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Quickie Reviews U-Z

 Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness (Origin Systems, 1981/1987/1986/1987/1989/1990/1994)

The first game to bear the Ultima name, and while it is a more technologically impressive game than Akalabeth, the gameplay remains essentially the same at its core - talk to a king, get a quest (usually to kill a monster or find a specific place in the world), then return for a reward.  Some new elements make their way into the mix, though - the dungeons remain in a first-person perspective, but the game features an overworld map with four distinct worlds to navigate (some of which would be revisited in later Ultimas).   Shops are now a prevalent part of the game too, with the player able to buy and sell equipment, food, HP and even vehicles to aid in their quest (and even resell older gear for a bit of extra cash). Things later take a turn for the downright surreal when one goes from a fairly average Tolkien-inspired fantasy world to something distinctly more science fiction - aircars, spaceships, laser guns and powered armor begin to appear in the later stages, as does a segment where one must shoot down twenty spaceships (resembling Star Wars' famous TIE Fighters) in order to complete a particular quest.  The game is relatively simple at its core, but the lack of grinding compared to its followup games, as well as its uniquely strange atmosphere, make it hold up the best of the original Ultima trilogy.

Publisher:California Pacific Computer Company, Origin, Sierra On-line, Electronic Arts, Pony Canyon, Fujitsu, Vietesse Inc.
Platform: Apple II, Atari 8-Bit, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX2, FM Towns, Apple IIGS

Ultima II: The Revenge of the Enchantress (Richard Garriott, 1982)

Ultima's second entry takes the weirdness of the first even further, largely taking place on an Earth overrun by evil monsters and letting the player travel between several time periods, each with their own world map layout and secrets to find.  Once one finds a spaceship, they can even explore nine other planets within the solar system (the tenth being "Planet X"), each of which has some unique and strange sights of their own.  However, nearly all of this side content - and indeed, every dungeon in the game - is completely optional, with only a small handful of areas actually being required to visit for game completion.  Much of the game's focus is on bare grinding - defeating particular types of enemies to earn experience, which in turn causes stronger enemies to spawn.  Defeating certain types will drop items, allowing the player to breach new boundaries (for example, one requires a Blue Tassel to sail a pirate ship, which requires defeating pirates in battle.  Pirates and ships only begin to spawn at level 5 or higher).  One must also grind a lot of cash to purchase equipment, items and food, as well as visit the Hotel California and pay money to raise their stats.  This, paired with the minimal plot, makes this feel much closer to a utilitarian monster bash-fest than any other Ultima game in the series.  It's still worth a look for the oddness of its setting and design, but not an Ultima game I revisit very often.

Publisher: Sierra On-Line, Origin Systems
Platform: Apple II, Atari 800, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, FM Towns, Macintosh, MSX2, NEC PC-9801, FM-7

Ultima III: Exodus (Origin Systems, 1983)

A year after Ultima II, the third game was released, upping the ante even further for both the series and the genre.  Featuring animated player sprites (a rarity at the time) and a party system that allowed up to four characters to venture across the land together at once, Exodus upped the stakes in other ways too.  One can now interact with the world and characters in surprisingly clever ways - bribing guards to leave their posts, pickpocketing people to earn extra money, and buying horses to traverse the landscape quicker, avoiding enemies and consuming less food as one travels just to name a few.  As per the previous game, there are plenty of secrets to find, but grinding experience and cash is still a big part of the experience - leveling up boosts one's maximum HP, while finding money is required to purchase equipment and food.  Dungeons are required once again, containing important clues as well as four "Marks" which grant the player new abilities necessary to finish the game.  There is a lot to do in Ultima III, and it all feels well-integrated and significantly less grindy than the second, making this a simple but enjoyable early CRPG adventure.

Publisher: Origin Systems
Platform: Amiga, Apple II, Atari 800, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MS-DOS, FM-7, Macintosh, MSX2, NES, NEC PC-8801, NEC PC-9801, Sharp X1

Ultima: The Black Gate (SNES) (Origin Systems, 1994)

