Monday, July 17, 2017

Game #71: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra (SNES) - A Glitch in Timing

Game 71

Title: Might and Magic III: Isles of Terra
Released: Jan 1995 (1993 TG-CD)
Platform: SNES
Developer: Iguana Entertainment (New World Computing [PC])
Publisher: FCI
Genre: RPG
Exploration - First-person
Combat - Turn based
Series - Might and Magic

I might be playing this game, at the very least this version, a bit early, but I have a good reason. I have a policy of playing any version at the time of the first release, and that's what I'm doing here. The TurboGrafx-CD version is incredibly expensive and difficult to find, and I couldn't confirm it had mouse support (or if the TG even had a mouse released in the US). As one of the few SNES games to support the mouse, I felt this would be the better experience. I'm not sure why then I decided to use a controller instead, but I'll attribute it to trying out a different experience.
Only one save game is allowed
Like most Might and Magic titles, the majority of the story is in the manual. It follows a band of adventurers as they seek ancient ruins where a scroll was said to reside. Sheltem was once again behind some brewing evil about to unleash on the world. As I began, it was unclear what this story had to do with the party I controlled. Starting year is 500, this game appears to be a prequel.
Every new game begins with the premade party standing in front of the inn in Fountain Head. It's not a bad group, but I always feel better creating my own characters. The roster is restricted to 10, so I deleted the original (getting their items beforehand) in order to create a new full party. To create a character I selected character portraits (race and sex that are locked to these), stats rolled randomly with the option to swap them, and alignment (good, neutral, evil) that only comes into play with equipment in this series.
Unless gnomes are supposed to be green I have a feeling they mixed up the portraits
Available class is determined by the character's current stats. Classes come in a normal variety of fighter (barbarian), cleric, thief (robber), mage (sorcerer), and druid in this game with the addition of hybrid classes of each one with a fighter for knight, paladin, ninja, archer, and ranger. I don't know if it'll become necessary to have one of each. There are also mercenaries in each town. They take up one of the six positions in the party though, so I'm not quite sure what use they are at this time.
I'm not sure if it's just this version, but the party begins in an obscene amount of gold and gems
With the party fully formed (knight, paladin, cleric, robber, druid, sorcerer), I set out exploring the first town. I quickly found Fen's Fineries, which sells additional equipment. I bought a second bow, and outfitted everyone with additional armor (so far I know of helms, gloves, boots, chests, cloaks, and shields--there may be more). The manual is light on information about equipment; about the only thing it covers in any detail are spells.
Noting the location of the temple before I need it
Fountain Head also has a tavern, training ground, bank, and magic guild operating on a day/night cycle. Time progresses only when taking actions, which remains true even when distant monsters appear on the display. There are also fountains throughout that ooze green slime. At a prompt I threw a coin into one, and a group of three bubble men appeared assaulting the party. I fear some sinister force is behind this. Not too difficult, I repeated the process until I had enough experience for level 2.
Getting a tip from the tavern keeper--make sure not to "eat" too much otherwise the character gets "stuffed"
While exploring, the party has options in the side panel to shoot arrows, cast a spell, rest for 8 hours to replenish HP and MP, bash forward, dismiss a character, consult quest log, view the auto-map (if a character has cartography--which is easy since there's a skill teacher near the bank), check the time, and get a status overview of the party. Selecting a character portrait brings up additional details on that character and their inventory. The gem on the bottom of the main display opens the system menu to save and load the game. The gems in the corners indicate elemental resistances for the party, and the gargoyle faces in clockwise order from the left indicate an active levitate spell, nearby enemies if a character has danger-sense, and likewise secret doors if a character can sense them.
HP of characters and enemies are displayed as colors: grey > Max HP, green = Max HP, yellow < Max HP, red = near 0, blue <= 0 HP
Characters that drop to 0 HP or lower are potentially only unconscious. They're only dead once their portrait is replaced by a headstone. There are gates throughout the city that only open with a good bashing. Bashing down a door takes a skill check of the first two conscious characters to succeed, and whether successful or not damages them in the process.
It took me way too long to find the exit as I thought it was merely another door to bash down
The menu changes to combat options when enemies are within melee range: attack, cast, use item, run (per character), and block. There is also an option to set a default choice for each character to streamline combat a bit. During these early battles I haven't found a need for anything other than attack. Unlike previous Might and Magic titles, gold and item rewards from combat are given automatically once all enemies in the area are vanquished. Some enemies, like the bubble men, don't give any reward. So far, these early enemies drain resources far faster than I'm rewarded. Hopefully things balance out eventually. Unfortunately, I haven't made much progress in the game due to a strange bug. I had trouble determining the cause as I couldn't find anyone else that wrote about it online.
The game can potentially lock up and wipe the saved game
At first I thought it was the cart, but I tried the same cart again.
I had to go back through the videos before I noticed it always happened after the same action
I ordered a second cart. It happened again, which had me thinking it was my SNES.
I wonder which part of memory this is...
I then tried on emulator, and reproduced it there.

