Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, PlayStation

The PlayStation version of the classic Blue Sky Productions (later Looking Glass Studios) first-person RPG is unfortunately only available in Japanese, so is not easy to play for English-speaking gamers. No one has yet translated the game into English even though fans have been crossing their fingers since the game was first released way back in 1997 (24 years ago).

The biggest problem are the Japanese menus, which are essential to use if you want to play the game properly. I managed to light a torch, equip a weapon and start my adventuring after watching someone speedrunning the game on YouTube and following what he did in the menus, to enable me to get that far.

I managed to do some exploring; find and equip a weapon and a shield; kill a few monsters, and explore at least a few levels, before I eventually gave up. The conversion is a reasonably faithful adaptation of The Stygian Abyss, with some changes, and it apparently even includes some bugs that were in the original floppy disk version (the inventory bug that makes items disappear being the most notable – the bug was fixed for the CD-ROM versions that came out later).

The biggest difference between this console conversion and the original are that the enemy characters and NPCs have been made into 3D models, instead of the 2D graphics that they originally were. And I have to say that they look pretty good, even if they are animated rather jerkily. The giant spider in particular I thought was creepy. The goblins look a bit comedy, but they’re not too bad all considering. The other major difference is the control system, which has been adapted to the gamepad from mouse and keys. It’s clunky, but it works well enough. The play area also uses the full screen in this version, whereas in the original the play area is in a window.

I’ve seen a number of PlayStation games given fan translations over the years, so it’s a pity that this one hasn’t been attempted. I can’t read or speak Japanese, otherwise I might try to do it myself. If anyone out there likes Ultima Underworld and fancies at least translating the menus, it would make this game more playable for English-speaking gamers, and would probably be widely praised. That said: with the original game available in English it’s unlikely anyone would bother to translate this seemingly inferior conversion. I still live in hope that one day it will be done.

See also: Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss and Ultima Underworld II: Labyrinth of Worlds original versions on this website.

More: Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss on Wikipedia

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