NES-Port of Ultima V
Work on the NES conversion began in 1991, after the release of Ultima VI. Rather than release an antiquated-looking conversion of Ultima V, which would have been well within the abilities of the NES, Origin changed key elements of the port to resemble the more-recent Ultima VI: a single-scale map, isometric perspective, and character portraits (something the original game didn't have). The NES port is also a break with its predecessors in that it wasn't developed in Japan, but in the USA. As such, it doesn't use Japanese-like graphics; instead, the graphics are made to look western-like. For the first time on the NES, it is even possible to hold conversations with NPCs, using a selectable-keyword system similar to that introduced in Ultima VII; NPC dialogue in the previous NES ports had been non-interactive.
Despite these improvements over the original release (or perhaps, because of them), the NES port of Ultima V was seen by many as a technical disaster. Combined with elements that had to be removed from the game because of technical limitations (limitations that wouldn't have applied if the original tile-based system had been used), the changes made reviews generally see this port as totally inferior to the original.
Nintendo Power gave Ultima V a rating of 2.8/5 for graphics and sound, 2.0 for play controls, 3.3 for challenge, and 3.3 for play and fun, highly praising its open world, intricate conversations, and numerous gameplay options while criticizing its poor control scheme.
The shortcomings of the port
The shortcomings include:
- The game is very slow compared to the original, making it difficult to progress at a reasonable rate.
- There is no way to name the Avatar, and no option for a female Avatar.
- Particularly when viewed on a TV, it is difficult to discern what the various on-screen objects are.
- After the title screen and the character creation, there is only one song throughout the entire game (the same error as in the Amiga port), and there are no sound effects.
- Because of the single-scale map, Britannia had to be shrunken and deformed to fit everything in. It just isn't that obvious during gameplay because of the limited viewing window and the game's slow pace.
- This in turn means that the number of NPCs was drastically reduced, and they also now have much less to say. Additionally, the content that was left was altered significantly, mixed with story changes(f.e. instead of being in the Yew prison, Greymarch is now running around in Trinsic).
- The controls are surprisingly complicated for a two-button controller, and each command has a slight delay before execution.
- The maximum size of the party was reduced from six to four (since you start with three members, this means you can only have one extra).
- Horseriding was eliminated by claiming that hungry people have eaten nearly all the horses, similar to the C64-Port of Ultima VI, where the Gargoyles are blamed with this.
- The intro is vastly reduced, with much plot and background information missing.
- The ending sequence is altered much as the intro, and much content was altered; the Avatar is present with Lord British at Blackthorn's exile (thus the part on Earth is missing) and drama is lost by the last sentence being Lord British inviting the Avatar to a feast.
- The conversations system presents a menu of available keywords characters may know about, which may not normally always be known in the original game (learning about them was part of the unfolding quest, via previous conversations and readings, and keywords were entered with a keyboard, not selected from a menu).
- Grazzt519 playthrough of the port on Youtube: a video of a playthrough of the port from beginning to end. His tactic to speed up things was to dismiss his entire party and temporarily go on an Avatar-only travel.
- YouTube - Ultima V NES Gameplay Video
- "Now Playing". Nintendo Power (Ultima V). Feb. 1993. Pages 105,106.
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