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Ultima: The Black Gate (SNES)

Ultima: The Black Gate SNES Nice title screen with a butterfly :)

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
1.9
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  אולג 小奥 (168699)
Written on  :  Feb 06, 2004
Rating  :  2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars2 Stars

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Summary

This port insults both the original and the intelligence of console players

The Good

Well, it is a port of "Ultima VII" for PC - the basic story is the same, although it is hard to believe... The character portraits, taken from the original game, are still wonderful. There is some sort of interactivity here - nothing to compare with the original, but interactivity nevertheless - you can pick up all sort of trash by examining it, and click on roasted chicken to eat it. There is a simple yet effective magic system, which is less confusing than the original one. The SNES port is much more user-friendly: you can't drop important objects, you get more clear directions, you don't have to solve most of the original game's puzzles... The graphics are nice - nothing really special, just okay graphics for a 1994 console game. The port is obviously not as buggy as the original version...

The Bad

This port makes the worst prejudices about console gamers seem true. Alas, if the PC community judges console players by this port, then we really have a problem here. I still can't understand how was it possible to make such a terrible port of such a great game. Holy buddhas and bodhisattvas, how could this happen?! Did they seriously think console gamers would fall for it? Did they think console gamers were idiots? Or maybe they wanted to simplify the game to make it suitable for kids? But you see, a great game for grown-ups can never remain great if it is adapted for kids. There are great children games, and they also can't be adapted for adults. Imagine such a thing as "Winnie the Pooh For Adults, Special Edition", or "Hamlet Made Easy". If you want to create a game for children, go and make it, but don't simplify and mercilessly strip a great game of everything it had! How and why did they do that?!

I don't know how they did it; but they did it. "Ultima VII" is no more. Instead of an engrossing, immersive adventure-RPG we have here a kiddie hack-and-slash game. They threw out everything. The dialogues are so simplified you can't recognize them any more. The NPCs are mumbling drones who stand there just to give you information. There is no Britannia any more: instead of wonderfully crafted, living locations you have generic towns that look all the same. Ninety percent of the game world was removed: you wander around through empty screens and tiny towns with two-three buildings each. Where is the fantastic interactivity of the original? You can't interact with anything, except clicking on something and taking or consuming it. The houses are disastrously hollow and lifeless, as are the characters. You don't have a party, you have to wander around alone, slashing enemies by repeatedly clicking on them. You can't decide anything in the game: you travel from town to town, periodically buying or finding weapons and armor, doing only what you are supposed to do. The story, told the way it was told in this port, is boring and unoriginal. Where is the magnificent style of the original, its unique language, its humor, its unforgettable characters, Britannia with its history, tradition, culture?! How could they throw it all out of the window? What was the point of making this port?!

"Ultima VII" for SNES is a standard Zelda clone in best case. But it has none of Zelda's charm that made it so appealing to younger players. This is just your average hack-and-slash pseudo-RPG about a generic noble hero who has to save a generic land from a generic villain. Maybe I'm being unfair to this game. Maybe I would like it if I never played the original. But it is impossible to make anyone like a port of "Ultima VII" that only looked like "Ultima VII" from outside, but in fact had nothing to do with it. What would console players think of "Ultima VII"? "Oh, I know this game, it's a nice RPG, a bit like Zelda; nothing special". Or perhaps they had something against console players? Perhaps they wanted them to stay away from the series? A ridiculous thought, but how also is it possible to explain this port?

You would probably say it was impossible to port the engine of the original game to the SNES, that the console would never be able to digest the amount of programming that went into the PC version, and so on. In this case, I can only say one thing: don't port the game. Better not to port it at all than to make a port like this! If you can't adequately recreate a complex PC-style RPG on a console, then simply don't try doing it. Consoles have a different tradition of RPGs and have many great RPGs that were also never ported to the PC. Shin Megami Tensei and Final Fantasy series, Shadowrun, Live a Live, Chrono Trigger are all up in the same league with the original PC version of "Ultima VII". They are just different. Different and good, unlike this port of "Ultima VII", which is different and bad.

The Bottom Line

Just don't think console games are trash and console gamers are idiots because of this port. PCs have great games that consoles don't have, and vice versa. There are enough intelligent, deep, and fascinating RPGs particularly for the Super Nintendo console. And if you are really into good action RPGs for children, there are always Zelda or Enix' action RPG series. No need to insult console gamers and the original version of the game with this port of "Ultima VII".

The bottom line is: get SNES in order to play Final Fantasy VI, Shadowrun, Live a Live, and Shin Megami Tensei. But if you want to play "Ultima VII", get a PC.