Sunday, March 9, 2014

Diary Entry 16: Screwing the Reagent Lady

One of the Avatar's great moral dilemmas. Illustration by the great Crystal Mielcarek. Reminds me of all the fun illustrations from Nintendo Power, except better. She even got the paladin's in game colors right!

               One memorable character in Ultima IV is the reagent lady, a character you can either severely under-pay for a virtue decrease or over-pay for small virtue boosts. When I played through the IBM and Sega Master versions of the game, I never wanted to cheat this lady. She was the sweetest old hag in Britannia, blind as a bat and pitifully asking you to count your payment yourself. She trusts you, a stranger, enough to put down hundreds of dollars in exchange for her expensive magical ingredients.

               Unfortunately, I was inclined to steal from her in this playthrough. Knowing very well I could just talk to the tree mentioned in posts prior to jack up half my stats, I swindled the reagent lady to gather way more reagents than I'd ever need.

Well, there is a 1 in 810GP.

               Why did I betray my personal love of this poor woman? What sort of example am I trying to set for Lord British's domain? Have I no shame?

               Evidently, I didn't this time around. I feel like Ultima: Quest of the Avatar doesn't really hold up. Rather than getting into the role of the Avatar, paying beggar around the world and answering every question with humility, I struggled to end the game as quickly as possible. I've played through Dragon Warrior dozens of times and Final Fantasy thrice, never getting bored of the JRPG aesthetic. What does Ultima: Quest of the Avatar lack?

               Perhaps it was how I approached the game. The first few times I played through Ultima IV, I didn't recruit anyone in my party until the very end. This time around, I collected three other party members. Battles became long and drawn out, having a dozen enemies with high HP going up against my slow, bumbling characters. Why this problem didn't bother me in my Ultima: Exodus playthrough a few months ago, I'll never know. 

               As one of the most unique games ever, it's wonderful that an NES Ultima IV exists, but it's by far crappier than the other versions I have already played. The Sega Master System is far more faithful to the PC original with one notable difference: the pointless first-person perspective is replaced by a top-down perspective that matches the rest of the game. If the NES port did this, I'd probably recommend it, but unfortunately, it just does stupid things instead.

               One of the weirdest features is that the Avatar loses all of his party members in the final dungeon. In the original version, the Avatar needed to assemble seven people, one from each city. It felt like a truly epic undertaking, but it's simply whatever in the NES version.

The Avatar alone versus a few of the
Abyss's hundreds of monsters.

               Although it certainly is badass to fight the denizens of the underworld alone, the entire experience felt too bush league to even recommend a rental. Maybe some day I'll feel obliged to return to the world of Quest of the Avatar NES and treat the reagent lady with a little more respect. Until then, I'd recommend playing something else.

               Like the Zoids NES RPGs I'm about to try! Zoids Apocalypse even received an English translation, though to me, it's the least exciting of the three games I'm going to try. Some first impressions will be included in my next post. I own Zoids Legacy for the GBA, maybe I'll chip away at that, too. If I ever get an XBOX 360, my first purchase is definitely going to be Zoids Assault.

ZOIDS! Gotta love the blue and pink color scheme.

               I also finished South Park: The Stick of Truth today. There's about 12-15 hours of content based on how you play the game. I spent more time fighting random battles and completing side quests in whatever order I felt like, so I'm definitely closer to the 15. I'm going to check out a few of Obsidian's other games. I really loved Alpha Protocol, but I need to try Knights of the Old Republic 2 and Neverwinter Nights 2.

               Actually, I should play.hack//Infection. I keep saying that and putting it off. Hopefully it's as short as the Stick of Truth, because it definitely isn't better than that game. 

No comments:

Post a Comment