I definitely wasn't expecting this, but it helped determine it wasn't related to my hardware
It was then I went back to the videos and confirmed it always happened when I used the shoot command after moving, but not every time. I think using a mouse prevents it completely due to timing differences with the input, which would explain why there's no info about it online. So, because I decided to try something different by using controller, I lost weeks of progress, but uncovered a bug no one seems to have discovered or at least bothered to log online. Word of advice for anyone playing this version: use mouse, it's faster and doesn't have this issue (so far).
I re-rolled my party for hopefully the last time as I consider just burning the whole place down
Having some more experience with the game I adjusted my party to knight, ranger, archer, ninja, cleric, sorcerer. I feel like this combination will serve me a bit better. I've already been taking down enemies quicker with arrows fired by the archer. Burning the goblin infested wagon rewarded me with experience and some magical equipment (including a belt of luck).
I wonder how necessary the quests given by the fortuneteller will become as they aren't logged in the quest log
One of the biggest changes to the series is the addition of quests tracked in a log. The game begins with one regarding Fountain Head and the cleaning up the green ooze, and I've been focusing on clearing out the caverns below town to rid it of the ooze. As I explored I found two other quests: ultimate orbs of power are requested by King Righteous of Castle Whiteshield, and 5 silver skulls are necessary for some ritual by an aged man named Skull Miser. As I've been clearing out the caverns below the town I've found those skulls slowly, and expect to have all five by the time I finish.
There are also some vague quests such as this... I'm sure I'll learn more about them as I proceed
Inside the caverns below Fountain Head were bats that poisoned, barrels to search, and completely visible unavoidable traps that taunted me as I had to walk through them . The bats were fairly weak yet quick, and often acted before I could. Their poison, and possibly all poison, drains stats rather than hit points. Cure poison is an 8th level spell, far out of reach. Barrels usually have gold, although some have permanently increased stats, and still some are damaging or instant death. Wanting to ensure the increased stats went to the relevant class, I started saving before the barrels and loading if, say, my knight gained wisdom. A potential problem presented itself, doors I had bashed were shut again when I loaded. This, coupled with poison that drained my might, meant I could "soft lock" myself behind one of these doors leaving the only way out my last resort of contacting Mr. Wizard. Calling on this power returns the party to Fountain Head at the cost of 1 level per character, not too bad at this low level yet still a pain. I think now I'll avoid the possibility by only saving in towns.
I have 20K gold and 300 gems in the bank accruing interest
By the end of this last session I've finally caught up to all I did through all the other false starts, and then some. A game can go so quickly when you have a little knowledge. Like knowing my sorcerer can't forgo a weapon and hold both a mind whistle and fast horn.
Identifying an item is the only way to know exactly what it does, and costs 10% of the price of the item
Now with all that trouble out of the way I can start enjoying the game. This is the first where auto-mapping is so prevalent that I'm risking not making my own maps. I am taking notes of interesting locations, but the auto-maps seem to stick around indefinitely. Making my own maps, while enjoyable, would take up even more time.

Elapsed Time: 2h32m (Total Time: 12h57m) [yes, that's 10h25m of false starts--I'm not sure if I should continue to count the full time.]


  1. Wow, that's a pretty severe bug to have escaped notice. I'm surprised you're shelling out cash for this, I assumed the games were being played via emulation.

    I loved the SNES Mouse as a kid. I had Mario Paint to use it with (of course), but also King Arthur's World, a fun action/strategy game with excellent mouse support and oddly, Dolby Surround sound of some sort.

    1. Yeah, I was really surprised when it happened, and more so when I couldn't find a record of it anywhere online.

      I enjoy playing on actual hardware, and I figured later on it'll be a necessity with more obscure or newer systems that aren't emulated as well. I'm not really a collector though, so as I go through each year I sell off the games I'm done with and buy up the next few along the line.