How do you take a sprawling, expansive and massively interactive open world game like Ultima VII and port it to a console?  Well, you can't, really; you'd either need to invest in a massive amount of ROM space for your cartridges (which would probably be passed on to customers, resulting in low sales) or you need to basically make an entirely new game that only faintly resembles the original.  The Black Gate is a case of the latter, reimagining the experience as a top-down dungeon crawler slightly reminiscent of the Zelda titles.  The problem, though, is that it lacks any of the polish that Zelda had; dungeons are extremely samey and tedious, and combat is nothing short of a chore.  As there is no post-hit invincibility period, even a lowly rat can drain your health in the blink of an eye and kill you, to say nothing of giants and orcs.  Hit detection with your own weapons is awkward and seemingly sporadic, the plot has been trimmed down to bare basics, there are no other party members to recruit or play as, and, owing to Nintendo's content policies of the time, violent and sexual content is scrubbed; enemies simply vanish when killed, and the murders that drove the plot are changed to "kidnappings".  Basically, it's a linear action game with only light RPG elements now, and not even a particularly good one, especially when compared to games like Zelda or the Quintet franchise.  A slap in the face to an immortal classic that's only worth a look as a morbid curiosity.

Publisher: FCI/Pony Canyon
Platform: SNES, PSP (As part of the EA Replay compilation)

Ultima: Escape From Mt. Drash (Sierra On-Line, 1983)

An extremely rare title released exclusively on the VIC-20 computer system in its twilight days.  Despite the name, though, it doesn't resemble Ultima whatsoever in terms of design, instead being more of a simple dungeon crawler - each floor gives you 99 seconds to navigate a simple 8x8 maze and reach the end.  Combat is a strange affair, putting the player in a side-view and having them position their character and try to hit a specific point on the enemy's body with a timed button press before they approach too closely and take one of their few "lives".  The problem, though, is that the game isn't particularly fun; the mazes get very samey after a while, and though the combat seems simple, landing hits is irritatingly precise, making getting through the game a source of extremely tedious trial-and-error and luck rather than a test of skill.  Because of this, as well as being released in the late days of the VIC-20, the game is extremely rare, with copies now selling for thousands of dollars. A complete copy of the tape has never been made available online to deter counterfeiting, making it hard to even emulate.  It may be worth trying out the fan remake for PC platforms briefly as an odd curiosity, but if you've got a few thousand dollars to burn, I can safely say that this one simply is not worth the asking price.

Publisher: Sierra On-Line
Platform: VIC-20, PC (Fan remake)

Ultima: Runes of Virtue (Origin Systems, 1991)

A spinoff of the legendary CRPG Ultima series developed in-house by Origin themselves.  Of course, being released on the lowly Game Boy meant that this wouldn't be the usual brand of adventure in a dense, well-realized fantasy world.  In fact, there's only the barest minimum in terms of plot or characters and the gameplay is changed up to be more of a Zelda-like experience, putting heavy emphasis on traversing traps, solving puzzles and fighting monsters.  In that regard, the game is decent, but definitely not on level with the Zelda games - combat in the game is clunky at best, with the player only able to fire one projectile at a time and enemies attacking relentlessly, draining the player's health in moments (and crowding into doorways and teleport landing points, ensuring that you have to take several hits to get through).  You're frequently forced to take damage to progress and puzzles often boil down to tedious trial-and-error, with one mistake usually forcing you to either reset the system or exit the dungeon completely in order to try again - not a good thing when each one has multiple floors and several puzzles to complete.  It is at least notable for being the first Ultima game to feature multiplayer gameplay (via the system's Link Cable), but I doubt too many people have ever done that.  Runes of Virtue is a decent little crawl for the year and platform it came out on, but it's only worth a look for die-hard Ultima fans today.

Publisher: Fujisankei Communications International
Platform: Game Boy

Ultima: Runes of Virtue II (Origin Systems, 1993/1994)

Runes of Virtue wasn't a particularly popular game even in its time, but being portable lent it a certain appeal; even if Game Boy/Game Gear games weren't so good, you could at least play them without being tethered to a TV.  So of course it sold well enough to warrant a sequel, released two years later on the Game Boy and with a SNES version following a year after that.  The SNES version had much-improved graphics and sound design (no surprise owing to the much stronger hardware) but was pretty much identical to its game boy counterpart in terms of gameplay.  It is a marginally more polished experience than the first with larger, fully-detailed towns, more items and NPCs to interact with, something resembling an overarching plot (albeit a simple and silly one) and substantially refined gameplay, with tighter movement and collision detection in general.  Still, this game ended up looking pretty mediocre by 1993, particularly as the Game Boy had an amazing Zelda title released the same year (Link's Awakening), to say nothing of Link to the Past on SNES and two of the best Ultima games of all time on the PC in Ultima VII and Serpent Isle.  Better than the first Runes, mediocre compared to its contemporaries, but it's short enough to not wear out its welcome and even has some clever nods to the series proper that I like, so I'll give it a pass regardless.  Oh, and play the SNES version - it looks and sounds much better and is generally less stiff, buggy and frustrating.  It's also a quarter the asking price  of the Game Boy version nowadays, which certainly doesn't hurt its case.

