Uncharted Waters

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Uncharted Waters, normally released as Daikoukai Jidai (大航海時代?), is a popular Japanese video game series produced by Koei under its "Rekoeition" brand.

It is a simulation and role-playing video game series dealing with sailing and trading, themed around the Age of Discovery. In the games, the player takes up the role of a captain (or commodore in some translations) and manages a seagoing fleet to participate in trades, privateering, treasure hunting, exploration, and plain piracy. Even though the series is largely open-ended, there is still a loose plot which requires the player to follow certain paths, and deviating from these paths may stall the progress of the story.

In East Asia, the series has a large cult following, but it has not received much recognition outside the region. However, it has been compared to the earlier Sid Meier's Pirates! in gameplay and theme.

Historical background[edit]

Main article: Age of Discovery

In Japan, the term "daikoukai jidai" refers to the Age of Discovery, the period between the 15th century and the 17th century when European explorers sailed the seas to open new alternative ways to Asia when the Ottoman Empire blocked the land routes.

This period was characterized by the rivalry between Spain and Portugal, the advent of colonization, and general exploration. In later games, other countries are also involved. Some historical events during the Age of Discovery, like the Treaty of Tordesillas, were mentioned.

The game series makes many references to the historical background, although much like Pirates!, the more treacherous details of the era are idealized to create an adventurous and exciting mood.

Uncharted Waters[edit]

Uncharted Waters
Daikoukai Jidai
Uncharted Waters Cover.jpg
Platform(s) MSX, NES, Sega Mega Drive, SNES
Release date(s) NES, MSX
1991
Sega Mega Drive, SNES
1992

In the first game of the series, the player assumes the role of Leon Franco, the young, ambitious son of a noble family fallen on hard times in Portugal. The goal of the game is to restore the family's former glory and achieve Leon's dreams. Only three nations are represented, Portugal, Spain and the Ottoman Empire, although there are many neutral ports around the world that the player can "invest" in and thus make part of Portugal's sphere of influence. This, as well as discovering ports and defeating other merchants and pirates in sea battles, increases Leon's fame. With increased fame, Leon can complete tasks for the King of Portugal and gain higher titles of nobility.

The story is set in the early 16th century. It was released on MSX and NES in 1991, and Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and SNES in 1992; the SNES version was originally titled Super Daikoukai Jidai in Japan, as with many SNES ports of Koei games. The English versions were also released in the same years respectively. The game was ported to PC and Macintosh, as well.

Uncharted Waters: New Horizons[edit]

Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
Daikoukai Jidai II
Uncharted Waters New Horizons Cover.jpg
Platform(s) NEC PC-98, SNES, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, PC, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Virtual Console
Release date(s) PC-98, SNES, Sega Mega Drive
1994
PlayStation, Sega Saturn
1996
Wii Virtual Console
  • JP March 17, 2009
  • NA April 6, 2009
Wii U Virtual Console
  • JP October 30, 2013
  • NA November 14, 2013
  • PAL November 28, 2013

This game is perhaps the most famous of the series. Even though an English version exists, it still has not managed to achieve the mainstream popularity Pirates! had. There is only a relatively small following outside East Asia.[citation needed]

Also set in the 16th century, this game is a sequel to the first title and was released for NEC PC-98, SNES, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis and PC in 1994. It also saw releases in 1996 on Sega Saturn and PlayStation in Japan exclusively. The SNES version recently appeared on Nintendo's Virtual Console in Japan on March 17, 2009 and in North America on April 6, 2009 for the Wii[1] and in Japan on October 30, 2013, in North America on November 14, 2013 and for the first time in Europe on November 28, 2013 for the Wii U.

