Ultima II was the first game of the series to be ported to different systems at the original time of its release (Ultima I was only ported in the re-release). The various ports are very interesting since, unlike the later games, the ports of Ultima II vary greatly in their presentation of the graphics, with one of them being VERY different from the rest.
The Apple II Original
The original game, on which all the other ports are based.
In the year 1982, the platform of the Apple II was quite powerful, compared to other computers of that time. Graphically, the game looks very similar to Ultima I, with only marginal improvements. However, the programming is much more streamlined compared to the first game. It also has an extra animation at the beginning that the other ports lack, where the dragon head appears, and then makes the ""Ultima II" title appear in a fire cloud.
Like the first part, the weakness of the graphics are the strange colors, which is especially noticeable in purple brick floors and multi-colored mountains. The game also has various glitches, like the dreaded numbers roll-over, which can make playing very difficult.
The game was released on two 5.25" floppy disks.
The port for the C64—made by someone called "Bobbit" -- is very surprising, since it looks quite different from the Apple original.
In the original, most of the screen is black, making everything look really dark. Not so in the C64 port, which inserts the fitting colors for the various tiles (green for grassland, blue for water). All the sprites are in color as well. However, there are some strange things, like pink mountains, for example. The port still has the problem that all of the versions of Ultima II have: the dreaded rolling-over of stats.
Strangely enough, the normal title screen (the one with the dragon on it) is missing from this port. Technical limitations can't be the reason, so the issue remains a mystery.
The game was retailed on two 5.25" floppy disks.
The Atari 8-bit Port
This port—made by Chuckles -- was ported from the Apple II version. The 320x192 graphics mode of the Atari 8bit made porting of the Apple's graphics fairly straight forward. This however required the use of 'artifcating' to produce the blue/brown colors for the water/trees. Creative mixing allowed the mountains to retain the purple color used by the Apple as well. As Atari updated their computers the 'artifacting' colors shifted, so if played on an XL/XE series the colors will appear purple/green vs blue/brown. Later versions of Ultima could determine and adjust but Ultima II did not. The Atari computers series had much better sound capabilities, however Origin decided to port over the 'speaker' sounds from the Apple II version.
The IBM-PC Port
The IBM-PC port uses the maximum available to a PC of 1982, which wasn't much back then.
The graphics are shown in four-color CGA mode. The fact is that the game was designed to be played with a CGA composite monitor, which would turn the four colors into something better (the bricks would be red and the water blue). However, the rise of the EGA standard effectively killed composite monitors, and few remembered this fact after a while.
Beside the roll-over of stats, the port has some other problems as well. It has no frame limiter, meaning that it is unplayable on faster machines. It also is badly programmed, which can cause a divide-by-zero error, hanging the game.
The game was originally released on three 5.25" floppy disks. That caused problems later, as some file names on the various disks were identical. When the CD-edition was made, the files on the galactic disk were overwritten, breaking the game.
However, the Ultima II Upgrade Patch fixes all these problems, while lifting the game to 16-color EGA graphics.
The Atari ST Port
This port, which came out in 1985, looks very different from the others. It also plays different.
Robert Eric Heitman, the author of this port, wired the game directly into the GEM interface of the Atari ST, which enables the player to control everything with the mouse. Therefore, the game has the most comfortable controls of all the ports.
However, there is more. In this port, all the black seen in the original is replaced with white, making everything appear much brighter. This can look quite interesting when a spell is cast, since the effect now turns everything dark instead of bright. Also there is much more color, although some of it looks strange, like pink-colored mountains. It is undoubtedly the most advanced port of the original releases.
The port was released on a single 3.5" floppy disk.
The FM-Towns Port
This port of Ultima II was made as part of the FM-Towns Ultima Trilogy I II III compilation. As such it offers redrawn graphics with a new tile set that was also used for the FM-Towns version of Ultima I and Ultima III.
In addition it also offers newly composed music, thus making it the only version of Ultima II with music. As the graphics, this music was also used for the other two titles of the compilation.
Like most FM-Town ports, it is also offers a new hi-resolution introduction the player can watch outside the game, but unlike the game it has no English translation and can only be watched in Japanese.
The game was only released as part of a compilation, and only in Japan. Outside of Japan, it is nearly completely unknown.
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