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Author Topic: 80s RPGs  (Read 4517 times)
Willy Elektrix
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« on: December 10, 2008, 01:39:34 PM »

I mostly only play classic games so most of the RPGs Iíve really fallen for have been from the 80s. Itís impossible for me to say which games are my favorite since there are tons of great ones: Miracle Warriors on the Sega Master System, Wasteland for the PC, Adventure on the Atari (still good to this day), the original Dragon Warrior. But below are  a few that came to mind as really shining examples of the genre.

Sorcerian: Itís part of the Dragonslayer series in Japan. As far as I know, the only other game from the series that got released in English is Legacy of the Wizard for the NES, which is also quite cool but very different from Sorcerian. Sorcerian is a party-based side-view dungeon crawler game with some cool dungeons and clever (albeit sometimes obscure) puzzles. It also has a strange character development system where your characters age as a train them, and can even die of old age. Only the DOS version came out in the US but there are tons of Japanese versions of this with enhanced graphics, new quests, and other features for Megadrive, PC-Engine, etc.

Little Ninja Brothers: This NES action/RPG is quite weird. You travel around ancient China in an overhead world map visiting towns and doing regular RPG stuff. But combat is handled on a separate screen where you must defeat enemies in an overhead beat Ďem up kind of battle. There looping doors on the edge of the screen and a giant invincible mummy that appears occasionally and must be avoided. The combat screen is exactly like playing a level in another NES game (a game in the same series in Japan) called Kung-Fu Heroes. The Chinese setting, cool battle system, and overall weirdness make this one pretty enjoyable.

Dungeons & Dragons Pools of Radiance: Pools of Radiance is the best of the Gold Box games. Unlike some of the other titles in the series, you get to raise your characters from level 1. Plus, combat is more forgiving, the quests seem a little less confusing, and there are much better dungeons than some of the later entries. Amazingly, the NES version is actually better than its PC counterpart. The dungeon graphics are better, the combat is much more balanced, and all the descriptions and text are printed in the game rather than having to the reference the gameís manual. There are a few things missing (i.e. there are no enemy spell casters, you cannot choose your character portraits or icons) but as a whole Pools of Radiance is the best of the series (and one of the best RPGs of the period) and the NES version is an excellent adaptation.

What are some of your favorite old school RPGs (weíre talking about 80s, maybe early 90s not SNES). Also, what are some really overlooked ones that deserve more recognition?
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« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2008, 05:34:57 PM »

I bought Sorcerian back in the mid 90's. I couldn't figure that damn thing out.
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Sagacious-T
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« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2008, 06:15:47 PM »

Ultima.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2008, 08:14:02 PM »

I'd say Ultima, but I don't like 1 much, I think 2 was the worst in the series, I'm alright with 3... 4 and 5 are great, but my favorites are 6 and 7 and those were nineties.

Phantasy Star 1, I guess. My favorite in the entire series. Had an interesting gameplay progression that was more Zelda like, with finding and using key items, than hitting certain plot points. Also, the dungeon designs were a lot more managable and I liked the atmosphere. So admittedly while the battle system and character building mechanics weren't that different from other games of the era, and there was still grinding, too, the game had a degree of non-linearity, a sense of finding stuff out on your own and exploration, and I guess a lot of adventure game elements I really liked. I thought PSIV was neat and all, but there really wasn't much unique there from a gameplay standpoint, except for a really underdeveloped combo system and... an... underdeveloped hunter's guild thingy.

Quote
Unlike some of the other titles in the series, you get to raise your characters from level 1. Plus, combat is more forgiving, the quests seem a little less confusing, and there are much better dungeons than some of the later entries.

More than that, I seem to recall the latter games in the series getting a lot more linear. I liked the Savage Frontier games though. They're a lot closer to Pool's style, but with world maps.

