Saturday, April 27, 2013

Emulator Hour: 8-bit rpg round-up

I've been on an 8-bit RPG kick of late.  It started with Final Fantasy, moved on to a translation of Final Fantasy II, then to Ultima: Quest of the Avatar, and most recently, a cell phone game called Gurk - the 8-bit RPG.   Along the way, I've made brief stops at Dragon Warrior II and Ultima: Exodus.  I guess I'm just feeling some powerful nostalgia, as this genre and these games ate up many days and hours of my young life.

At the present moment, I'm thinking of my unwillingness to play completely through these games.  Granted, I never beat Ultima:Exodus, nor did I beat Dragon Warrior II, Ultima: Avatar - and I never even played Final Fantasy II because it wasn't released in the US.  There exists, in the back of my mind, the desire to actually finish these games; perhaps with the aid of guides, save states or other modern supports of gaming.  But for the time being, I'm more content to wade into the Nostalgia pool and swim around.  However, to experience this nostalgia it is not strictly necessary to sit down and play these games. 

Images and Sound are able to carry me a long way down memory lane.  I recently remembered a fantastic website called digitpress, wherein you can find scans of dozens of NES game instruction booklets.  This is really worth a look, I was strongly struck, when reviewing the manuals for Ultima and Zelda.  There are funny elements, like the consistency of formatting between games - the one page plot summaries on the first page are good for a smile.  The cover art - so influential to me when drawing my own characters, armor designs and such. 

We've written a bit about 8-bit music on this site, and it is another great source of Nostalgia.  If you spent time playing Ultima: Exodus, the song below should be triggering for you.  

A funny thing about my memories of Ultima: Exodus vs Quest of the Avatar:  I remember preferring Exodus greatly, though when I go back to revisit these games I see that the graphical improvement between the two was massive.  Exodus looks almost ridiculous in how blocky the images are and how stiff the movement is.  Still, I remember when Avatar came out, being so excited to play a new Ultima game.  And then I was ultimately disappointed, because I felt like it looked too much like 'all those other games.'  And I think that still holds- one example of which was the choice to outline the characters in black.  This was not the style of Exodus, but became the style in Avatar, and is such a common stylistic choice that it is easily overlooked.

I guess part of my goal in playing around with these 8-bit RPGs is to study different design choices, in things like character equipment, map design and battle design.  It is my ambition to make an 8-bit style RPG of my own some day.  And actually, I've carried this ambition with me for over 20 years.  This is something I visit and revisit- I'm in no hurry, if I'm not enjoying myself, then its not worth it.  I've looked into some RPG makers, and right now I'm playing with RPG Maker VX Ace Lite - which is the free version of the $70 retail RPG maker series.  There is so much that goes into the design of a game, I have to work hard to budget my time before I'm willing to drop the cash for an RPG maker that may collect more dust than design. So far, the map builder is a blast :)

Alright, I'm heading out now.  I want to make a quick note of Gurk - the 8-bit RPG.  This is a free cell-phone RPG available for Android.  It plays like an even more low-fi version of Ultima:Exodus, if you can believe that.  No music as far as I can tell, but its got equipment, item shops, combat and dungeons.  After getting used to the interface, I think I can get into this game;  Gurk will do the job of nourishing my 8-bit RPG nostalgia while I'm away from home, without requiring me to carry my Nintendo DS along with me. 


P.S.  Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the first post on this blog.  Happy Birthday to us.

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