of Darkness is a great movie, but it was released in 1992 and this game is from 1989. A little Google-Fu shows that the origin of the phrase "Klaatu barada nikto" is The Day the Earth Stood Still, from 1951.

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    1. You had to keep reading, buddy.

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    2. Sigh. The fact that people have never seen The Day the Earth Stood Still fills me with sadness. You seriously need to go to Google for a cultural touchstone like that? You need to look up who said "a penny saved is a penny earned" too?

      Oh, and please stop going to Google, they've gone evil. Try duckduckgo.com for search instead, they're just as good. :)

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    3. I would have agreed with you 20 years ago, but in 2018 I can't fault anyone for not having seen or heard of a 67-year-old film. There are plenty of readers whose parents weren't even born when that movie came out.

      As for Google, I'm afraid that ship has sailed. We're on a Google blog.

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    4. Thank you for the upbraiding, Harland. If there's one thing I enjoy, it's a lecture from an Internet Person on my lack culture.

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    5. Lack "of" culture. I just proved your point, I see.

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    6. I would argue it's actually less excusable today. 20-30 years ago it was much harder to watch specific movies, especially older ones, because you had to get your hands on a physical copy.

      But today it's one click to rent a view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUx8vLxxPxY (or netflix, or whatever your favourite streaming service is)

      So, it is purely up to your personal interest to see it or any other classic movie. You can't hide behind excuses anymore. (And I don't fault anyone for choosing not to. There's plenty of classic movies I have no interest in watching.)

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    7. You need to look up who said "a penny saved is a penny earned" too?

      I can't tell whether this line reveals your post to be deliberate satire or not! If so, very clever. (It's now believed that Franklin never said this.)

      Anyway, as Marilyn Monroe once said, "Eh, actually, Shin Megami Tensei."

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    8. I wonder if there's a database for classic media references that could be ordered by most or least referenced. Having a visual of the branches connecting would be nice. It makes me wonder just how many references go over my head.

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    9. So I get the Day the Earth Stood Still (enjoyed that movie though I haven't seen it in many years) reference but not having seen Army of Darkness is it referenced in that movie?

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    10. Assuming a shared cultural reference point is a major issue for any game. It is quite interesting when you try to have a look at that from a translation point of view when games are released in other territories. Imagine how frustrating this would be if you even have seen the movie but in a dubbed version? Not too mention how badly those references age.

      In particular these days I would argue it is much worse as we are seeing a massive split in interests thanks to the internet and on demand streaming. I would argue given that it is much harder these days to know everything and get all references. In return you get subculture snobs who aggressively try to mob people to weed out those that don't share their cultural background.

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    11. Bakuiel, yes, in Army of Darkness, the words (in an obvious reference to TDTESS) are used in an incantation. If only Bruce Campbell's character had memorized them properly...

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    12. Totally true about the split in interests- back when it was just TV and movie theaters, people experienced big events together. Now there's a huge oversaturation of media with a abundance of options to access it, and only so much time to explore your own interests, let alone everyone else's. I work with a bunch of people in their early 20's (I'm 30) and the disconnect continues to grow from what I've seen...

      Personally, I've seen TDTESS multiple times but I don't remember those words. I just remember the scene where the alien talks about Lincoln being a great man. When you don't have the baggage of a thing's iconic status, different things will stick with you, so there's that too.

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    13. The way it's presented in the original movie, it's a phrase that must be memorized (no time to write it down) from an alien language and repeated specifically later, otherwise humanity was doomed. You're right though, having discussed movies and games with other people there are sometimes events that just don't stick out to me while it was impactful for others.

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    14. Dudes. The "classic movie" line is funny. You're expecting the reviewer to say one thing and he drops Army of Darkness. That's funny. Isn't funny enough?

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    15. Infuriatingly funny? Army of Darkness is a classic B-movie.

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    16. B-class at best, and maybe not infuriatingly funny, but I think it is pretty funny.

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    17. I thought it was funny- I also think it's funny how a silly offhand remark from Addict regularly spirals into a long serious discussion. I'm all for it!

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    18. The scene in question if anyone's interested:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xAGIqVzu6k

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  2. Yeah, as a kid I was like "WHAT?!?!" at that ending. Now I kind of look at it and just shake my head and chuckle.

    Plus, it was aggravating that it came on three disks which seemed to promise a larger game than the first one, but it was pretty much the same size. The third disk primarily contains the end game screens and the conversion utility.

    Here's hoping you reach the 2010's and the newer TI games!

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  3. Damn it should have finished the review before commenting!

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  4. One other thing to add...

    So the game actually does have a bug where the watch words for the Validators is concerned. If you cross-reference the book found with the notes that came with the game, you end up with three passwords.

    So the first one, Klaatu, works just fine. But the second and third one fail. As a kid I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong and I ended up fighting the last two the same as Chet did.

    However, I tested this myself recently and discovered the problem; there's a bug in the code. It sets the password for Nicktu to Barada, and vice-versa. (Interestingly the passwords are actually stored in the assembly language portion of the game, which means you can't find them if you just look at the BASIC listing.)

    With those passwords and the disguises from Clovis, you can move through the last dungeon a lot easier, standing monster guards let you pass without issue. You still have to fight a couple monsters here and there but it's pretty trivial.

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  5. That ending is kind of astonishing. I think I fall on the side of liking it, and I think it's the "Ma god" that clinches the deal.

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  6. Also, at any time if you go to the details screen by pressing Q and look at quest items, you'll see you have "Elvis" in your inventory. So it wasn't just the end game that mentioned him by name.

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  7. Great Ending! I enjoyed reading this! Long live the king!

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  8. "which are of course from The Day the Earth Stood Still in case you're still sputtering from my statement above"

    I totally was, you absolute troll! hahaha I love this blog.

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  9. I actually love the ending. Reminds me of the craziness that was Ultima II's plot.

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  10. The ending is simply genial, especially how it takes stardant fantasy cliche and uses it to make fun of what the word "king" changed to in modern society. I would centarinly welcome more games with easygoing plots than another boring copy of Tolkien.

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    1. There would have been a lot of potential but they don't seem to to have done anything with it. As a twist I find it rather stupid but imagine they had gone all in and this would have been a world where Elvis would have been a sensible character?

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  11. In Legends III, you help Elvis find a brain for his robot dog.

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    1. To be honest:I would play that game.

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    2. It's a significant side quest in Fallout: New Vegas, though he's not actually Elvis, but an impersonator known as The King :p

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    3. Not so much an "impersonator" as someone inspired by all the paraphernalia he found at an abandoned Vegas store. It makes sense in context, at least as much as anything does in the Fallout universe.

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  12. Kudos to Adamantyr for his finding that bug!

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    1. Adamantyr is definitely the resident TI-99 expert. My entries would be half-done (or not at all) without him.

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