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Important Importables: Wizardry

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When we think of RPGs today, we think of games like Fallout, Final Fantasy, Dragon Age and a number of similar titles that have become the norm. The irony is, years ago another type of RPG was far more prevalent, the first-person dungeon crawler with turn-battles. When it came to the best of the best of that particular type, Wizardry was it. It was one of the first RPGs and even thought it may not have the flash and fanfare of other games, it still manages to draw an audience today.

Which means we’re going to talk about the past Wizardry. It seems like a good time for it, considering XSEED was hinting about perhaps localizing the second PS3 entry in the series and Wizardry Online is getting released outside of Japan.

The history of Wizardry

While most Wizardry games have to be imported now, that isn’t how the series started off. It was originally created by Sir-Tech Software, with the first game being developed by Cornell University students Andrew Greenberg and Robert Woodhead for PCs. It was a huge success and eventually ended up being made available on 13 different platforms, among them the Mac, NES, Game Boy Color and even cell phones.

Sir-Tech continued to keep the Wizardry franchise going, releasing games up until it closed its doors in 2001. It’s final release was Wizardry 8 in 2001 for Windows.

In many cases, something like this would have ended the series completely. The thing is, Wizardry ended up becoming quite popular in Japan. It lead to various ports of most of the original games to an assortment of different consoles and handhelds. In addition, it’s lead to 24 Wizardry spin-offs made by other companies with no tie to the original Sir-Tech. Developers who just enjoyed the original games kept the series alive. While each don’t always have a story that directly relates to any of the original eight games, the races available, gameplay and general feel are consistant. Each entry allows players to create a custom party of characters to send into a dungeon. They then go through a first person dungeon crawl, sometimes solving puzzles or going through quests and always finding turn-based random battles and treasure.

In case you’re curious, games aren’t the only Wizardry-related materials anymore. It’s become so popular in Japan that there are light novels/books, manga and even animated series based on it.

Recent Wizardry releases, at home and abroad

In the last five years, the Wizardry series has been doing pretty well. It’s still quite relevant and often in the news. For example, one of Sony Online Entertainment’s E3 2012 surprises was the announcement that it would be bringing the free-to-play Wizardry Online MMO to North America. It will maintain the general feel of the series by allowing players to create a custom character and go through dungeons. It will add some new elements, like a third person view and the ability to work with or against other players, but that should be offset by the ability to still do solo runs. That, and it will retain the high difficulty level of previous Wizardry games by including a permadeath option that can cause a character to be gone for good if players aren’t cautious in the dungeons.

People yearning for the classic experience should be pleased to know that there are still more traditional Wizardry games being released. Both Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls for the PS3, Wizardry: Inochi no Kusabi (Wizardry: Wedge of Life) for the DS and Wizardry Boukyaku no Isan (Wizardry: Heritage of Oblivion) for the DS prove companies still want to make classic dungeon crawlers and people want to play them. They all came out between 2009 and 2010 and while the DS games didn’t receive an English releases, Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls did. In fact, XSEED picked it up and released both the original PS3 game and it’s subsequent iOS port in North America. Both games go back to the original Wizardry routes by allowing players to create a custom party of characters, go through an incredibly difficult dungeon and fight lots of monsters. The first person dungeon-view is maintained in each and both games have pretty detailed monster and character art for the turn-based battles.

As for the future of the series, we’ll have to wait and see. XSEED did hint that it will be releasing a sequel to one of its existing games soon. Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls had a sequel called Wizardry: Torawareshi Bourei no Machi (Wizardry: The Trapped Ghost Town) in Japan. Maybe we’ll get another download for our PS3s soon.

COMING NEXT WEEK: Important Importables plays through Prince Maker Braveness for Windows.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Last week Important Importables talked about Kenka Bancho.

Follow Jenni on Twitter for more import game updates and general fangirl enthusiasm!

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