Quote
The dungeon graphics are better,

I'm gon' go ahead and argue this point. Graphics in the NES version are a lot smaller, less detailed, and in this predominately-brown color scheme.

http://www.mobygames.com/game/nes/pool-of-radiance/screenshots/gameShotId,45902/ NES
http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/pool-of-radiance/screenshots/gameShotId,10476/ DOS

Objectively, NES version's graphics are smaller and less colorful (NES sprites have 2-4 colors. PC sprites have about 8 and you can customize how your characters look). I can't find any dungeon first-person screens, unfortunately, but the PC graphics are definitely a lot more colorful as a whole.

Erm. What else.

http://www.mobygames.com/game/dos/pool-of-radiance/screenshots/gameShotId,82624/ enemy portraits in the PC version have nice backgrounds. NES ones are sort of blackish.

http://www.mobygames.com/images/shots/original/1058375417-00.gif In regards to this, I don't have a comparison shot, but in the PC version this particular wall pattern had 4 or 5 colors in it and the vines were a bit more detailed, IIRC.

So yeah sorry just throwing this out there.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 08:22:58 PM by MeshGearFox » Logged

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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2008, 09:12:09 PM »

I bought Sorcerian back in the mid 90's. I couldn't figure that damn thing out.

You've got to have some patience. Some of the puzzles are needlessly obscure. Also, the layouts of the dungeon seem to defy realistic physical space. There are weird loops and no sense of accurate space. It's like...huh?.

I'd say Ultima, but I don't like 1 much, I think 2 was the worst in the series, I'm alright with 3... 4 and 5 are great, but my favorites are 6 and 7 and those were nineties.

I feel the same way about Wizardry. The series isn't at it's best until the end. That being said, something about Ultima 3 just clicked with me. I really like it. I like how small the world is, I like all the optional dungeons, everything just seemed right. Could be nostalgia. It's the first game in the series I ever played.

Phantasy Star 1, I guess. My favorite in the entire series. Had an interesting gameplay progression that was more Zelda like, with finding and using key items, than hitting certain plot points. Also, the dungeon designs were a lot more managable and I liked the atmosphere. So admittedly while the battle system and character building mechanics weren't that different from other games of the era, and there was still grinding, too, the game had a degree of non-linearity, a sense of finding stuff out on your own and exploration, and I guess a lot of adventure game elements I really liked. I thought PSIV was neat and all, but there really wasn't much unique there from a gameplay standpoint, except for a really underdeveloped combo system and... an... underdeveloped hunter's guild thingy.

Oh yeah, PS1 is my favorite in the series. The dungeons are much more interesting, the different planets are handled well, the progression is great, and (like you said) there is a sense of atmosphere. Compared to its sequels, it just seems like a tighter, more cohesive game.

I'm gon' go ahead and argue this point. Graphics in the NES version are a lot smaller, less detailed, and in this predominately-brown color scheme.

The battle graphics are the only thing thing I like less in the NES version. Indeed, the sprites are much smaller and cuter. While the NES version also has a more limited color palette, it is much less garish than the PC versions. And the monster and character portraits are just embarrassing (especially the character portraits) in the PC version. True story. We could probably argue this all day.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 09:16:15 PM by Willy Elektrix » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2008, 09:23:36 PM »

When I think of old ass RPGs that nobody seems to know much about besides me, The Magic of Scheherazade comes to mind instantly.  Part Zelda, part Dragon Warrior; it dabbled in just about every facet of gaming that existed at the time.  Genre blending was a Culture Brain trademark (see the aforementioned Little Ninja brothers for another example), and Scheherazade pulled it off better than most.  It's fucking crazy though, with all its strange characters and situations. :P
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2008, 09:45:19 PM »

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I feel the same way about Wizardry. The series isn't at it's best until the end.

I can appreciate the earlier Wizardry titles (Not 4 so much, though), and they're fairly quick, but yeah, I agree. 6-8 I think is great, though, although I have to admit that I really like the SNES version of 5. Not sure why. I like the graphics for some reason. Anyway the thing with Wizardry 5 that I do remember is that there's more of a sense of... mythology to the dungeon. This sort of Zork-ian alien-ness.

