The Historian

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Blog Entries posted by The Historian

  1. The Historian
    How about a double shot today? The second entry for today? Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator. First released in 1999 for Windows, it made it to Mac in 2013 and Linux in 2017, both from GOG! No, this title never made it to consoles. It's one of the few titles in its genre that was PC only and has remained that way!
    Based on the cover art and name alone, it's quite possible to guess what genre this belongs to: the JRPG. However, it was not made in the East but here in the United States! However, it takes all of its design cues from turn-based JRPGs of the time like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger. As said, it's a turn-based RPG without random encounters! Anyway, the game follows the protagonist Maya (yep, female protag) and her party as they journey the different areas to find out the truth behind their planet, Septerra. There is a much greater emphasis on narrative development over combat, much like other JRPGs of the era.
    I haven't actually gotten to finish this one yet, but what I have played was definitely interesting and it gives a unique take on the genre from outside the core turn-based RPG world. Yes, the game is flawed and not perfect. But, if you look past the rough edges, there is a true gem to be found. If you're a fan of JRPGs or want a take on the formula from a Western developer, give this a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
  2. The Historian
    Today's random game is Dune, originally released in 1992. Released first for DOS, it started life as a 5.25" floppy but also has 3.5" diskette and CD releases. Interestingly, this title wasn't actually ported to Windows based on my research but did, for some reason, get a Sega CD release. It was also released for the Amiga platform. My particular copy is an early release, being on 5.25" floppies.
    The game itself is a mix of real time strategy elements and adventure game elements. The game itself loosely follows the book and uses the 1984 film for visual inspiration. The player is put in the shoes of Paul Atreides and must gather spice for Emperor Shaddam IV. The strategy elements come in the form of gathering spice, protecting each sietch and assaulting Harkonnen locations. The adventure game is a bit like the dungeon-crawling type and there are side quests as well. It's quite a varied game, especially for its time. Ambitious but executes well!
    If you're a big fan of Dune, I recommend this one. It does a decent job of capturing the world of Dune. For what it is, it has a surprising amount of depth to it. Even if you're not a huge fan of Dune and like sci-fi adventure games, it's worth a look. The strategic elements make this title varied and enjoyable.
  3. The Historian
    Today's entry in the game posting series is an unusual one - Kronolog. As the subtitle indicates, it's an alternate history where the Nazis have won WW2. Released in 1993, it's a graphic adventure in style of LucasArts and Sierra fare. Since it came towards the tail end of that genre's popularity without multimedia features, it lost some of its potential impact.
    As the title indicates, this is an alternative history where the Nazis stole plans for the Manhattan Project and bombed Boston where it caused the Allies to surrender entirely. Set in 2020, the p[lot follows the extreme problems introduced by the Nazi leadership. Rather than fighting for liberation, the player character is a man looking for his son who he lost. Even being slightly outdated and clunky, the story and atmosphere are still interesting with a unique take on the "Nazis win WW2" alternate history.
    While I find the game to be interesting despite its flaws, if you're not interested in this type of alternate history or not already a fan of late 80s and early 90s adventure games, I don't think I can fully recommend this one. It's quite niche and is not for everyone. That said, it is still quite intriguing.
  4. The Historian
    Yes, it has been a while since my last one of these. But the series resumes today with an actual hidden gem: Strife. Released originally in 1996, Strife is a first-person RPG-esque shooter created using the id Tech 1 engine, sometimes known as the "Doom engine." While Strife doesn't have true RPG elements, it has a town hub and 'safe' locations where you can talk to NPCs and don't have to worry about combat.
    The game itself is set in a dystopic future society ruled by a group that is only known as "The Order." Much like most groups in dystopic fiction, The Order is very authoritarian and limits the freedom of everyone who lives under them. Naturally, a rebel group surfaces to take them down and that is where you, the player, come in upon finding the town hub and a specific group of rebels. Unlike most other games from the era, Strife has multiple endings, which are determined by a specific decision during the main plot.
    The term hidden gem gets thrown around quite frequently, but few games actually qualify. Strife is a very undervalued gem from the mid-90s that shows what can be done with the id Tech 1 engine. I have an original 1996 release but the game is available digitally as "The Original Strife: Veteran Edition." I highly recommend this one.
  5. The Historian
    Today's post is a little different and it starts a slightly different series of posts. Today's post isn't a game, but it's still a big box. Anyhow, once upon a time, unofficial "addons" that were sold in stores were a thing, and it was common in the US, Europe and Russia. These "addons" were not authorized by the creators of the games they were for, except for some rare exceptions! The discs themselves usually contained things like utilities, maps, campaigns and, often times, cheats and trainers. They were popular before the days of constant Internet access so more people could enjoy fan-made content.
    Today's shovelware big box is Stellar Forces for Starcraft. Released in 1998, this particular addon was yanked mere weeks after Micro Star released it. Blizzard sued them and forced them to recall all unsold copies, which were subsequently destroyed. The reason Blizzard had this 'expansion' recalled was that Micro Star's previous expansion for Diablo was of very poor quality and they didn't want this poor quality product associated with their new title.
    Because the remaining copies were destroyed, copies of this particular Starcraft 'addon' are extremely hard to come by. Discs alone are uncommon, jewel cases with the artwork are even more rare but a complete boxed copy, like mine, is exceedingly rare. This fell into my lap and I didn't even have to pay inordinate amounts of money to get it.
  6. The Historian
    And we continue the Random Game Post series with another very early home PC game: Temple of Apshai. Technically, it's part of the "Dunjeonquest" series of games by Automated Simulations. The series later became an Epyx title. Temple of Apshai was first released all the way back in 1979 for the Commodore PET and the TRS-80! The copy that I have is, obviously, a cassette edition for the Commodore 64, released in 1983.
    Given that the game was first released in 1979, it does not have much in the way of fancy graphics or sound. It is, however, a very early progenitor of the 'roguelike' branch of games, and is quite similar to the game Rogue, also from the same era. Temple of Apshai is a top down, dungeon crawling game where the player explores a multi-level dungeon filled with monsters and treasures to find and loot, which is like the games of today, albeit more primitive. In terms of games from the earliest days of home PCs, Apshai is up there with Ultima and Wizardry, only a bit less well known.
  7. The Historian
    Today's entry is the somewhat underrated point-and-click adventure game: Beneath A Steel Sky. It was first released in 1994 for the Amiga and DOS. The copy I have is actually Argentinian, though I'm not entirely of its release date in that region. The cover art on this one is the variant used for every region except North America for some reason. Not sure why the US got a subpar version of the cover.
    Anyhow, as stated, it's a point-and-click adventure game, much like those put out by LucasArts and Sierra. Interestingly, it's set in Australia during an alternate future where cities are owned and run by corporations, and the vast technological wasteland titled "The Gap." The story follows a man named Robert and his droid as they search one of the technological cities after his tribe was wiped out. It has a dark, dystopic sci-fi aesthetic and executes it quite well. Highly recommend.
  8. The Historian
    Since there was a little bit of EA bashing going on in a couple of threads, I figured it was time to give them a bit of love with one of the games they published from a bygone era - Starflight. Originally released in 1986 for IBM and Tandy computers, it received several releases afterwards, finding its way to DOS, Macintosh, Amiga, C64 and even the Atari ST. And even managed a console release for the Sega Genesis, or Mega Drive for you non-US readers, in 1991. A sequel was released first in 1989.
    As the title indicates, the game is set in sci-fi space and is a completely non-linear exploration game that progresses through cryptic clues gathered from transmissions from the space port or from successful communications with other alien species. What sets it apart is that the galaxy is unknown and must be explored. There is no order in which this must be done and there is a great deal of freedom in completing the game's over-arcing story.
    In case anyone's wondering, yes, it is indeed in a vinyl album style cardboard folder. Up until the late 1990s, there wasn't a unified packaging type for PC games. The copy I have is an original IBM/Tandy release from 1986. However, unfortunately, I'm missing the star map that came with it. If you're interested in picking up this game, make sure it has the manual. It's less manual and more galactic guidebook.
  9. The Historian
    Ah, Wizardry. This series, along with Ultima and the Might & Magic series were the early pioneers of the western-style RPG where the focus was more on the player and the elements of fantasy, more than walking through a story. However, the Wizardry series especially, had a great influence on later JRPGs, notably Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord was originally released all the way back in 1981 on the original Apple II! The copies I have, however, came later on. The "PC" version that I have came later in 1984 and my Japanese PC-88 copy in 1985.