      King Arthur's World is one of my favorite SNES games. I disagree on the mouse support; I always found controller easier to handle the game. Still, it was nice to see support for the often overlooked peripheral. Aside for this game, I can't think of another on console that worked better with a mouse over controller.

    2. The SNES port of AD&D: Eye of the Beholder might be better with the mouse instead of the controller, I wouldn't know, I've never played that version.

      I would have loved for King Arthur's World to have a multiplayer mode or a multiplayer game like it today.

    3. There's a multiplayer game stylized after it called King Arthur's Gold. I haven't played it, but the trailers make it seem more like Terraria, so I haven't been interested in picking it up.

      I just looked up a list, and didn't realize how many SNES games supported it. I spoke a bit hastily with that blanket statement. Too bad Dungeon Master isn't on this list, but strangely Lord of the Rings: Vol 1 is.

    4. My biggest fear of playing on actual consoles is save deletion. I don't trust 25 year old carts, although I guess you can replace the batteries. My second issue with playing on the console is not being able to speed up or cheat at awful games.

      However, I'm strongly considering buying used copies of the games for my blog so that I can see the instruction manuals to know what information I'm supposed to have access to. It seems like a decent number of the SFC RPGs are available with box and manual on ebay for <$20.

    5. I figure the chances of a battery stopping in the middle of me playing is lower if the battery is working when I first start the game up. I could be wrong, but so far only Dragon Warrior II had issues with battery. I switched to emulation at that point instead of purchasing a new cart. I got a new cart for this game because it was relatively inexpensive.

      Having the instruction manual is very helpful for many of the games since they assumed you'd have it. Also, these games don't really drop in value, so recouping that money when you're done with the game isn't too bad.

      I don't plan on ever using speed up or cheats, so that really isn't a problem for me. Of course, I haven't had to deal with the same issues I've seen on your blog.

  2. I loved this game on PC. I've probably played it 4 times plus a few tries at a single character win. I was never able to do it because I always lacked access to vital spells like Walk on Water or Fly. Two characters would be doable, I think. In some ways I think this is better than the Xeen games because it's not quite as sprawling and chaotic.

    1. Depends on what you consider a single character win. Did you allow yourself hirelings? Currently, I can see the lack of water walk as an issue. There's no fly spell though, at least not on the SNES. Not sure if it's in the PC version, but it was in the first two games.

      With all the warps though, you could probably manage without water walk if you knew where they all were. It's a bit sad this is the last Might and Magic on console.

  3. Years ago when I played on Snes i was able to do this bug to my benefit. It would give me something like 336 mil + gems + exp + random items. Was sweet and help cheatsy beat game but I found it just bugs out emulator copies. I just play that way with move and shooting. Would be nice to have a copy that doesnt so i can play more legit.

    1. Running into an exploit like that probably would have ruined the experience of playing through the game even more than the save wiping crash bug.

  4. One of my favorite game growing up, but I could never get really far because of that damned bug. Every physical copies I tried were the same and same thing for emulation.

    I guess I owe you a big thank you for explaining how to bypass the problem. I found out the source of the bug like you, but couldn't figure out a solution since I only played with controller.


    1. It was really interesting that this bug wasn't documented on any forums or sites dedicated to the game. I'm glad to have helped at least one person get past it.

  5. I played this game on SNES in my youth and really enjoyed it. Thanks for the write-up.

    I remember encountering a bug one time that left me with insane amounts of gold and experience. Kind of like the person above mentioned. I never knew what caused it but it was certainly helpful.

    1. I can see that helping get through the game, but for me, most of the experience of playing through these games are for the incremental gains and challenge of getting through it with the limited resources I have. I'm glad that glitch didn't happen when I played through.

  6. A brutal bug. I had it wipe out 15 hours of progress on my cart last year. I finally started a fresh playthrough via emulator, and will rely 100% on save states now.

  7. Sorry I'm a wee bit late, I just discovered this site this morning haha. I played this game a LOT back in the day, regular SNES cart. I really enjoyed it though I gotta' say it's not nearly as good as M&M2 was. Also moving around and doing most anything in this game is reeeeeeally slow. Like the inputs are delayed or something. You get used to it, but it's definitely noticable.