Thursday, November 17, 2016

King’s Field II for PlayStation (1996)

Original ad published in the October 1996 

edition of Electronic Gaming Monthly (no.87). 

Press to view or download image in higher resolution.

An enigmatic offering that sparked the Souls craze

Hardcore Demons Souls, Dark Souls, as well as Bloodborne fans know that From Software, the legendary Japanese studios that created those modern franchises, were responsible for a less known but equally important game that cemented what could be called the “unforgiving action RPG”. That game is called King’s Field and its sequel, featured in this post, still garners high esteem among the retro crowd. 

You would never know the link between the Souls series and King’s Field by looking at the ad rolled out in major video game publications during the last quarter of 1996, a time when the PlayStation was working hard to gain its footing in a market dominated—at the time—by Nintendo and Sega. But a game like King’s Field II would be exactly the type of product that Sony’s juggernaut would become legendary for: a game that was a the same time quirky, hard as hell, niche, and rich with lore. 

Even though the game only received average reviews, From Software detected an opportunity for high quality 3-D fantasy adventure games with good music, strong RPG fundamentals borrowed from the Ultima universe. Richard Garriot, the creator of that series, openly acknowledges that he himself borrowed a lot of ideas from the Dungeons & Dragons lore to create Ultima, which in turn apes the Lord of the Rings as the original water spring for high fantasy literature. I’m pretty sure the team that created the King’s Field games took a deep dive into Tolkien’s work, since the footprints left in their later games lead to the hobbit master himself. Take a look at the way dragons are portrayed: they are both greedy and evil, not giving a fuck about anything else.

Your average Kings Field II gameplay screen. Dark.
The team that created the print advertisement for KF II pulled a Smaug, showed their collective middle finger, and went to extreme lengths to make their material difficult to read. You have a faux-EGM styled review that is marked as an advertorial, divided in different sections that explain the details of the story and the gameplay. The problem is that the text is hardly readable at all, due to the absurd decision of including a pearl-colored font over a deep grey and brown background. This probably looked great on the computer screen, but is a nightmare to any printer that needs to calibrate the contrast just right. Lots of actual game screen are interwoven in the page layout, but, as you can see, are also very dark and hard to decipher. 

The clincher to this ad is the huge amount of copy. I understand that this is an advertorial, but the text within the advert ads up to 1,580 words. That longer than most EGM previews and about what you get in an average feature article! Another oddity is that the first page of the ad actually connect to the third page of the same ad, so, in reality, the ad was misplaced or the people who made it simply did not know that an even-numbered page would not be correctly formatted to fit the magazine. I spend years figuring out why the text abruptly ended on page 3 of the ad, only to find out that it was actually page 2, but I had to turn the page backwards to actually finish reading it! You can’t say From Software didn’t try hard enough to be original, even during the middle of the 90s. 

Take a look at the history of From Software in this neat video from IGN.

King’s Field II for PlayStation Print Ad (1996)

The King is Back, But His Field has Changed!

No more Mr. Nice King! He’s working for the dark side now! King Alfred, the Holy King of Verdite has fallen victim to the minions of evil, as ASCII entertainment brings in another installment of last winter’s hit PlayStation title Kings Field!

In Kings Field II, you will find the same gripping elements you found in the first King’s Field, only with even MORE of the fantastic elements that addicted you to the original.

An awesome new world lies before you as you embark on your new quest. ASCII obviously put in an incredible amount of work to make this new quest in the kingdom of Verdite as lavish and realistic as possible. This realism stems from the same technology that was used in King’s Field I, but this time, you have the entirety of the kingdom to explore!

Outdoors, inside castles, villages, underground passages and dungeons—all combine to make and intense world that will have you immersed within moments.

Make no mistake, this is no ordinary sequel. Numerous upgrades ad captivating elements mix with the most addictive points of the original top-selling adventure to bring you the hottest new title to hit the PlayStation this year. As you may recall from the first King’s Field, a 3D textured-mapped, 360º world of larger-than-life enemies lay before you on the monster infested island of Melanat. 

Shipwrecked on this island, you were to battle your way through levels upon levels of dungeons and monsters in search of the Moonlight Sword which was stolen from the King’s Throne in Verdite (the kingdom on the mail island).

Your character, Alexander, learned magic spells, grew more skilled with his sword, and was able to pick up and equipo any weapons, armor, or items found on the island. All of the elements of a winning RPG were packed into a first-person, Action/Adventure outer shells—bringing a very unique game to the genre which held the attention of most everyone. With vast improvements over the first, King’s Field II is bound to share the same success story!

One of the most riveting elements of the quest is the storyline has been greatly improved upon! I know that a lot of us  thought that the first King’s Field was plenty deep, but ASCII has gone above and beyond to make this sequel and experience that will draw you deep into the involved plot—disabling you from putting down your controller until every last Red Eye, DragoNewt, and Stool are driven from the kingdom!

