Yes. I was on Spring Break. Yes, it was nice. But enough on that, instead I'm here to talk about something I spent a decent (but thankfully not overwhelming) amount of time playing during said vacation, usually on a plane of some sort. I'm talking about The Dark Spire. A game that manages to not only define niche, but also manages to be more niche than even my tastes. And that's me saying it. The guy who goes out of his way to look for old games, blog about them, and then get somewhat flustered when his blog about obscure DOS games based on the D&D license doesn't get that many comments.
But enough on that. For those out of the know, The Dark Spire is a classical style RPG that was released for the DS in 2009 by a company called Success (apparently the other game they've made recently is Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja) and published by everyone's favorite sadi-masochists at Atlus. It's a very deliberate throwback to the earliest Ultima and Wizardry games. Which ones? Like Wizardry 1. While I'm all for the First Person Party-Based CRPG, my tolerance point for that kind of stuff starts around the time mice and VGA graphics started existing, which I mark as being around Might and Magic III. So anyways, what that means is that it's a singular dungeon with multiple floors, a grid based movement system, very limited character choices and the desire to be as artificially hard as humanely possible. Like Etrian Odyssey, but even more of a faux-throwback, which is emphasized even more by the classical graphical style you can pick, which pretty much makes it straight up wire-frames. While I cannot profess to having played the earliest Wizardry games, I've seen enough of them to tell you that this game achieves it's goal of being totally backwards admirably.
There's a whole laundry list of things I could say that make this game totally insane (basically, everyone except fighters are worthless in melee, no transparency to what stats do at all, you have to cast a spell to see where your party is on the map), and while I've managed to get to the 3rd floor after around 10 hours (thus, don't mistake this for a review blog) I don't know exactly how much further I can go. It gleefully throws waves of tough enemies at you, and while you can triumph mostly through a bunch of grinding instead of anything resembling strategy, it's pretty good at being relentless. It's not that it's beaten me, because I could probably finish it if I grit my teeth and continued going the way I'm currently going, but I'm not exactly feeling driven to do so. I admit, I'm a sucker for leveling up and watching my dudes kill other dudes, but there are other games that I like that could do that better for me.
But that's not my point. When I was playing this game, I was wondering exactly who these types of games are for, and how a game like this could be financially profitable considering the super niche audience it panders to. Basically: WHO IS THIS GAME FOR AND HOW COULD A DEVELOPER GET AWAY WITH MAKING THIS IN THE PAST DECADE?!?!? This was answered by someone reminding me that the earlier Wizardry games were huge in Japan (in fact, the current license holders of the franchise are in Japan, content to sit on the 8 games made by Sir Tech rather than release them, meaning that you would have to pursue less than legal means to obtain Wizardry 8, my favorite game of 2010 that didn't come out in 2010) and this can be seen in all the Wizardry games up to 7 receiving japan-only PS1 ports/remakes and also the trajectory of some other franchises like Shin Megami Tensei. Which leads to my next question: WHY STOP THERE? Why not get to the era of CRPGs that were good, when they and JRPGs were actually distinguishable from them? If someone made a game like Wizardry 7 or 8 for the DS, I would be willing to pay upwards of $34.99 to obtain it! I know Japan is incapable of making a game like that, but why isn't there a western developer making games like this? I mean, it's not like this style of CRPG is dead or anything (oh wait. It is. Thanks Might and Magic IX, for sucking) and could use a revival.
But whatever. I've gone off long enough. Here are some other random things, in bullet point fashion
- You know, Final Fantasy V is criminally underrated
- I'm glad I live in a state with a low cost of living
- I'm considering doing a "Ruining my Childhood" on KotOR2. With the cut content added back in. So I can say it still sucks, even if the ending makes sense
- If not that, then I will continue playing Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, a CRPG you've never heard of because it wasn't very good.
- And hey, Neverwinter Nights 2 still exists
- Alright, I'm done.
- EDIT: Please note that I haven't gotten enough sleep recently. Jet Lag will do that to you.