playing wizardry at 3 a.m because i’ve lost control of my life

Prefacing this post with an admission: last couple weeks, haven’t been doing so great up in the old brain region. Being mentally ill and seeing recurring triggers popping up with an increased frequency causes me to feel bad, man. This is one of the reasons why there was no post last week. It causes me to be unable to do other things, like try and stream, or work on game development stuff, or try to play some competitive Tekken, or any other cool things I’m known for.

I was able to at least make a car in Blender.

The rest of the time, though? Slouching in my gamer chair, letting the world pass me by because I’m too fucked up to do anything with my time. Times like this, I tend to crawl through the cellars of the Internet Archive (eat shit, Chuck Wendig), looking for some cool and obscure stuff to distract me. Things that might end up being their own post at some point. Anyways, to get things on topic here, I ended up reading through a bunch of Japanese Wizardry artbooks and monster manuals, which led to me loading up Wizardry for the first time in a couple years.

Now, I’m no stranger to the Wizardry series. I was on a podcast about it (for like five minutes). I watched the entire an*me adaptation, as weird and as obviously rushed as it was.

Wizardry is fucking great. Nobody outside of Japan gives a fuck about this series these days, but I still absolutely love it. What’s so great about the series is that about 50% of each game is dedicated to level grinding. Long, tedious grinding. Now, for most games, that’s a negative. But when you’re sad as fuck for reasons that make little sense, to sit and grind and grind and grind into infinity is great. Takes my mind off things. Spending a good 2-3 hours watching numbers go up; it’s like investing in the stock market, but with less war crimes associated with it.

Another great thing about Wizardry is its lack of story. Given that this was meant to be an answer to the question, “what if Dungeons and Dragons was a computer game?” this is not a complaint. It allows me to use my imagination a bit more: why are these rag-tag groups of mercenaries putting their lives on the line for a couple hundred bucks? I’ll fill in the blanks for why a diverse group of characters are fighting skeletons and slimes and sentient coins in a multi-tiered labyrinth.

And boy, did I ever fill in the blanks! Late nights of intrusive thoughts and self-doubt lead to me making six OCs (that’s “Original Characters”). I even made rough, kind of shitty looking sprites for them!

Wagner (Human/Neutral/Fighter)

Wagner is a dependable, if single-minded man. Originally working on a farm with his family, he picked up a sword and became a fighter, as he found it more financially and personally rewarding than watching most of his years harvest get taken away by the royal family. Wants to open up his own fighting school when this quest is over.

Ashlynn (Dwarf/Neutral/Fighter)

Ashlynn is the pride of her Dwarven tribe. She’s joined this group to earn enough gold to raise her three children in comfort. Despite her stature, Ashlynn takes a leadership role quite often, and takes no shit from anyone.

Dahlia (Gnome/Evil/Priest)

The youngest of twelve children, Dahlia has grown up feeling like an outcast; like she doesn’t belong anywhere. Getting branded as “Evil” because she does not fight on behalf of any kingdoms or their particular religions hasn’t helped this feeling at all. Dahlia feels a strange kinship with this band of weirdos. Hasn’t thought about what she would do with her reward money.

Serena (Elf/Neutral/Mage)

Serena is a loner. Leaving her village after an incident she won’t talk about, Serena is only in this to get enough gold to retire in a nice house in the woods, far away from anyone else. Despite her cold exterior, Serena does sometimes show signs of her less cynical side around the group, much to her own annoyance.

Genji (Hobbit/Evil/Thief)

Genji is a thief with aspirations to become a full-fledged Ninja, like his brother Genichiro did. Contrary to the popular conception of thieves and ninja, Genji is extremely outgoing and personable. Even Serena enjoys having him around. Once he reaches Ninja status and completes this quest, Genji is looking forward to a less hectic life. Maybe running a tavern.

Rosa (Elf/Evil/Bishop)

Rosa is a devout follower of a religion that is labeled as “degenerate” by the kingdom, hence her “Evil” status. Having an ill sister at home, Rosa is journeying for enough money to care for her, as well as hoping to stumble across some medicine that could even cure her. As for her own goals, Rosa is a member of her church, and is looking forward to returning to her services after all of this.

Cool thing about these re-releases of Wizardry is the ability to use either the new hand-drawn graphics, or go with the classic wireframe graphics. Not to diss the updated graphics, because they look great, but if you’re playing a Wizardry, you gotta go with the wireframe or nothing at all.

This is the Super Famicom port I’m playing. I also tried out the Sega Saturn version, just to see what the differences are.

The Saturn game has polygonal backgrounds, as opposed to sprite ones. But of course, you can switch back to the wireframes. Something you can also do, that the Super Famicom game can’t, is use the original battle sprites if you so choose.

That’s nice, but I actually prefer using the modern battle graphics. All of the command boxes are neatly arranged in way that pleases my eyes in a nonsensical way. On top of that, the Saturn graphics are high resolution, and therefore look better than the Super Famicom ones.

Comparison:

sega saturn

super famicom

The Saturn also has a super convenient auto-map that you can pull up at any time by pressing the R button.

The SF version has one too. But that requires a magic user and at least one use of your level 1 magic. Which in the early going, isn’t that much.

But, I have to stick to the Super Famicom, for two reasons. One, although the game has a Japanese and an English option, item/weapon/magic descriptions are still completely in Japanese. The SNES port had a fan-translation to fix this, and the Saturn didn’t. Two, Thieves are far more useful in this version. You see, in Wizardry V, Thieves were given a new ability called “Ambush.” This is a two-turn ability that allows a thief to hide, then backstab an enemy for more damage. This also works in the back-row, where you can’t do physical attacks, meaning that thieves have a purpose in this game, compared to previous versions where they acted as glorified keys. Ambushing was retroactively added to the SNES version of Llylgamyn Saga, as this version was released in, holy shit, 1999, after the Saturn game. Anyways, in the Saturn game, thieves act as said glorified keys (because they can pick locks), and simply exist to take up space until you get access to ranged weapons, or you turn them into Ninjas. So even though the Saturn port looks better and has some quality of life changes, I had to put it down and go back to the 16-bit game.

That’s Wizardry. Like Space Invaders, it’s a form of video game comfort food for when you’re sad, bored mess of a human being. I mean, it’s good in other contexts as well, but it’s definitely a good choice to pick up if you feel like shit.

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