Publisher: Fujisankei Communications International
Platform: Game Boy, Super Nintendo

Uncharted Waters  (Koei, 1991)

Uncharted Waters is a bit of a cult classic among Koei titles, though like many of their games, it 's an in-depth simulation game which caters to a very niche audience - in this case, a sailing and trading simulation with a dash of story and turn based combat on top.  It's a pretty slow experience, particularly in the early stages where you're building up money through trading at various ports, gradually earning enough money to get a bigger ship, a sextant and a telescope so you can easily find new ports and sail longer distances without a break (like to the new world).  As you go you'll also slowly uncover plot threads to build up your fame, regain your family's nobility and eventually marry into the royal family, which is the game's win condition.  You'll also need to manage your crew, food and water resources, build up your character's skills, upgrade your fleet, avoid various sea hazards and keep everyone's morale up while you're juggling all this, so this is one only for the most die-hard stat-heads.

Publisher: Koei
Platform: NES, Sega Genesis, SNES, MS-DOS, FM Towns, MSX, PC-88

Uncharted Waters: New Horizons (Koei, 1994)

Uncharted Waters' second (and to date, last) outing in the west, and it's what you'd expect of a sequel to the first - still a very in-depth, numbers-heavy simulation with a lot of focus on trading and a touch of turn-based combat here and there.  It does have a bit more from a storytelling perspective, with six different characters to pick from who each have their own skill sets and goals - from finding the lost continent of Atlantis to finding a missing family member to clearing family debts.  Aside from that, the gameplay and UI are also quite a bit smoother, using Shining Force styled menu icons and having smoother movement and animation somewhat reminiscent of Dragon Quest.  The SNES version is also notable for having higher-quality music than most versions, and it fits the adventurous seafaring mood of the game well.  It's another slow-paced, micromanagement-heavy game that's only built for people with a strong interest in its particular niche, but it does what it does well.

Publisher: Koei
Platform: SNES, Sega Genesis, PC-98, Playstation, Sega Saturn

Underworld Ascendant (OtherSide Entertainment, 2018)

Underworld Ascendant got people buzzing at the time of its announcement, and it isn't hard to see why.  A spiritual sequel to a cult classic DOS franchise (the Ultima Underworld spinoff series) from a company founded by Looking Glass alumni and later joined by legendary developer Warren Spector; how could it go wrong?  Well, the answer turned out to be "releasing a very buggy, unfinished disaster with clumsy collision and physics, graphical bugs aplenty (with models often stretching into indecipherable masses of polygons) and a save system that puts the player back at the start of a level, regardless of their progress".  This, plus just generally feeling amateurish and poorly-optimized, with memory leakage, uneven framerates and frequent crashes emblematic of amateur-led Unity games, makes Underworld Ascendant a cautionary tale about the risks of crowdfunding and coasting on residual prestige.  There has since been a patch released to attempt to fix some of these problems, but as far as I'm concerned, it's too little, too late; if you want a good action-oriented dungeon crawl, you have plenty of better options than to wait for this one to maybe possibly reach the realm of "passable" one day.

Publisher: 505 Games
Platform: PC, macOS, Linux, Playstation 4

Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines (Troika Games, 2004)

The final game released by Troika, a short-lived studio headed by a trio of developers who made their name with the original Fallout, Bloodlines is perhaps most emblematic of the studio's biggest problem - the talent they had was tremendous, but hampered by their severely restricted budget, development resources and a publisher who was actively out to screw them over.  Case in point, Bloodlines is stunningly well-produced in some respects (with very expressive character models, fluid animations and surprisingly good voiceover), but oddly low-level in others.  The game's engine (the earliest version of Source) feels very unpolished, with a small yet largely barren game world, numerous graphical bugs, generally weird physics and only a small number of NPCs with any meaningful interactions.  The dialog system works well for what it tries to implement, with skill checks for Intimidation, Seduction and the like becoming available as the player's skills increase, but other RPG elements are much more restricted; lockpicking and hacking are simple skill checks which you pass or fail depending on a flat stat number, which often leads to frustrating roadblocks in the course of completing quests (and unlike Deus Ex, there often aren't readily-available alternatives to complete any given objective).  The setting feels rather disjointed and hampered by the engine, with bizarrely-proportioned elements (a parking garage that's too small to allow cars to actually maneuver) and mention of it being set in modern day, yet having computers with capabilities and displays akin to an early-80s Apple II.  Combat in the game is functional but not particularly good, mostly just coming down to button-mashing and using the occasional buffer skill, with speedy attacks being far more effective than powerful ones, and stealth is just plain awkward and janky, making it an option I almost never used.  If you're looking for a dark, twisted storyline with some great atmosphere Bloodlines will certainly have you covered, but its gameplay leaves quite a bit to be desired, especially for fans of the Troika trio's earlier works.

(I would also strongly recommend getting the Unofficial Patch, which allows for higher resolutions,  restores cut content, patches many prominent bugs and balance issues, and even optionally adds new content).

Publisher: Activision
Platform: PC

Venaitura (Ephiam, 2021)

I tend to avoid games made in prefab game-maker creation kits and 'homage' games in general, as by and large they're low-effort works that just rely on cheap nostalgia to get easy sales while having nothing fresh to offer themselves.  Venaitura, however, is one I took a shine to.  Not only does it look and sound just like a late-era NES RPG, with colorful, detailed graphics, some creative enemy sprites and surprisingly good music, but it has a fair bit of replay value too.  There are twelve total classes to play, each with differing abilities and equipment choices, and you can create a party of four to venture through the game with (or do a solo run if that's your prerogative; definitely not recommended for a first timer, though).  You'll also find that it's very much modeled on old RPGs, with enemies frequently assaulting you with status effects that hamper your abilities or make getting in actions difficult.  Equipment is geared toward this too, with your weapons inflicting them and armors resisting them, and mixing and matching to counter whatever enemies you'll face next will become key to survival.  Like most old RPGs of this type you'll frequently have to follow clues given to you by NPCs in towns to figure out what to do next, and its story hits some surprisingly grim beats in spite of the cartoony aesthetic.  An engaging and entertaining experience from someone who has a genuine understanding of what made the classics what they are.

Publisher: Ephiam
Platform: PC

Vestaria Saga I: War of the Scions (Vestaria Project, 2016)

Shouzou Kaga, understandably frustrated with Nintendo bringing legal action against him for creating a title nearly identical to the franchise he forged (Fire Emblem), took a ten-year hiatus before he dared to develop and release another game.  Vestaria Saga was another attempt to recapture his former glory, seeing a release as a free game in Japan (though the English version would carry a price tag of $20, allegedly to pay down the cost of development on the localization).  As you'd expect, Vestaria Saga very much resembles an older Fire Emblem game - visiting houses to get clues, money and items, fighting enemies, using the familiar Weapon Triangle and terrain bonuses to gain advantages in fights, limited-use weapons, and of course characters being able to permanently die in battle.  Being built in a retail game creation engine (SRPG Studio) does have some disadvantages, though - while the art is of good quality, it also looks distinctly stock, strongly resembling other prefab assets like RPG Maker's.  It's also irritatingly locked into a single tiny 4:3 resolution that cannot be changed, making it rather hard to play on a 4K monitor, and while XInput controllers are supported, it irritatingly does not recognize the D-pad on them without external tools like XInputPlus.  Fans of old-school Fire Emblem or Tear Ring will probably enjoy seeing Kaga back in the saddle again, but those attuned to the style of newer FE games will probably be better off going for one of those instead.  Or Dark Deity.

Publisher: DANGEN Entertainment, Gamera Game
Platform: PC

Virtual Hydlide (T&E Soft, 1995)

Yep, Hydlide continued into the 32-bit era, seeing release as one of the first Sega Saturn games.  Its also a product of the era, with graphics that are a mixture of dodgy CGI sprites, 3D polygons and performance-captured live actors.  The game is mostly a remake of the original right down to the silly plot, though they do attempt to remix things by having a randomly generated world - well, "random" in the sense that it takes a number of premade world pieces and shuffles them around each time you play.  I imagine this was a fairly impressive design element for the time, but I struggle to see anyone having fun with the game even then - the incredibly sluggish framerate and samey graphics that lend to disorientation, weird hit detection and random nature of everything lend themselves to constant frustration, and there's ultimately little point to exploring, making it feel less like a grand adventure and more like a sterile chore list.  In fact, the game actually preempts an oft-criticized element of many modern RPGs and always has an arrow pointing directly at your next objective, so it really is just a matter of running straight from one key location to the next and fighting bosses until you win.  So, if you want to try a somehow even clunkier version of Arena or Daggerfall on your Sega Saturn, give Virtual Hydlide a try; otherwise, skip it and play Shining Force III or Panzer Dragoon Saga instead.