You start out the game with an introduction which allows you the chance to find out what has been happening since Alexander brought back the Moonlight Sword to the kingdom of Verdite five years ago. A cool intro sequence complete with vice over and full-motion cinematic bring you into the world as the King’s son. Prince Austin Lyle Forester, a title that should have everyone in the kingdom bowing to kiss your feet. Unfortunately, your father—King John Alfred Forester I—has fallen to the will of the evil forces which are attacking your kingdom.

As you progress through the game to go out and save the world, you will have to talk to all walks of life in the kingdom. Eccentric Monks, irate mothers, indifferent soldiers, even an occasional enraged monster will have a few words for you. Your challenge, of course, is to win the favor of the people so they will give you the help you need as you try to learn new spells of magic, pass over rivers of lava, and collect threads of power that can sew your kingdom back together.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no “rocking at home with your crochet needles” game we’re talking about! You’ll come up against  some of the most frightening and powerful enemies since Clash of the Titans!

In addition to the game’s storyline, ASCII has also put forth a valiant effort to come up with humorous and stimulating dialog and characters to bring your quest to life. Such characters as Jack, a 100+ year old resident of Verdite with a more than stereotypical attitude and a funny senility about him, will bring sparks of humor that you’ll enjoy throughout the game! Even a bit of romance enter the quest as the scantly clad elf merchant, Lyn—who has held a flame for the prince since childhood—drops hints about her feelings that even a Golem could comprehend. 

Not ti forget about the CD quality sound, of course! King’s Field II has a wide selection of accompanying music to entreat your ears as you progress along your journey. Original scores are long enough to not sound repetitive and yet are so intruding as to distract from the ambience which they so artfully bring to the game. Other sound effects include terrifying wails, screams, and roars from the afflicted and from the enemy; thunderous explosions, the glorious sound of steel on steel during sword fights; and, of course, the exceptional Stereo effects that were such a notable achivement in the first King’s Field! You can actually tell how close you are to a monster by how load the eerie screeches and roars are—with some practice, you can even distinguish what you’re going to come up against around the next bend!

With all of the improvements over the original King’s Field, you may be worried that ASCII made changes in the intuitive control & easy-to-use pop-up menus. Well, let me put your mind at ease. ASCII did leave in some already refined elements that made the first King’s Field a roaring success. The intuitive control and pop-up menus remain unchanged for the most part. ASCII did, however, add a feature to the “System” meno which allows you to change the default button configuration to anything you want. This feature gives you just that much more control over how your game acts and reacts.

This much anticipated sequel to King’s Field would have done incredibly well even without the vast improvement. Just on the promise of the same quality in the beautiful 3D polygon graphics and intensity of gameplay, King’s Field II would have been a sell out game! But with improved sound, graphics, and storyline; along with a humongous world to explore, King’s Field II is destined to be one of the top sellers this holiday season and well into next year.

I would wish good luck to you, Prince Austin Lyle Forester…but you’re gonna need a lot more than luck to make it through this one!

Behind The Screams…

While the first King’s Field was a phenomenal success, ASCII wasn’t  satisfied with just putting out a sequel with the same great features that ase KF I a hit. So they put their best American team on the project working directly with From Software, Inc. of Japan to make King’s Field’s II the biggest, best, blow out game of the year.

Inside Edge

King’s Field II is immense. Your only hope of exploring the whole thing is to aquifer the Pixy Map early on in your quest. (It’s an automat which maps everywhere you go in the game.) Each village, castle, dungeon, and underground has its own map, so figuring out where you’ve been is as easy as pulling up your items menu.

To find the Pixy Map, you must make your way through Varde’s Forest (a maze just beyond the castle in the first town). Once you’ve made it through the maze, you’ll receive this map along with another important item.

To receive the Pixy Map, you will have to talk to Verde, the character that holds it. It is important to speak with every character you come across every time you see them. Characters change what they say after you’ve visited other villages and villagers, so talk to them often! For reference, your character keeps a log of all conversations automatically.

Behind the SCREAMS (this is the actual copy of the ad, with a repeat of the subheading and capitalized letter)

It all started with a wish list. Design and Layout coordinator David “Commander” Silver and Production overseer, Mark “The Monk” Johnson (doubling as ASCII’s video game consultants ad age masters) were given the opportunity to make a wish list for everything they wished had been in KF I and everything that could have been better that was already in the game. Combining feedback information from the consumers via the On-line News Groups, registration card information, and their own ideas, they put together a list of upgrades that would make the ultimate game. After presenting the list to From Software, Inc. of Japan, ASCII also added Austin (as in “Prince”) Leininger to the ranks of the KF II team to help implement the upgrades and make KF II a smashing success.

“Rewriting the Japanese script was a blast”, quoth Austin. “It was the opportunity to actually create an entire script for a video game only limited by the original story line from Japan.”

The improvements over King’s Field I include…

Larger world to explore.
Outside areas of exploration.
CD Quality music and sounds.
Improved character definition and dialog.
Enhanced storyline and plot.
More fearsome enemies.
Enhanced weapons and magics.

And Much, Much MORE!

Photo captions: The face of the enemy!, Remember me? Shore ya do…it’s Leon Shore. Coe visit my house whenever you need a friend or a guide. Quote: “It’s so addictive, they’ll have to cut the power to my house to get me to stop playing!”. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment!