Ultima: Runes of Virtue II
Call it Ultima Lite or Britannia for the Young at Heart. This splendid Super NES translation of Runes of Virtue -- an Ultima previously available only for the Game Boy -- isn't just for the backseat any more.
ProTip: Don't feel you have to set off directly to rescue Lord Tholden, who's held in a pave north of the castle. Runes are open ended in structure, and while you won't be furthering the story, you're free to poke into other dungeons and towns.
Avatar? No Thanks, Already Av One
You'll see the "lite" right away. No big whoop of a story: The Black Knight, feeling bored, has abducted the City of Britain's mayor, and, natch, the Avatar (that's you) has been summoned by Lord British to set things right. At which time the Black Knight starts kidnapping the other mayors, filling up your dance card for the foreseeable future.
And off you go: clubbing monsters, grabbing everything not nailed down, investigating places...and talking to people, but not so much as in past computer Ultimas. This is more of an action-oriented game, and non-player characters don't have enough speeches to fill a cocktail napkin.
- You may not always have to fight (or fight as much). Sometimes it's more efficient just to move on. For instance, the goblins retreat the first time you hit them. The blobs simply multiply.
- If you can't progress into a dungeon beyond a certain point, you've probably overlooked a room or three along the way. Look for the smallest irregularities in the walls.
I Like the Sprite In you
Nevertheless, ROV is identifiably an Ultima, albeit with rich colors, animation, and a doseup view. The detail here is consistently delightful -- not simply the glowing colors used on the town walls or trees in the countryside, but also the rich animations of cascading fountains, waving flags, and firing cannons. It also plays a pretty mean tune.
- Don't forget your ankh. It's like having a perpetual recently saved game: It kicks you back to the beginning of the last area you entered.
- If you've played prior Ultimas, you may approach ROV with some qualms about appropriating loot from other people's houses. Put them aside. You should pick up anything you can.
More than Just a Game, Boy
What's changed is that the game system is a bit less, shall we say, meticulous about details of staying healthy, wealthy, and wise. Now there's big hearts for extra vitality, big coins for spending on weapons and armor, big keys for big locks -- all picked up when walked over. It suffers from TCS: Too Cute Syndrome. If Lord British had summoned Mario or Sonic instead of the Avatar, ROV would scarcely be any different.
ROV is cute, but also more direct and enjoyably to the point. Unlike some of the other Ultimas, you can't do anything wrong here. You don't have to keep track of anything beyond what you're doing at the moment. The puzzles are modest in scope and less ornate, but no less clever.
Speak No Evil
Then again, for all the handsome sights, there's a lot of meaningful things to do and a preponderance of things to smack. The guards here must be operating under a media blackout. You can bump up against them, hit them with your sword, or fire off all the cannons. Nothing.
- Give Lord British's castle the once-over early in the game. Aside from being nicely appointed, it contains the odd handy item or two.
- If it's moving, it can hurt you. If it's standing still, it probably has a little speech prepared for you.
But perhaps that's a necessary concession to action in an RPG. An experienced adventurer will undoubtedly find Runes of Virtue rather too basic to enjoy as a full-fledged Ultima but will probably still be charmed by the graphics and straightforwardness of its quests. And this Ultima Lite is the perfect starter for a beginner. You can count on it.
Download Ultima: Runes of Virtue II
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Available: 1992
- No. of Levels: 8
- Theme: Action
FCI has recently added a two-player mode that allows you and a friend to explore eight completely new dungeons. When you start with two players, you find out from Lord British that the runes of the eight virtues are hidden in the catacombs below the castle. Upon descending down the stairs into the gloom, you find sets of ladders which will take you to the new crypts. The mazes are intricate, the monsters tough; this is why teamwork is a must! Sometimes, you have to work together to solve a particular puzzle. Gather up weapons and arm yourself for combat. Be sure to pick up everything you find, but beware of traps! Ultima: Runes of virtue is one of the first role-playing games to utilize two players. Get ready for tandem adventure!
- Machine: GameBoy
- Levels: 8
- Theme: Adventure/RPG
- Difficulty: Average
- Number of Players: 1
- Available: April 1991
In this all new adventure game, you are one of four brave warriors that Lord Brittish has summoned to regain the eight runes of virtue from the evil Black Knight. You must battle your way through eight maze like caves. Hidden magical weapons aide you in your quest as you battle many types of powerful monsters trying to stop you from fulfilling your destiny. Every time you get one ol the runes back, Lord British will send you to a new cave to find the next rune. This game is so complex, it almost does not seem like a Game-Boy game. Come with us and venture once again to the land of Lord Brittish in the Runes of Virtue.