Publisher: Sega, Atlus
Platform: Sega Saturn

Wild Arms Alter Code: F (Media.Vision, 2005)

A remake of Wild Arms 1 for the Playstation 2, Alter Code: F is based in the Wild Arms 3 engine and shows it right from the get-go.  Many of that game's mechanics make themselves known right away - from the encounter cancel system (tied to a gauge refilled after battles), the Vitality bar that automatically restores HP after a battle, the lack of armor and accessories, and Arms being integrated into combat (firing with your normal attack, reloading with Defend) rather than a limited-use "special attack".  Most all of the dungeons are also redesigned to be more puzzle-oriented, and there are three new playable characters - all seen in the original game as NPCs.  It feels a bit low budget, lacking the polished animation and cel-shading of 3, but it's an interesting new take on a PS1 cult classic that's worth a look in its own right.

Publisher: Agetec
Platform: Playstation 2

The Witcher (CD Projekt Red, 2007)

The Witcher is purportedly an "adult RPG", but like so many that apply that label to themselves, it mistakes constant crassness, T&A and foul language for "adult content" and as a result becomes far more juvenile than E or T-rated games of similar design.  There are too many examples of this to recount in a short review, but the most prominent one is that a major sidequest involves bedding every major female character in the game so you can get nudie pictures of them as trophies in the main menu.  Yeah.  It isn't a very fun game to play either, being a mostly-railroaded experience with endless sessions of mediocre combat that, while ostensibly based around timed button presses and dodges, is rendered trivial by the fact that you can simply mash the left mouse button and win every battle with ease whilst your character wiggles his sword over his head menacingly and still damages his enemies despite never actually swinging.  Sure, it also sells itself on having choices that actually matter (and which you don't actually see the consequences of until several hours after making them to prevent save-scumming), but when my intelligence is being constantly insulted by being served a version of Elric of Melniboné that's ten times crasser and less than one-eleventh as interesting, I don't particularly care about that either.  Frankly, I think I and most anyone else above the mental faculty of a thirteen-year-old have better reasons to play video games than to prove how much of a non-gay non-soyboy-cuck manly man I am to xXRapeCampSuperChamp69Xx on the GOG forums.  Like being entertained.

Publisher: Atari, CD Projekt
Platform: PC, OS X

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt Red, 2015)

As you can tell from my review above, I really wasn't taken in with the first Witcher game; a general air of immaturity and lackluster design overall took me out of it pretty quickly.  The third game in the series at least makes some significant improvements in this regard, adding considerable polish to the combat and attempting to give the player more to do with numerous side-quests, an in-depth crafting system and banter that actually fells natural, as well as a less grating (though still very sex-heavy and profanity-laced) tone to the dialog on the whole.  It still hits all the same notes that turned me off to other modern RPGs like Mass Effect, though - overly simplistic and hand-holdy design despite describing itself as "open-world", all-too-frequent scenes of dull/inane exposition between characters you get zero context for beforehand, endless tedious craft material farming, monotonous combat and buggy collision detection in general (getting my horse snagged on things was an all-too-common occurrence.  And since the game auto-saves with no opportunity to make manual ones, I was out of luck if that cost me a mission), and game design that requires no mental engagement whatsoever; quests consist almost entirely of wandering from one marker to the next and clicking a button to pop up the next one, there's never any decent puzzles and rarely any problem-solving more involved than "kill this scripted monster" or "push this button when prompted".  Not to mention it flatly spells out for you what choices will change the narrative later, which immediately ruins any feeling of suspense; or at least, it would if it ever gave you a chance to form any genuine bond with any of the cardboard-cutout characters you're forced to interact with.  Basically, the whole thing just feels manipulative and self-affirming, like they're covering up their barely-existent gameplay by forcing in as much superficial drama as they can so they and their fanboys can easily write off all criticism as bigotry thoughtcrime and give hack gaming rags easy fuel for their inevitable glowing reviews and cynical 'award showcases', which only really exist to earn CDPR a tidy return on all that ad space they purchased for Witcher 3 financed by selling other peoples' much better games on GOG.  Witcher 3 is a graphically gorgeous title, but with such shallow, monotonous gameplay, utterly boring length-for-the-sake-of-length design, and nearly all of the characterization and lore relegated to flat exposition in dry articles in an in-game wiki you have to bring the whole game to a dead stop to read, it's not a particularly compelling journey to undertake.  If I want gameplay that consists of more than watching my character run from dot to dot for 150 hours and a story where the characterizations and worldbuilding come from a place of genuine passion and don't just feel like some overpaid hack committee trying to wring any emotion they can out of me as if that'll magically negate all of their game's glaring flaws, there's dozens of better examples than the Witcher. But to name just one: NieR.   Yoko Taro is also comfortable enough with his style that he can allow his settings, themes and characters to speak for themselves and doesn't have to stop every thirty seconds to beat you over the head with how ADULT and GRIMDARK and MEANINGFUL his work is, as if he's desperately trying to convince himself of his own importance rather than you.
Publisher: CD Projekt
Platform: Windows, Playstation 4, XBox One, Switch

