Monday, August 14, 2017

Game #71: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (SNES) - A Game Unwinding (Finished)

A final score is strange to see in an RPG, but I suppose this indicates what quests I've completed
KTOW? Anyone have any idea what this might do?
It was difficult to gauge just how close to the end I was, and how difficult the final maps were going to be. Especially in a game like this where I expected I would need more pearls, a few more years to cure the loveless princess, and maybe even solve all the pyramids to unlock the fountain of youth. I first went to the Tomb of Terror, which was merely rooms filled with undead monsters. Luckily known of them aged my characters. Even the fight with the vampire king couldn't stand up to all the buffs.
I guess I went through these dungeons in the wrong order -- I forgot to return after becoming an Ultimate Adventurer
The Diabolical Maze was a bit tougher with minotaurs around nearly ever turn, although the buffs made even those battles a cake walk. Both dungeons allowed for teleport, so getting through them if you know exactly which squares to hit is rather quick. I picked up both hologram cards I was missing, and 6 orbs in total (the maze had 4). King Tumult provided the Blue Priorty Pass Card, and the title of Champion of Good.
I guess this is just another level of access, but I was expecting a bit more to happen after I drank from it
With that card in hand I went straight for the pyramid on Fire Isle. The only hazard to this area were the terminator enemies with seemingly only a single weakness: Implosion, which has a chance of doing 1000 damage. This led to a lot of party wipes if they happened to kill off my sorcerer. Through many reloads, I pushed forward, and finally stumbled upon Corak and Sheltem dueling. As I entered the area, Sheltem escaped as Corak was distracted by my presence. They both entered tubes, and I followed using the passwords received from Greywind and Blackwind.
A short cutscene showed an escape pod leaving Terra as we followed Sheltem and Corak
The tube led to a pod where we learned Terra was an experiment of the Ancients to create a land commanded by the four elements, where settlers could live. Sheltem was to act as custodian, preparing the land; however, something went wrong when the first settlers arrived. Sheltem treated them as invaders. Corak was created to correct Sheltem, and they've been warring ever since. The party, Sheltem, and Corak flew on to the next experiment, and the next adventure.
I'm not sure which shrines this was referring to
The final score followed the cutscene in the pods, but there was another hallway with even more terminators that I save-scummed down in order to find the statues that gave me the password to provide to the Ancients. I'm guessing the game originally came with a postcard to send back to New World Computing with that password and score. Of course, if I were going to do that I might have explored more to find every secret the game has to offer. But, there's a long list of games ahead of me, and this isn't the version I'd want to do it with.
This terminal offered some additional information, but wouldn't accept any of the passwords I had... a secret for another time
Elapsed Time: 2h49m (Final Time: 60h53m)

Combatant - The Might and Magic series, and this title is no exception, offers a very binary challenge. Fights are either too easy, or impossible. There's rarely any middle ground. Spells offered some variety, although it was difficult to gauge their effectiveness against each enemy. Once the right combinations of fountains were found though, all combat became trivial, and enemies rarely lingered long enough to enjoy their differences.
Rating: 7
The credits were found at a second terminal at the end of the hallway of terminators, and this is where I stopped the timer
Admirer - The variety of classes was nice in the beginning, but by the end there wasn't much difference between the fighters (except the knight who seemed capable of killing even minotaurs in a single hit). Portraits rarely changed to indicate status effects. The only ones represented were stone, death, and eradication. Spells remain locked to specific classes, so it was nice to have extra sorcerer and druid spells. This version takes some hits by the laggy controls. Party composition could take any form really, although I definitely don't recommend a party of robbers. A sorcerer allows for the quickest travel.
Rating: 4
Someone actually tested this game?!
Puzzler - The puzzles are the best part. Some are a little cryptic. Others are downright unfair (I still don't understand the Queen's countersign), but for the most part very enjoyable. I'm sure there's some way to reason through them all. Not knowing if something is on the main quest or just a side quest for additional rewards is a running theme to this series. This makes it seem there are multiple ways to get through the game, but those really necessary bits aren't too bad. Everything fits well into the world mostly because the story is based on being constructed. I went through a couple of pyramids after beating the game, and there were some plainly detailed answers to some of the puzzles.
Rating: 7
This one didn't seem like much of a puzzle
Instigator - The main story doesn't come to light until the end. Still, the puzzles drive towards answers that lead the party to the quest. Notes gathered while exploring eventually detail where the end game is, but the real revelation doesn't come until much later. The hints from the taverns are helpful in opening up the world for further exploration. In the end, the story felt present only for the need to put the puzzles into some context.
Rating: 5
Evidence that this game is less about the story, and more about the accomplishment
Collector - This game has one of the worst inventories, and worst economies that I've ever seen. Constantly dealing with a full inventory was the most annoying part of the game, even beyond the lag of transitioning every screen to get there. Add in key items that can't be traded or discarded, and it's completely unmanageable by the end. About the only thing this game does right is include a way to identify the strength of items. It also might be the first game to include achievements to mark a character's progress. There are 3 lines that I'm not sure what they are for, but I'm not going to play this version for another minute.
Rating: 5
In the final map I found an interspacial tranport box that enabled the party to jump to any map -- still a horrible mess to play
Explorer - Exploring the game was fun, really fun. I wouldn't have played for 5 hours at a time if it wasn't. The graphics and music were well done. The sound effects cut in and out, but weren't distracting. Finding strange things scattered through the world encouraged an unquenchable desire to explore more. The game is completely open from the beginning, and can probably be beaten very quickly, if you know what to do.
Rating: 8
The exposition that comes at the end details the whole story
Final Rating: 36 [60%]