Also http://kalynuik-s.tripod.com/images-w/wiz5-images/wiz5-llama.gif

Although, honestly, 2 and 3 were more like expansion packs to Wizardry 1 anyway.

Also, I don't have a problem with Ultima 3 and I think it's a good game. It's just that personally it's not one I'm that into for some reason, if that makes any sense? I will say, since we're talking about NES conversions, while I generally think most of the SNES ports of the Ultima games are horrid with 7 being the absolute nadir (and 6 not really being bad, but it WAS censored, so...), I prefer Exodus on the NES. Town designs, IIRC, were fixed up a bit and more importantly NPCs had text most of the time. We're not talking to the extent of having the huge, informational/conversational meta-game that U4 had (which was removed in the NES version) but it's an additional bit of flavor that doesn't hurt one bit.

Going back to Phantasy Star, I actually am somewhat of a defender of 3, partially cause I think 2 was a bit overrated, partially cause I felt 3 was a LITTLE closer to 1 stylistically, but it still loses points for me for not really fixing two of the biggest problems I had with 2: Progression was sort of jacked up and the dungeons blow. In 3, at least, they're not endless, doublebacking mazes, but making all of the caves into featureless, empty, and amorphous blobs doesn't really improve things. That being said, I can appreciate the efforts they made with PS2 to make the characters unique and the efforts they made in PS3 with the generation system and magic allocationy stuff.

Also in regards to both Phantasy Star 1 and Dragon Warrior 1, with DW1 doing this more, there's this feeling that everything is just about to happen. Does that make any sense? Probably not. Another way of putting it--in DW1, you can see the dragonlord's castle from the starting town, sort of, and the progression of that games moves you spatially closer to that castle as time and your level and the story, brief though it is, progresses. Additionally, the dragonlord's done a few Very Bad Things, but he's not at the point of having a huge presence out there f'in things up. But he's about to.

Is that clear at all?

In Phantasy Star 1, it's more of a feeling than recency than imminence. Everything in the backstory of the game JUST happened, it seems like.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's a mixture of urgency and an implied uneasiness. I'm pretty sure this also applies to Pool of Radiance, although I can't remember the story in that very well because I'm having a hard time running it lately (also mother!@#%ing codewheels).

Still not sure I'm making much sense.

---edit---

Suddenly, I feel old. I just realized I could put FFL1 on this list.

Oh, and Nethack, I guess. That's... technically from the 70s, though.
« Last Edit: December 10, 2008, 09:49:13 PM by MeshGearFox » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2008, 11:23:24 PM »

Bard's Tale
Dragon Wars
Wastelands
The old SSI Goldbox D&D games.
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2008, 09:16:38 PM »

When I think of old ass RPGs that nobody seems to know much about besides me, The Magic of Scheherazade comes to mind instantly.  Part Zelda, part Dragon Warrior; it dabbled in just about every facet of gaming that existed at the time.  Genre blending was a Culture Brain trademark (see the aforementioned Little Ninja brothers for another example), and Scheherazade pulled it off better than most.  It's fucking crazy though, with all its strange characters and situations. :P

That game is excellent. I've beaten it. I really like how the 5 different worlds are like completely separate and when you move from one to the next, there is no going back. The time travel component was unexpected and cool. Plus, of course, there was lots of Culture Brain weirdness: some battles are turn-based and some are real-time, the odd and simple dungeon layouts, and all the nonsensical text. I've played most of Culture Brain's games. I'm kind of an aficionado.

Also, I don't have a problem with Ultima 3 and I think it's a good game. It's just that personally it's not one I'm that into for some reason, if that makes any sense? I will say, since we're talking about NES conversions, while I generally think most of the SNES ports of the Ultima games are horrid with 7 being the absolute nadir (and 6 not really being bad, but it WAS censored, so...), I prefer Exodus on the NES. Town designs, IIRC, were fixed up a bit and more importantly NPCs had text most of the time. We're not talking to the extent of having the huge, informational/conversational meta-game that U4 had (which was removed in the NES version) but it's an additional bit of flavor that doesn't hurt one bit.