Wizardry 1, 2, and 3 (Sir-Tech, 1981, 1982, 1983)

The Wizardry franchise is one that needs no introduction to any serious RPG fan; one of the first major D&D-inspired franchises on computer platforms, it was among the earliest to have a party-based format and color graphics and even implemented some relatively new features like Prestige classes (only accessible once certain levels are reached in basic ones).   In fact, it was so influential that it inspired the likes of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy and even continues to get spinoff titles to this day in Japan (very few of which have been localized).  However, the first three games do suffer from a bit of poor planning- the original releases of 2 and 3 can only be played with a party created and imported from the previous game, resulting in each game selling less copies than the previous.  It may be rather primitive by modern standards, unreasonably difficult in many ways and have an unwieldy interface even on its newer ports (for the NES and numerous other platforms), but the original Wizardry trilogy is a piece of history that's at least worth a look for anyone developing interest in the genre.

Publisher: Sir-Tech
Platform: Apple II, PC, Mac, FM-7, PC-98, PC-88, Sharp X1, Commodore 64, MSX2, NES, Turbografx-CD, Super Famicom, Game Boy Color, Wonderswan Color

Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna (Sir-Tech, 1987)

Wizardry IV represented a departure for the series norm in many ways - rather than taking command of a player-generated party, you were now put in the shoes of the first game's villain, Werdna, as he made his way out of the tomb he was imprisoned in and attempted to regain his power.  Befitting this, Werdna starts out extremely weak, but as the player reaches magic circles on each floor, his level increases and he can summon groups of monsters to his aid.  The ludicrous difficulty of the previous games is taken even further here, with the player being required to have an intimate knowledge of the game's mechanics to succeed, only gain levels at preset checkpoints, and decipher a number of obscure, cryptic clues in order to get the best possible endings.  One example of this is the very first puzzle the player encounters - they cannot escape the first room unless they know to summon a monster that can cast the Light spell, wait for them to cast it, and then use that to see a hidden door in order to escape (this solution was also famously written down and sealed in an envelope in the game's box, with a note encouraging the player to only open it if absolutely stumped).  Moreover, the game is on a strict time limit, with the player constantly stalked by Werdna's nemesis as an immortal specter, and if caught at any point it's an immediate game over and restart.  An RPG that requires precise execution, encyclopedic knowledge and a ton of luck to win through, it's little surprise that it's considered to be the hardest RPG ever made, bar none.  If you're searching for a true challenge that will push your skill and patience to its limits, Wizardry IV was made just for you.

Publisher: Sir-Tech
Platform: Apple II, DOS, NEC PC-88, PC-98

Wizardry V: Heart of the Maelstrom (Sir-Tech, 1988)

Wizardry IV was the last game in the series helmed by both of the franchise's original creators and for a time, it appeared that it would be the last in the series due to steadily declining sales (4 in particular doing very poorly owing to its sadistic design).   The fifth entry in the series was headed by David W. Bradley and originally pitched as an unrelated title, but reworked to fit into the Wizardry franchise (and held back from release for over two years while work on Wizardry IV was completed).  Fittingly, the game was marketed as "breaking away from the Wizardry of the past" and featured, for the first time in the series, a substantially overhauled visual style and user interface, as well as a much more intricate dungeon that put equal emphasis on puzzles, storytelling and combat.  At its core, though, it remains very much in the vein of its namesake - punishingly difficult dungeon crawling that requires a lot of persistence, luck and skill to win out and complete.  It is at least more than a glorified paint-job, but if you found the original games too frustrating, well, this one won't do a lot to change your mind.