In this game, there are six protagonists to choose from, each of them representing a different path or career featured in the game. They are listed as follows:

  • João Franco: Son of Leon from the first game, a Portuguese explorer sent by his father to follow the family's footsteps and discover the secrets of the lost continent of Atlantis.
  • Catalina Erantzo: Former Spanish naval officer turned pirate, she avenges the loss of her brother and her fianceé and suspects that the Franco family is behind this scheme. She is loosely based upon the historical character of Catalina de Erauso, the Lieutenant Nun.
  • Otto Baynes: English naval officer, a privateer sent by Henry VIII in a secret mission to defeat the Spanish Armada and prevent Spanish hegemony in the European continent.
  • Ernst von Bohr: Dutch teacher and cartographer, he is set to make a journey to far lands and with this experience create a map of the entire world.
  • Pietro Conti: Italian treasure hunter, he inherited a huge debt from his father and is set to travel for treasures and other secrets in order to cover the debt.
  • Ali Vezas: Turkish merchant, he grew up as an orphan in extreme poverty. With the help of his friend, he decides to become a trade merchant and find his lost sister.

While the game is more or less open-ended, developing the character's career is necessary to advance the plot.

At the time of release, the SNES version of the game is noted to contain superior music to the other ports of the game, as the game took advantage of the SNES' Nintendo S-SMP chip and used high quality instrument samples. On the other hand, the other console ports of the game at that time were released on consoles that used an OPL2 family chipset for music. While the PC could support high quality samples via the Sound Blaster AWE32 or Gravis Ultrasound family of cards, the PC port game did not take advantage of those advanced solutions, instead choosing to only be optimized for AdLib music cards, which used an OPL2 chip for music.

The Saturn and PlayStation version contained enhanced FMV opening cutscenes.

Mobile Daikoukai Jidai 2[edit]

In 2007, Koei announced the release of Mobile Daikoukai Jidai 2. The game is a port of the original for both iMode and Yahoo Mobile capable mobile phones in Japan.[2]

Daikoukai Jidai III: Costa del Sol[edit]

Released in 1996 on PC, this title was the first to depart from the formula and engine of the series. The traditional focus on story was removed in this game, and some character customization is possible, if only purely decorative. There are two player characters from Portugal and Spain. Although the differences between them are mainly mechanical, the role-playing element was greatly reduced.

The theme of exploration is heavily emphasized, as land travel is now possible, and there is a lot more to be explored and discovered overall, compared to the early titles. The game starts in the mid fifteenth century and allows for the player to make historical discoveries such as the New World or a route to India as well as conquer civilizations like the Aztec and Inca Empire. Also, the game experiments with the concept of language in a video game, a feature uncommon in the industry, and necessitating the hiring of translators and teachers. The player can also continue the game by marrying bar-girls and having children, who in turn can continue the seafaring tradition and even take on part of his father's skills and inventory. Perhaps it is due to these dramatic changes that Daikoukai Jidai 3 left players uncomfortable and failed to achieve much popularity even within Japan.

At its initial release, this title caused some controversy for allowing slave trade in the game. The feature is disabled in later updates.

Unlike most games in the series, this game was never released for consoles; it was only released for PC, working under Windows 2000.

Daikoukai Jidai Gaiden[edit]

Released in 1997 on PlayStation and Sega Saturn, the game uses the same engine, and focuses on the story of two characters instead, further expounding upon the loose plot that ties the series together. The two protagonists are as follows:

  • Miranda Verte: Genoese adventurer who mistakenly thought the treasure hunter, Pietro Conti, had asked for her hand in marriage, and sets off to find him. Her quest eventually leads to a plot relating to an ancient civilisation in South America, which were touched on by Pietro's previous adventure.
  • Salvador Reis: Pirate and adopted son of Hayreddin Reis (aka Khayr ad-Din). His adventure involves rising to fame as one of the Algerian pirates, compete for domination with enemy pirate clans and also struggle for power within his own clan.

Daikoukai Jidai IV: Porto Estado[edit]

Daikoukai Jidai IV: Rota Nova
Daikoukai Jidai IV Rota Nova Cover.jpg
Platform(s) PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS
Release date(s)
  • JP March 23, 2006

The fourth game in the series was released in 2000 for both PlayStation and PC under Windows 2000 and XP. This game returns to the previous formula, although its open-endedness has decreased and the engine has been updated. This title is plot-wise unrelated to the series that ended in Gaiden. Porto Estado is known for its fine art and high-quality illustrations.

