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Title: Ultima-- Quest of the Avatar
Rom Player: NESticle
Reviewer: Tawna Evans

Synopsis: In this game, you learn about the virtues. Your goal is to become the Avatar, who is the master of the virtues. Only the Avatar can enter the Abyss, retrieve the sacred Codex, and lead the kingdom of Britannia into an age of peace and justice.

At the beginning of the game, you answer a series of questions. The answers to these questions determine which virtue you value more than any, as well as the character you will play in the game. There are eight characters in the game to choose from. Each is possesses their own strengths and weakness. Once you choose you avocation, Lord British meets with you to offer some guidance at the start of your journey.

You begin at your selected character's hometown, where the inhabitants celebrate one particular virtue. When you travel to distant lands, you encounter other towns that honor their own respective virtues. At these towns, you can add more people to your party. Once you acquire more than four, new members of your team will gather at the castle Britannia hotel. There, you can change party members at any time. Choose wisely, so that you have a balance between magical ability, hand-to-hand combat, projectile weapon skills, and defense spread amongst the party members.

Throughout your journey, Seer Hawkwind will assess your character development. Have you been good? Do you speak honestly will everybody you meet? Do you give to the poor, donate blood, show courage in battle, and respect the possessions of others? Some will try to mislead you. Will you humbly let them go about their lives in peace? Your actions will affect your character growth in the eight virtues of truth, love, courage, justice, honor, sacrifice, humility, and spirituality. Once eligible for partial Avatarhood for a virtue, go meditate at its shrine. Once partial Avatarhood is attained for all eight virtues, you will become the legendary Avatar.

I like the ideal that this game centers on the theme of virtue, and that progressing through the game requires upright conduct. It's an interesting twist from most RPGs. In this game, the characters raise their levels and earn money by battling numerous monsters. During battles, a menu pops up with lets the player move the characters within the battlefield, attack, cast spells, and use items. Animation and sound effects and display the actions chosen by the heroes and the opponents. I haven't seen any other RPG with as flexibility of movement during battle as I do in this game. I wonder why this game's battle system never caught on? It could be that the game gets pretty redundant with repetitiveness. Throughout most of the game, I end up spending most of the time earning money to pay for the best weapons and armor I can get, which is pretty expensive. I often start feeling awfully bored midway through the game. If only treasure chests would pop up in labyrinths or in the sea right after battles! That would make earning money go a lot quicker in the game. Battle music is the same, regardless of where they are fought. At least the terrain varies. Prior to a battle, if the party is in the woods, plains, rocky areas, in the mountains, or in a cave, the battlefield will display this terrain once it appears. (The battles appear at random and unexpectedly in this game.) When traveling through the woods, mountains, and towns, some regions on the screen are blacked-out to indicate that they are not visible to the hero & gang. (This is a nice improvement from Ultima-- Exodus, which has overwhelming amounts of blackness.) Depending on the terrain, rocks appear in the battlefield, which affects the characters' ability to move around the field. In the labyrinths, some rooms appear in which the characters maneuver around walls and bridges. These also include puzzles that must be solved in order to get to the next location. The game picks up once enough money is earned to pay for the best weapons and armor for my party, because then I can explore the labyrinths with little difficulty. The story in the game leaves me feeling pretty dry. The manual seems more interesting to me than the game itself. Nothing captivates me, until the very end. Then, the music plays some new melodies I haven't heard before, and the touching ending moves my heart. It's too bad I can't see more of that throughout much of the game. Yet, the game's presentation of virtue is impressive, and it forever affects my perception of the meanings of justice, sacrifice, and honor.

Best Cheats: Getting lots of money is important in this game. I know of two methods of getting money quickly. Here's the first: In Castle Britannia, you will find an entrance to the dungeon of Hyloth. Once you enter Hyloth, cast the exit spell to escape. You will then arrive at a valley surrounded by mountains. In this valley, there is the hot air balloon and a cave. This cave leads to the most remote entrance to the dungeon Hyloth. At the eastern corner of the 1st floor, you will find an orb. If a member of your party touches the orb, their attributes will grow, but they suffer tremendous damage, and will die if their levels aren't above level 7. Now, if everybody in your party dies, you will automatically resume the game with 400 gold pieces. That is just enough gold to purchase a sword. Buy a sword, then go to the orb to kill off your party, and will have 400 gold pieces, once again. Since you will not lose any items or weapons, go ahead and buy another sword. Repeat the procedure until every member of your party has all the swords they can carry. Kill off the party one last time for more gold, then sell all the swords you don't need. With three swords per character, you will gain 600 gold pieces for each party member carrying all the swords they can carry. If you split party members and let some staying at Castle Britannia hotel carry swords, you can easily gain lots of gold. To top that off, you won't battle too many monsters, and so you won't gain such high levels that you'd have to fight tougher monsters. It helps to boost up the arms before the monsters become way more powerful.

In the dungeon of Shame on the 6th level, there is an area where you can find tons of treasure chests scattered about the place. You can access this by entering Hyloth then accessing the dungeon of Shame using the Altar Room of Truth. Head to the six floor in Shame, gather all the treasure chests, then return to one of the altar rooms. Once you do that, return to the 6th floor in the dungeon of Shame, and you will find more treasure chests to collect. Do this repeatedly to racks up tons of moula!

Game Play: 3
Graphics: 4
Music/Sound: 2
Originality: 8
Overall Rating: 4

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