Nostalgic Gaming

Now THAT’S a gaming rig!
A friend of mine on Facebook recently commented on how he’s using his state-of-the-art computer to play retro PC RPG classic Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar (one of those rare titles that looked infinitely better in its NES port.)  That of course got me nostalgia cruising for the copious amount of time I spent playing Ultima VII (parts 1 and 2, titled The Black Gate and Serpent Isle, respectively) back in seventh grade.  That’s one of my favorite games of all time, providing something of an open world experience before that was even a thing.  I remember finding some farm in Britannia and stealing various furnishings from around town to decorate it as my own little hideout in the world.  I gathered a bunch of crates to build a stairway onto the roof for no other reason to see if it was possible (it was!)  The purchase was also an extraordinary coup; it included both parts 1 and 2 of Ultima VII, plus the add-ons of The Forge of Virtue and The Silver Seed (“DLC” in today’s parlance,) and as I recall the package was on sale at Software, Etc.–man that name brings back memories–so I got all that gaming goodness for less than the normal price of a game.  I was prompted to get it because I had read about Ultima IV in Nintendo Power and thought that game sounded interesting, so surely something three games on in the series would have to be all the better.)
So I dug up my old copy of the game from the basement and fondled its wonderful components again.  I guess I could have done a proper unboxing video, but it turns out somebody beat to the punch (although he had to the two separate releases, and didn’t have the add ons.)
The game in its box.  Too bad the cover art only indicates it contains Serpent Isle, but the helpful sticker on the box lets you know what’s what. 
What, were they charging $50 for the games AND add ons?
Of course, you can’t talk about PC gaming prior to the late 90’s without mentioning disks.  And, hoo-boy, did this game pack them in!
Let’s just say that I can take a lot of disk.
Man, installing those must have been a tedious nightmare.  I can’t recall the process specifically, which can only mean that it was traumatic enough that my mind has blocked it from being recalled.
Manuals.  These days, games have eschewed such things, instead relying on tutorials that break logic (you play the super bad ass space marine who, in the first stage, needs to learn how to aim and fire a gun.) But Ultima VII elevated manuals to art.  That black “Fellowship” book there is both the manual for the The Black Gate, but also kind of a prop from the game.  You see, throughout the game you have to contend with a cult called the fellowship, who has their tenets in a simple black book.  This manual not only recreated the text of the book but provided the information you needed to play it.  If that was too long and detailed for you, though, there were also the quick-reference guides which let you know helpful keyboard shortcuts and the like.
When I think Ultima VII, these are the things that most immediately come to mind, two cloth maps approximately 14″ x 14″.  Nintendo games never came with awesome extras like this!  These days, if you want something as awesome as this you need to spring for some overpriced Deluxe Limited Collector’s Edition, the way I did for Dragon Age Origins.  That map was a mere 12.5″ x 9″, and it wasn’t even of the whole game world, just the small corner of the continent you could go to in the game, and since there was no free roaming in Dragon Age Origins, it was completely useless!
Earlier this year I paid for the complete Ultima VII on GOG (and they give Ultima IV for free.)  I haven’t gotten around to installing and playing it (and arguably it was stupid for me to rebuy the game, since I still have the original disks it wouldn’t exactly be illegal for me to just emulate the games myself.)  Once I’ve worked my way through much of my lamentable backlog I’ll replay this classic from my childhood.
If I could just dig up Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant I’d be all set for reliving my PC RPG childhood.  

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