The Game: Darkness has fallen anew upon Britannia, and Lord British calls for your service again. You start out alone, accumulating traveling (and fighting) companions along your journey, striving to live by the Eight Virtues that govern conduct in the kingdom. Along the way, numerous creatures, both evil and simply pesky, challenge you. As you go forth on the quest, you must also collect the mantras of each Virtue, travel to the corresponding Shrines, and meditate there until you reach enlightenment. With enlightenment and experience come the strength to rid Britannia of evil – but beware the dark side… (Sega / Origin Systems, 1989)
Memories: I’ve played Ultima IV on both the NES and the Sega Master System, and hands down, the Sega edition comes out on top. For such a relatively complex game, the Sega version of Ultima IV keeps the controls incredibly simple, with a menu-driven system that has a lot of options and yet never overwhelms the player.
Perhaps the most impressive example of this is the conversation engine, triggered by selecting “talk” from the action menu and then planting the cursor on who you wish to talk to. The normal Ultima IV conversation options are present on a menu – name, job, health, join, bye, etc. – but as non-player charaters divulge more information, more options appear on that menu, and sometimes this process of exploring new branches of the conversation goes several levels deep. That’s an incredibly neat solution to a part of the game normally associated with typing in extended conversations on a home computer.
The graphics are brought up to a whole new level, and not the semi-cutesy interpretation of the standard Ultima icons seen in Pony Canyon’s NES port of the same game either. It looks better than Ultima V did on most computer platforms, if the truth be told. The sound and music are unobtrusive, with numerous nicely-rendered tunes triggered by specific occasions, locations or events.
The greatest praise I can give to Ultima IV on the Master System is that I can see myself spending as much time with this game as I did with the computer game that inspired it. I didn’t think a console port of this game could possibly approach the complex and yet intuitive control scheme of the original computer versions, and yet here it is – very nicely done.