Overall, this is a great game, and I recommend everyone give it a shot (on DOS, or some other PC version). There is a lack of feedback, but that could be a version thing as well. I'm not even sure where I used the hologram cards, if I did, or why I needed all 6. I didn't even use those passwords from Swamp Town, although they probably would have been useful in other pyramids. Even though I've beaten the game, I'm still thinking about it, and that's a sign of a memorable experience.

I probably won't say the same thing of the next game, Ninja Boy 2. It's difficult to determine where in the timeline this might fall (before, after, or an aside to the SNES game), but it's another adventure with Jack and Ryu. This year has been a bit slow on gaming, but I feel with this completion the remaining titles won't seem so long.

8 comments:

  1. The "passwords" you got from Greywind and Blackwind are the order you have to put the six hologram sequencing cards in. You can also find the order written on a wall in the last area.

    I can't imagine playing this on SNES. I think you can make a good case for playing some of the earlier computer RPGs on consoles (especially in the NES era) but I think by this point the computers had passed them by too much. It's a shame you're going to have to play so many of them -- this is the main reason I included "port" as a potential criteria for skipping a game. I don't mind playing the original version of a game that later got an enhanced port or remake, but it always bothers me to play a downgrade port.

    I wonder what's left in terms of these kinds of games? I know Ultima VII is on there, which makes my heart heavy because I consider U7 to be one of the best RPGs ever made for any platform, but the SNES port is an utter travesty.

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    1. That makes more sense. The terminal asked for the number sequence, never mentioning the hologram cards. I wonder if they were even necessary in this version. As mentioned in a previous post, there are no messages on walls, so unless a hint was from a statue or Moai head it doesn't exist in this version of the game.

      I've seen the TG-CD version in action, and it's more like the DOS version, so wouldn't be as bad. The SNES is just so much worse. They had two years between to implement it correctly, and cut a lot of corners to make it fit. Luckily, after the 16-bit era, there aren't as many ports. There comes a point where we go a whole gaming year without a console port, and then a game like Diablo pops up.

      I played U7 on SNES, although I don't recall it being that bad compared to when I played it on PC around the same time. I guess we'll see when we get there.

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    2. The hologram cards are indeed needed. The pod will send you away telling you so when you arrive with any less. The order can also be gotten by the heads in the pyramids, which spell out several of the passwords you need in the game.

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    3. But with 32-bit the RTS ports started to appear! And I think there are still plenty CRPG ports.

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    4. I don't know about plenty. There's still spattering of them throughout. I haven't counted for a clearer picture, but it feels like they dry up soon.

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  2. Also based on a comment you made on CRPGAddict: In the DOS version, when you make an attack, a splatter of blood appears over the enemy, and the splatter is bigger based on how much damage you're doing. So you don't get an exact number but you can see whether you're barely hurting the enemy or whether you're inflicting critical blows.

    I looked at a video of the SNES version and there's some kind of red X, but I don't know if that got bigger based on the damage? In the DOS version if you're doing a huge amount of damage the blood splatter is as large as the creature. You should take a look at a video of the PC version to see what it's like.

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    1. I don't remember a different size 'X', but I may have just noticed since in most combats I killed enemies with a single hit. Yeah, that would have been a bit better, but I'd rather see the numbers as it were.

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    2. IIRC the SNES one only knows to different sizes of X: Large for full damage and small for little. You almost never get the small one in close range combat though, unless the enemy is resistent to physical attacks. So you'll only really notice when shooting enemies at range often.

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