Monday, September 24, 2012

NES Replay: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Hillsfar

Developer: Westwood
Publisher: FCI
Released: 1993
Forgotten Realms: Where did I leave those
realms? I had them just a second ago
In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Hillsfar.

Gamers take a lot of things for granted nowadays. We're at a point where graphics are so good that you can see the individual pores on Batman's face. There are games with fully deformable terrain, full water physics, games where you can build massive structures to your heart's content, games where you can bend space to your whim, explore massive continents on foot and play pretty much any kind of game anywhere you want at any time. At the risk of sounding like an old man, you kids nowadays don't know how good you have it.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Hillsfar made me think of these things. RPGs were really, really hard to do right in the NES years. The best that developers could pull off was Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, which were fine games but not really RPGs in the classical sense. It would take many, many more years until true RPGs with meaningful dialogue choices and true decision-making would arrive on consoles.

Getting beaten up by a minotaur. Story of my life.
Hillsfar was at least an attempt at providing something more open-ended. Depending on whether you pick a mage, fighter or thief, you get different quests. You can join guilds, fight in the arena, break into houses, and things like that.

None of it is very good, though. Navigating throughout the city is slow and annoying. You can fight opponents, but it's almost impossible because you can't really tell what you're doing, who is hitting who and when. Plus, considering that by 1993 both Final Fantasy IV and Secret of Mana were already here in the States, any console RPG gamer would be loath to spend their time milling around in Hillsfar.

It's worth remembering, though, that the modern RPG was built on the backs of games like Hillsfar. As the saying goes, "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I rolled an 18 on my character sheet for Perception, then rolled a successful spot check."

Edit: From the ArsTechnica boards, commenter "richleader" had this to say:
actually, hillsfar was a meta product for computers where you could import your savegames from other D&D titles, level the shit out of your dudes playing minigames, and then take them back to your real game (or rather, it's sequel) all pumped up. Putting it out as a standalone on the NES was an entirely pointless cash grab.

Get a real system, you console kiddies!
I'm not going to change the rating based on that information, but yeah. That's a little crappy on their part. Ah well.

Final Rating:

Next week: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Pool of Radiance

Looking for more NES games? Click here for more!

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