I also prefer the NES port of Ultima 3. Although, my time spent with the PC version was quite limited. As for the SNES ports of the later games, they were only really horrible if you compared them to their source material. If you were to hand them to an RPG gamer who had no familiarity of the PC versions of those games, they would stand up fine. And honestly, they are so stripped down, its hard to even treat them as the same games.

Going back to Phantasy Star, I actually am somewhat of a defender of 3, partially cause I think 2 was a bit overrated, partially cause I felt 3 was a LITTLE closer to 1 stylistically, but it still loses points for me for not really fixing two of the biggest problems I had with 2: Progression was sort of jacked up and the dungeons blow. In 3, at least, they're not endless, doublebacking mazes, but making all of the caves into featureless, empty, and amorphous blobs doesn't really improve things. That being said, I can appreciate the efforts they made with PS2 to make the characters unique and the efforts they made in PS3 with the generation system and magic allocationy stuff.

Dude, you and me should be homies. I think PS3 is the second best in the series next to PS2. The locations are boring and the dungeons are simple  as simple can be (sometimes just a handful of rooms strung together with no sense of progression). However, all of this is compensated for the "generation" system. It's pretty clever, it makes the story a bit more expansive, and its the closest thing you get to character customization in the early PS games.

Also in regards to both Phantasy Star 1 and Dragon Warrior 1, with DW1 doing this more, there's this feeling that everything is just about to happen. Does that make any sense? Probably not. Another way of putting it--in DW1, you can see the dragonlord's castle from the starting town, sort of, and the progression of that games moves you spatially closer to that castle as time and your level and the story, brief though it is, progresses. Additionally, the dragonlord's done a few Very Bad Things, but he's not at the point of having a huge presence out there f'in things up. But he's about to.

I understand what you're talking about, but I don't really experience it. What I find so gripping about about Dragon Warrior 1 that none of its sequels have been able to duplicate is its sense of exploration. You are basically given free reign to explore this world and the boundaries between one section of the game and another never really concrete (for instance, like they are in Final Fantasy where you move from town to conquering each town's dungeon). It's more of a free form experience. Later Dragon Warrior games attempt this but since the worlds are so large (and empty) it ends up being more trouble than its worth. Dragon Warrior 1 really makes exploration seem important and fun. Although, I'm with you something about seeing the Dragonlords castle right at the beginning of the game is quite compelling. The original Hydlide is a bit like this too.
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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2008, 12:03:09 AM »

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Dude, you and me should be homies.

W...what? Are you trying to increase some sort of... S-Link?

Anyway in regards to PS3, it sounds that once you get further along and get characters with... techs, it gets a bit more strategic and interesting, but the early parts are kind of... eh.

Quote
If you were to hand them to an RPG gamer who had no familiarity of the PC versions of those games, they would stand up fine.

4 and 6? Yes. Runes of Virtue games? Not ports, but probably. Ultima 7 SNES? No. That was just bad all around. Like... I don't know, some sort of Alundra on a dangerous cocktail of meth and DMT.

Ultima 5 NES is weird. looks like it had potential but it runs at a whopping 2 frames per second. Meaning it's not really playable. I think it'd probably have held up alright otherwise, though.

Quote
What I find so gripping about about Dragon Warrior 1 that none of its sequels have been able to duplicate is its sense of exploration. You are basically given free reign to explore this world and the boundaries between one section of the game and another never really concrete...

Well, as far as boundaries go, you have bridges, which indicate when enemies will probably ramp up in difficulty, but yeah. I'd like to actually write up something about this, why I think it's actually an appropriate reason to use experience levels*, and why it's a more "natural" progression than a strictly story based one.

DQ4 does this kind of, it seems, from where I'm at, but it takes like... several hours to get to Chapter 5, and then to get the boat, which is when stuff opens up, so...

This is actually my biggest problem with DQ7. I'm probably in the minority in that I really love the game, but the overworld sucks. Also, it is a bit too linear.

