From the gaming history's darkest dragon-infested dungeons to the seas of Caribbean skeleton pirates, and to the pyramids of Mars... This retro game blog is currently updated mostly in Finnish. If interested on a given subject you may request English translations to blog topics.

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2016, October 27th   Ultima Family Reunion - Collection Photo

Ultima role-playing series created by Richard "Lord British" Garriott is a prime examble of early computer games and highly valued and wanted among classic computer game collectors.

Mr. Garriott even realized his dream of space travel in 2008. It was made possible with the equity and fortune he had gathered from his games. He was 11 days in space. This space dream of "Lord British" was reported already back in 1983 on Apple ][ -themed Softline-magazine. F.ex. Ultimas I (1981) and II (1982) and the spin-off Worlds of Ultima 2: Martian Dreams (1991) include space travelling.

I started my Ultima-collecting within two years when I started my retro gaming interest in early 2000s, after seeing these titles in gaming websites of other collectors. In addition to the legendary games themselves, the beautiful box artwork, included cloth maps, trinkets and coins make these still sought-after collectibles. The game series also has memorable music.

Above you can see Fantasy Adventures – The Adventure/RPG Computer Game Museum of Finland's Ultima-collection as a nice family portrait that I had thought of shooting for around a decade. Now I finally made it happen. I'm planning to take similar photos of other collections of the Museum too.

I can't remember anymore what was the first Ultima for the collections but it was probably Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny as MicroProse's European small black box (1989), because it is of the most common Ultima-releases here at our neighbourhood.

In the summer 2003 I bought a large Apple ][ lot on eBay. I also won Apple ][ computer with a monitor and a printer but due to the enormous postage I asked the seller to send me only the games over the Atlantic. The great shipping box included among others Sierra, Electronic Arts, Infocom and Origin Systems Inc. adventures and RPGs. There was f.ex. the Apple ][ -version of Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness 1986-remake that was missing the coin bag. Exactly 10 years later I found the coin bag with coins in Finland so I completed the game box in a "small" delay. This collecting takes inhumane patience at times, I can tell you...

There is an anecdote regarding one of the high points in my Ultima-collecting career. The 1986 re-release of Ultima I game box included the first Ultima as a 1981 Progame-release, that the seller hadn't even listed seperately in the auction! He must've thought it was the manual for the 1986-release. (Before boxes became the norm, many early computer games like this one too was released in a plastic bag.) The 1981 floppy disk and reference card were also included. You can imagine my jaw dropping to the floor when opening the game box... I could say it was corresponded to the archeological findings of Indiana Jones. Needless to say, this was my best game purchase ever.

The Japanese Ultima I (or as the Japanese say, Urutima) I bought for MSX-2 here in Finland that felt like an unbelievable find here in the north in early 2000s. By the way it is the only version of the first part that includes a cloth map. All the other versions either have paper maps or no maps at all. The other 3.5" disk in the proximate photo is probably a save game disk. Nice kanji-handwriting for the writer. Some of these Japanese Ultima releases have a peculiar video plastic box, where the clear plastic is full of horizontal stripes – a bit similar in the look of 3D lenticular cards.

As a special mention the Japanese Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar for FM-Towns is also one of my favorites and mostly because it features cover artwork that was not published in any other release. I also like U.S. Gold's Ultima IV (1987) European plastic "video case" release too. It also has a unique cover art with small colorized illustrations that were picked from the black and white manual.

The fantastic cover arts and manual illustrations of Ultimas were mostly painted and drawn by the American artist Denis Loubet. There will be more about him in the blog at a later time.

  • Here is a list of all the Ultimas in the Museum with some box scans (the scanning is still in progress).

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    2016, July 20th   Concept Artist Peter Chan

    Grim Fandango's etching-like stylish concept art.

    In my series of covering classic game artists (who were often forgotten heroes), this time around introducing Peter Chan. He made art and concept designs in the golden age of gaming for ever-green adventure classics such as LucasArts' Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge (1992), Day of the Tentacle (1993), Sam & Max Hit the Road (1993), Full Throttle (1994), The Dig (1995) and Grim Fandango (1998). From more recent works let's mention the visual designs he did for animations Monsters University (2013), Rio (2011), Rio 2 (2014), and storyboard-illustrations to films such as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2004) and Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace (1999).

    If there's a game oozing of nostalgia it is Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge from 1992. It is a great pleasure and a huge privilege to be arrived in the 2010s and see the legendary original game concept illustrations and paintings and compare them with current technology.

    Breathtaking panorama pencil drawing of LeChuck's cave in the fortress and the final concept painting, that was scanned as a background to the game itself. Scans had of course still to be worked on with pixel polishing. Notice also the LucasArts half logo in the painting on the forehead of the skull which is no more recognizable in the final game screen.

