Well, I'm back. I played an awful lot of Ultima 7 SNES the past couple of days, and a high degree of disappointment is beginning to set in. I feel like the broken-ness that plagued Serpent Isle and Ultima VII is showing itself in this release as well. I say this because I spent about an hour wandering around Dungeon Stonegate yesterday, and eventually had to give up and load an old saved state because the dungeon appears to be insoluble. Understanding why this was required entails some understanding of the absurdity of the SNES Ultima VII dungeon system: When you enter a dungeon, you are teleported to a beginning spot in a maze and are unable to exit until you find a usually-weakling boss, kill it, and retrieve the "dungeon key" which can then be used on a particular kind of door, teleporting you out of the dungeon. Most of the dungeons are fairly small and repetitive, but they frequently have puzzles including levers, switches that look exactly like Ultima VI's wall switches, and even Zelda-esque holes in walls created via powder kegs. This is all well and good, except a decent percentage of the levers and switches don't seem to do anything at all. There are also keys, most of which look identical, and each of them goes to a particular type of door. Sadly, it seems that keys don't even exist for some of the doors in Stonegate (also true of Conceit, and probably other dungeons). Sigh!
The other thing I don't enjoy about the SNES Ultima 7 dungeons is something that was also an issue with the dungeons of Ultima IV and before: There's just no reason to go in except for quest items. I spent another hour earlier in the week exploring dungeon Conceit, and found nothing except junk--small amounts of gold, potions, and weapons already available from monsters. One of the fun aspects of Ultima VI and to a greater extent VII was that you never knew quite what you would find hidden in the depths! In this game I've become leery of doing any exploration because I might be wasting time and mapping.
I attached some screenshots. One is of the sea navigation system in Ultima VII--Hope you like selecting destinations from a map! Another features the Time Lord with some special purple tiles created just for him. Another includes a stone harpy from the dungeon that replaced Sutek's castle, and the remaining image is of the ethereal monster, which brings to mind another irritant: One of the townsfolk in Moonglow commented that Penumbra had been asleep forever andno one knew how to wake her, but maybe I could figure it out! Well, guess what? The provision shop sells an "awaken" potion! I guess no one thought of that? Anyway, they sold it for 1000 gold, which is pretty absurd given that most monsters drop only a handful of gold coins, maybe 3 or 4. Or else a turkey or a lockpick or one of several fairly crappy weapons. Fortunately, just like Ultima III, you can engage in absurdity to load up on the gold by repeatedly casting "lift" on a big rock near Minoc, fetching a stack of gold, entering a house, exiting, and repeating. That's how I earned enough for the potion and for the boat, which required 3000 gold.
As a final note, I was vaguely aware of the guy on a forum somewhere playing through all the Ultimas with extra screenshots. I seem to recall there were also some blogs for Zelda and for Dragon Quest, but I am not sure if they made it all the way. There's also a masochist out there who is going to play every RPG, and insists on avoiding save states, which seems impossible for some of those early, poorly balanced games where you are wiped out by a tough monster as soon as you enter the dungeon. If life were D&D I think he'd have a higher constitution than I.
I think the blog project the world *REALLY* needs is someone to write about playing every single Tetris-esque game ever made!