Chase Bramlage; the Rob Liefeld of ZZT.
I'm sure he'd know what I'm talking about, if he saw this review; his games have always betrayed strong influence from 90's Image Comics to the point of near-plagiarism (his first game, for example, was called Boof, and was about a gerbil with telekinetic powers; I'm sure it's no relation at all to the now mostly-forgotten Todd McFarlane creation "Boof and the Bruise Crew" (the title character of which was also a mouse-like thing)), although I suppose that doesn't matter since it's only ZZT and, well, who cares who rips off what in these games?
Back to the point; why do I call Bramlage the Liefeld of ZZT? Rob Liefeld, for those who don't know, was, if not the key proponent of it, certainly a major element of the style-over-substance, kewl, X-tryme, "which superhero will die in this issue", exaggerated anatomy, 100 bad rip-offs of Wolverine/Lobo, gun-toting 'bad girl' garbage that most people think of when they consider the comic collector/speculator boom and bust of the 90's. Although this parallel is most evident in his game 'N-E-O' (in which every character seems to be a testosterone-sweating, hulking great caricature of the Liefeld creation Cable), Final Fantasy Disc 1 still has a lot to say for itself. Let's see.
Graphics; While it's true that Chase can draw pretty well, he then goes and wastes this talent by using a technique that could generously be described as 'diffuse'; objects may be well drawn, it's just that you can't work out what the hell they are. The houses in the first village look like month-old horse turds with windows installed, and the floor texture in the castle looks like everything's been chewed up by a puppy yet to be housebroken. There's a lot to be said for simplicity, especially in something as graphically primitive as ANSI.
In other words, top marks for style, minimum marks for technique. Just like Liefeld (but replace 'diffuse' with 'tiny ankles and swiss-cheese necks')!!!!!!!!!
Story; As has been discussed in depth by people who have actually played the damn game, this is a huge rip-off from Suikoden. As if stealing the name from a famous gaming franchise wasn't enough! I don't know much about Suikoden so I won't say anything else about that, though it goes without saying that Liefeld stole a lot of character designs from Marvel and DC during his tenure in Image (most notably Supreme, which Alan Moore later changed from a moronic, violent comic into something pretty awesome, but that's irrelevant).
Programming; Oh hell, I can't really make any comparisons between Chase and Liefeld in this catagory, can I? Well, I'll just say the programming is shoddy and leave it at that, shall I? I suppose that's excusable since the game is blatantly unfinished, but there's no excuse for the dialogue. I'm no writer myself, but I could crap out better dialogue than this "casual" scene's;
It is Devin Liukan, your childhood
friend, you haven't seen in years.
He rushes up to greet you. You both
Devin: "Surprise, dear friend!"
You: "What brings you to Stonegate?"
Devin: "I was in town on business, and
I heard of your acquisition by the king.
-I have come to congratulate you.."
You: "My friend, .. how long has it been?"
Devin: "Three years I believe.."
You: "You still studying to be a thief?"
Devin: "Still studying?! Hell I'm the teacher now!"
You both laugh.
That is the funniest joke in the game. See what he did there?! As can be inferred from the dialogue, all the characters talk the same and there's really no characterisation; Devin is The Friend who accompanies you on your quest, Cleo is Your Sister (who annoyingly says "Father" or "Brother" at the end of seemingly every sentence she speaks), your Father is Stern, etc. These are archetypes, not personalities, which would be fine if there was at least an attempt at some sort of development; but it never comes.
As an aside, an odd quirk of Chase's that I've noticed on editing his work is how his commands all seem to have something to do with excrement; ':poop', ':shit', ':crap', etc. It's nothing significant, I'm just mentioning it as yet another possible parallel to Liefeld's propensity have his characters say 'shit' frequently. However, there are not enough references to blood in the code for this to be a major point (Bloodlines has 'blood' in the title though, I suppose that counts).
And it's awesome that Chase has only ever finished one project (ie. Bloodlines; I suppose I've no room to talk, I've not touched any aspect of Frost, in ZZT or otherwise, for months), again just like Rob Liefeld!! Holy shit, it's like they're the same person! I'm surprised Chase never tried to release his ZZT games with multiple title screens (one of which would, of course, be somehow covered in some kind of holofoil crap)!
Of course, taking the parallel to its conclusion, Final Fantasy Disc 1 has become the butt of a lot of jokes, just like Youngblood did. Ha ha.
In conclusion, stop giving this game good reviews, you idiots. If you can't live without a good fantasy ZZT game, go play a good game like Ned the Knight; the graphics may not be as kewl and extreme as FFD1, but it's got soul, which is an element absent from 90% of Chase's output.
0/5. I'd give it 0.5/5 but I feel a deep and abiding need to lower the score some more from those positive reviews.
ps. i sure do hope chase reads this and calls me a grade-schooler! it would be the highest honour ^___^