Publisher: Sir-Tech, Naxat Soft (PC Engine CD), Capcom (SNES version)
Platform: Apple II, Commodore 64, Commodore 128, FM Towns, PC-88, PC-98, PC Booter, SNES, PC Engine CD

YIIK: A Post-Modern RPG (Ackk Studios, 2019)

YIIK is a game that clearly wanted to be seen as something profound, but mostly just feels like as a series of comically misguided mistakes.  Combat utilizes timed button presses and minigames akin to games like Paper Mario and Undertale, but ends up being so drawn-out and arduous (normal enemy fights can easily exceed twenty minutes in length, to say nothing of bosses) that you'll get tired of it very quickly.  Its protagonist, allegedly a "flawed person you'll come to like on his journey" does no such thing, mostly coming off as a manipulative sociopath who never even thinks twice about all the damage he does, let alone try to make amends or become a better person in the end.  The story is Persona 4 crossed with the worst kind of I-read-the-CliffsNotes-version-of-Schrödinger-and-Nietzsche-and-now-I'm-above-it-all shlock, with droning walls of badly acted, redundantly worded purple prose that try so desperately to sound smart and poignant and are mostly just grating and self-indulgent.   But what really sours the milk for me is the creator's attitude.  His reaction to criticism of the game was to simply attack its detractors, claiming that "video games are for babies" and that they just aren't smart/mature enough to understand his big important masterwork.  No guy, we get it; unlike you, though, we recognize it as yet another piece that calls itself  'revolutionary' and 'poignant' when it's shamelessly derivative, self-aggrandizing and lacks any genuine appreciation of the other works it's clearly cribbing from.  You've fallen prey to the same trap so many other dollar store visionaries do, completely discarding the ingenuity and passion behind games you allegedly admire and instead saying "Wow, this sure is popular; if I make a knockoff of it to serve as a vehicle for my own half-baked philosophical views and disingenuous moralizing, then I'LL be regarded as a genius too!  Hey, it worked for Bioshock!".  Too bad you also forgot that for every knockoff game that breaks even, there's at least a dozen that are quickly discarded and forgotten.  Persona itself even has some perfect examples; you sure as hell don't hear anyone talking about Mind Zero or Tokyo Xanadu or Conception these days, do you?  (And to further cement my point: all of those games are less than ten years old.)

Oh, and as the TV Tropes page for YIIK points out, this isn't the only time the author has embarrassed himself like this.  He even had the gall to make a protagonist of his previous title (Two Brothers) soapbox for him in this one, dismissing poor reviews leveled toward that game and not even bothering to acknowledge the fact that the brunt of player complaints stemmed from it clearly being unfinished and containing numerous game-killing bugs that he simply never bothered to address.  It's one thing to make lousy, self-indulgent games, but it's another altogether to write off even the most earnest of criticism and be a giant baby about the fact it exists.   I hope that in time the author will learn a lesson in humility and how to take critique in stride, and that one day he'll be able to parlay that into creating something good from a place of genuine passion, but it's abundantly clear that won't be happening anytime soon. 

Publisher: Ysbryd Games 
Platform: PC, MacOS, Playstation 4, Switch

Ys: Memories of Celceta (Nihon Falcom, 2013)

The fourth overall telling of Ys IV's story (having also seen outings on the Turbografx-CD, Super Famicom and Playstation 2 in prior years), but the first to actually be made by Falcom themselves.  It's also the second to utilize the party-based system of Ys Seven, with the player able to have up to three characters active and swap between them freely with the shoulder buttons.  One also earns skills and assigns them to the four face buttons in order to use them in combos and power them up, can dodge attacks with good timing to gain a temporary bit of slow motion a la Bayonetta, and even build up and use super moves to deal heavy damage to enemies.  Basically, if you enjoyed Ys Seven, you'll probably get a kick out of this one too.  If you're a fan of classic Ys, though, this one is still worth a look to see how it puts yet another twist on the story of Ys IV.  It's not my favorite of the series, but Memories of Celceta is another game worthy of the Ys name.

Publisher: XSeed Games
Platform: Playstation Vita, Windows, Playstation 4