    Concept art for costume shop. This made by Sean Turner and Peter Chan.

    Screen grab of the final game screen.

    In the costume shop on Phatt Island as a fun detail there are "hidden" in view the anarchist freelance police Sam & Max created by Steve Purcell. Their own adventure was released a year later. In the concept art above there are clown costumes instead so this fun fan service was apparently added in the pixel drawing phase.

    Of the different versions of MI2, I'd like to mention PC's 256 color and Amiga's 32 color version. I always admire the 32 color palette of Amiga 500. It is amazing how almost the same color impression was achieved with eight times less the amount of colors, as can be seen from the comparison on right. Constraints of old hardware, such as the use of a more limited palette, has required skills. This Phatt Island harbour is one my favorite places in the game and here the original handiwork is also by Chan. (BTW these days this medieval harbour makes me think of the Venice-like city of Braavos on Game of Thrones.)

    Oh how I wish they had used these awesome color paintings by Chan and company as backgrounds for Monkey Island 2 Special Edition (2010) instead of the totally reinvented style. I didn't like the new look at all. At least in the SE one could change back to the familiar pixel look.

    Day of the Tentacle Star Wars pastiche motif with the sketch. This was used at least as a cover for LucasArts' The Adventurer issue #5 (Fall 1992).

    Day of the Tentacle on the other hand was remastered only with updating it from 320x200 to high definition resolution. That's the way to do it! Even though they didn't use the original paintings there either which would have been even better. But in the tentacle-adventure's case that's otherwise almost a perfect remake since the looks and animation is identical with the 1993 classic so I'm very pleased with it. Please still make Monkey Island 2 with the original backgrounds and character styles some day too :).

    More atmospheric Grim Fandango concept art in the art deco and film noir style.

    The market landscape in Grim Fandango has been a particularly nostalgic adventure game location to me for some reason. I suppose it reminds of the sunny autumn days when I played it and visited the big autumn market in real-life in my so called small sister-town. Fact and fiction of the game world united as a comfortable virtual keepsake in my memory.

    Next to Chan's concept art is the game's actual 3D manifestation.

  • More about classic game arts here (currently in Finnish).

  • LINKS:
  • The artist's website can be found here:
  • Monkey Island 2 -concept art:
  • Grim Fandango -concept art:

  • PS. Monkey Island 2 box cover arts were painted by Steve Purcell. More about him later...

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    2016, January 2nd   The Black Cauldron collection

    The Black Cauldron (1985) is my favorite Disney-animation in addition to Fantasia (1940). Walt Disney Productions ordered Sierra to create an adventure game based on the film. The game was released in 1986 and the main programmer was Al Lowe. The game uses Sierra's famous AGI (Adventure Game Interpreter) game engine. Before this, Sierra had already collaborated with Disney to make other games in 1984 that featured Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh as main characters. A fourth game in the series called Goofy's Word Factory was also planned but never released.

    The museum has The Black Cauldron for Tandy & PC (Flip Box -versions, 1986) and Atari ST & Amiga (Slip Cover, 1987). The 8-bit 16 color graphics, faithful to the animated feature, were drawn by Mark Crowe from Space Quest -series fame. The opening music from the start of the movie is also beeping nicely at the start.

    In the photo above there are also my other The Black Cauldron collectibles (or as translated in Finnish Hiidenpata – "The Cauldron of the Goblin") including the Sierra Hint Book, map of Prydain, gorgeous Finnish 1980s movie poster, comic book album, puzzles and video cassettes.

  • Here is a movie review of The Black Cauldron animated feature in Finnish.

  • PS. I should also note that in Finland the movie title was translated to "Hiidenpata" which sounds much cooler than a direct translation would have ("Musta pata"). "Hiidenpata" translates back into something like "The Cauldron of the Goblin" - but way cooler and chillier ;).

    PPS. Happy New Year 2016!

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    2015, October 30th   Happy halloween!

    Pumpkin-head © 1995 Jukka Eronen Happy halloween to Fantasy Adventures readers! <:)

    These pixel illustrations are back from exactly 20 years ago, i.e. 1995. I drew them on IBM PS/1 with the fantastic Deluxe Paint II, which was the pixel-Photoshop of its era. (Deluxe Paint Animation is also still a great retro animation-program with its easy-to-use system.)

    The sprites are from my unfinished mini-golf game Flog over Europe. In addition to few human characters, for some reason there were especially these halloween-themed ghosts etc. as playable characters (though Reaper is picked from another game idea suiting here). I'll post more about this particular title sometime.

    Robot Jaw, Skeleton, Goblin-Ghost, Pumpkin Head and Reaper.

    PS. Video Museum blog has Halloween Hullabalooza season – horror, mystery etc. video and movie reviews in Finnish.

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