I kind of had a similar problem with CT. The very last bit of the game is neat where it opens up, you get the Epoch, and you can explore stuff on your own for a bit, but I kind of wish the game had done that throughout. To an extent, Chrono Cross does, or at least let's you go off on your own a bit earlier on, and that is one of the reasons why I liked Chrono Cross.

* I think this also applied to Pools of Radiance, from what I remember. Something like New Phlan has a certain finite number of tasks that need doing, and you can do any whenever you want, but they're all varying in difficulty, so your level sort of gauges what you CAN do? And if I remember correctly, Savage Frontier gets back to this style, whereas the other Pools games were more linear dungeon crawls?

(I could use this as a launch point to explain some other things I think but I don't think I'll do that right now).

(Also could probably use the comments about how DW1 progresses as a springboard for yet ANOTHER thing, but I'll save that for another day, although technically that is an 80s RPG. Hrm).
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #10 on: December 12, 2008, 08:19:23 PM »

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If you were to hand them to an RPG gamer who had no familiarity of the PC versions of those games, they would stand up fine.

4 and 6? Yes. Runes of Virtue games? Not ports, but probably. Ultima 7 SNES? No. That was just bad all around. Like... I don't know, some sort of Alundra on a dangerous cocktail of meth and DMT.

Ultima 5 NES is weird. looks like it had potential but it runs at a whopping 2 frames per second. Meaning it's not really playable. I think it'd probably have held up alright otherwise, though.

Yeah, I could never figure out what the deal was with Ultima 5 on the NES. It's like, did you fuckers play this game before you released it? I think Ultima 4 on NES is mostly unplayable if you don't already have some familiarity with the game or have a walkthrough handy. As you've told me before, they took out most of the text from the PC version. Regardless of the reason, it's amazingly obscure. That being said, I liked Ultima 7 on SNES when I was younger. I didn't really have anything to compare to it to, but I wasn't nearly as disappointed with it as you or some other people (read Gamefaqs) seem to be. Later, when I played Ultima 7 on the PC I realized that it was missing basically 90% of the entire game, but the part that was there wasn't horrible.

Here's something interesting: in Japan Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire was ported to the SNES. The PC version is superb, like Ultima mixed with The Lost Continent.

Speaking of Origin, didn't they publish 2400AD? That's another good one. It's got a very original setting with a lot of emphasis on adventure and puzzle elements and less on statistics and combat. Plus, the world is really compact and interconnected with lots of interesting ways to traverse it. And it's a very early cyberpunk game, which is cool in its own way.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2008, 08:21:58 PM by Willy Elektrix » Logged
MeshGearFox
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« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2008, 12:59:39 AM »

I have Savage Empire, actually. Not Martian Dreams. Don't think that ever got a CD release. Didn't think Savage Empire did either, so... I need to go antiquing again.

...

Did I just call "Game shopping" antiquing?

INNOCENT TIMES.

Anyway some additional brief commentary on the FFL games. I know FFL1 got a remake, but it looks really wrong in color to me. I mean, they're nice graphics and all, but the games just don't look right in color. Now, don't get me wrong, FFL2 looked a lot better than FFL1 to begin with, but still. I can't imagine all of that green, there. The grayscale gave it this permanent-sunset look. I'm sure that doesn't make any sense to anyone else.
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Willy Elektrix
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« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2008, 11:04:43 AM »

Anyway some additional brief commentary on the FFL games. I know FFL1 got a remake, but it looks really wrong in color to me. I mean, they're nice graphics and all, but the games just don't look right in color. Now, don't get me wrong, FFL2 looked a lot better than FFL1 to begin with, but still. I can't imagine all of that green, there. The grayscale gave it this permanent-sunset look. I'm sure that doesn't make any sense to anyone else.

Are you talking about the remake for Wonderswan? If not, what are you talking about?

In any case, now I want to play FFL again. Probably the save battery on my copy has gone to shit though. Hmm...


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MeshGearFox
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« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2008, 05:42:28 PM »

Yeah, I meant the WSC color. I guess I was just saying that color doesn't really suit those games, for me.
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