    The game itself, given its age, is a very primitive first person dungeon crawler style game with the RPG elements one would expect from a game of this nature. Additionally, many of the game's elements are controlled through text options rather than through any sort of graphical elements. Even battles themselves are described through text and dialog rather than through anything visual. Perhaps disappointing by today's standards, but the game itself is quite compelling for its time and for its relatively simple nature.
    The goal for this particular entry into the Wizardry series is to explore the dungeon, collect treasure and gain experience to learn new skills, exactly like later titles in the RPG genre. Like many games, the primary goal is to defeat the arch-wizard who is, of course, the final boss.
    If you're looking to see the roots of one of the most wildly popular game genres of all time, it's hard to beat Wizardry.
  10. The Historian
    I'm gonna kick off the Random Game Post feature with an unusual entry in the Command & Conquer series: Sole Survivor.
    Released in 1997, this title followed the popular Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert DOS and Windows 95 entries in the franchise. Sole Survivor is a multiplayer only, survival-style game that allowed up to fifty-one players at the same time! Everyone only gets one unit and the goal, obviously, is to be the last one standing at the end. The gameplay is identical to Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert, and uses the original graphics from the franchise's first ever release. There were twenty-three units to select from, including the Tiberium-mutant life form the Visceroid and even some dinosaurs.
    Unfortunately for Sole Survivor, it did not perform nearly as well as Tiberian Dawn or Red Alert. Reviewers at the time were mixed and the game sold fairly poorly, making this one of the most rare Command & Conquer titles to be found. While not stellar, the game isn't too bad and can be fun for a lark with some friends since only one copy is needed to install, and a no CD kicks the disc requirement. All in all, an odd title in the franchise, but does not hold the title for the absolute worst. That distinction goes to Tiberian Twilight, the true black sheep of the franchise.
  11. The Historian
    Today, I bring you a double shot of Random Game Post! The second entry for today's agenda is the unusual HK Chinese game Dragonman! Released in 1999 for Windows by GameOne, Dragonman only saw a release in Hong Kong and in Cantonese and Mandarin.
    Truth be told, I don't know very much about this game. From what I've been able to find, the game is based on the Dragonman comic series, popular in HK and published by Jade Dynasty. The game looks to be a turn-based RPG, much like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy, albeit set in the Dragonman universe and told with a "comic expression system" style. Haven't found much else beyond the basics so I'm not sure if it's just ridiculously obscure or never made it to the West.