Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds (1992)

Original ad featured in the July 1992 edition of GamePro magazine.
Press to view or download image in higher resolution.

A classy RPG gets some handsome marketing 

The Wizardry series represents one of the more fortunate collaborations between Japan and the Western world. It was originally developed in the West by Sir-Tech for Apple machines, yet gained a second life when Japanese developer Asciiware re-released it on popular consoles like the NES. The second installment of the game was a continuation of that logic.

To all of you who arrived late to the RPG party, there are basically two genres that encompass the whole enchilada: Western-type RPGs and Japanese-type RPGs. The first ones are strongly related to the Lord of the Rings-Dungeons and Dragons lore and, generally, feature long dungeon crawls were lots of text is displayed. You also generally are required to physically draw a map of your advance within the dungeon to get out of it. 

Japanese RPGs, at least in the early years, were more turn-based oriented, graphic, open-spaced, and featured crazier storylines that diverged from the the traditional LOTR mythos. There's still a huge debate over this topic, but the original defining lines are clear. There's a very distinct "feel" to each one that cannot be easily explained over the internet.

Yet the Wizardry series became a hit in Japan. Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds was actually released for Apple machines in 1982 but was re-released for the NES in 1992! Not only that, it was later ported to other 32-bit systems. There's a bunch of additional info here, if you consider yourself a hardcore gamer.

Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds is basically the epitome of a classic Western RPG: lots of dungeons, lots of corridors, generous amounts of text and oodles of menus. The console version of the game is considered a refinement of the original Mac release, with some slight changes made for technical reasons that actually make the gaming experience more enjoyable.

Ironically, both Wizardry and Ultima would influence hugely Japanese development of RPGs to the extent that the whole "Dark Fantasy" aspect of it is well alive in the highly regarded Demons Souls/Dark Souls series, created by From Software, based in Japan. The link is clear, at least to some. Heavy focus on stats? Check. Huge dungeon-like spaces to traverse with scattered save locations? Check. Tough, unrepenting,  enemies? Check. Level grinding? Check. Emphasis on item obscurity? Check.

The love of the series by Japanese gamers was enough to warrant an OVA that was released in 1991, based on the first Wizardry. It's a very good watch and highly attractive to anyone who enjoyed the magnificent Record of Lodoss War (itself a Japanese take on the whole Lord of the Rings phenomenon). Thanks to YouTube, you can evaluate if its worth your import cash (the OVA was only released in Japan).

As for the actual artwork itself, I think it stays true to the Wizardry pedigree. It's undeniably nerdy, but cool. It has a very coherent copy, highly targeted to its niche audience. As you can see, there are no game screens (not really competitive even by 1992 standards), but the game-box itself has an undeniable charm to it: the dragon, the golden seal, the book in the upper right. Very solid.

Wizardry: Knight of Diamonds print ad copy

Get your Ph.D in RPG

We’ve captured a special kind of magic in Knight of Diamonds, the Second Scenario. If you’ve ever played Wizrdry, you won’t find anything like it on the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is role playing at the highest level—a game in a class by itself. Soon, you’ll find out what experienced players already know—playing Wizardry isn’t easy. But stopping is even  tougher.

This is what you got into role-playing for.


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