The story evolves on the search of the seven Proof of the Conqueror, which are seven ancient artifacts, in seven areas around the world (Northern Europe, Mediterranean, Africa, New World, Indian Ocean, South Asia and East Asia). It is said that having these proofs proves that the sailor is the champion of all sailors. Four sailors (plus another three in expansion) unwittingly involved in the struggle of the quest of the search of the Proof of the Conqueror. It is interesting that not all sailors are from Europe: two of the seven characters are from Asia (one from East Asia and another from southeast Asia), one from Caribbean and another one from Middle East.

There are many significant changes in this game. For example, the game no longer has the concept of year and the result is that characters in this game will not age. Also, player can set up regional fleets and these regional fleets are valuable financial resources. In combat, naval battle is now fought in real time.

The country boundaries have disappeared. Each character is only represented by their own guild and their home country is not important in gameplay. Ports in this game also have a market share rating in a percentage scale. Players can trade in a port only when his guild has some market share in that port, which can be gained by signing a contract with the local governor.

Daikoukai Jidai IV: Rota Nova[edit]

Rota Nova was released by KOEI on March 23, 2006, for the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS. This is a remake of Porto Estado for handhelds:

  • The PSP version includes a ship race function.
  • The DS version includes use of the stylus and map.

Uncharted Waters Online[edit]

Uncharted Waters Online
Uncharted Waters Online Cover.jpg
Platform(s) Windows, PlayStation 3
Release date(s) Japan (Spring 2005)
Korea (July 2005)
Taiwan (January 2006)
China (January 7, 2007)
USA (Fall 2010) (Windows)
SEA (November 19, 2011)

Uncharted Waters Online offers much of the same gameplay experience seen in the single player games in a multiplayer environment. Players of the single player series will be well aware of similar concepts such as Missions, Adjutants, Investment, and National & Pirate NPC fleets.

Country boundaries have reappeared, with more countries (Spain, Portugal, Venice, Ottoman Empire, France, England, and The Netherlands), however the concept of time is non-existent. The storyline is important to unlocking new areas in the game. The player now receives fame from activities such as battling, trading, discovering, and sailing. When fame levels reach required amounts, the player unlocks new areas of the world. The level of fame required differ from country to country.

The game introduces a 3d-environment with DirectX 9.0c capabilities. As any MMORPG the game features fleet operations (party-system), companies (guilds), player versus player combat, trade, adventure, and poker, and large-scale factional warfare. As well, the game offers a single player storyline and player-vs-environment quests.

Soundtracks[edit]

The soundtracks for both Uncharted Waters and New Horizons were composed by Yoko Kanno. The soundtrack for Uncharted Waters Online is based in part on those works.[3]

Reception[edit]

Dave Arneson in Computer Gaming World in 1992 criticized the first Uncharted Waters' inaccurate history and geography, flawed and repetitive game play ("those who are looking for variety and surprises should weigh anchor and sail for another game"), and "one-dimensional" NPCs unlike those in other Koei games. He concluded, "when compared to what it could have been, it is more than mildly disappointing".[4] In a 1993 survey of pre 20th-century strategy games the magazine gave the game two stars out of five, stating that while its geography was inaccurate and user interface "could bear improvement", "Game play can be interesting".[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Six Nintendo DSiWare Titles, One WiiWare Game and One Virtual Console Game Added to Shop Channels". Nintendo of America. 2009-04-06. Retrieved 2009-04-06. 
  2. ^ http://www.gamecity.ne.jp/products/products/ee/keitai/daikou/mdaikou2.htm
  3. ^ Setting Sail Into 'Uncharted Waters', "Korean Times", July 28, 2005. Retrieved on December 27, 2007.
  4. ^ Arneson, Dave (May 1992). "I Must Go Down to the Sea, Again". Computer Gaming World. p. 40. Retrieved 24 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Brooks, M. Evan (1993-06). "An Annotated Listing of Pre-20th Century Wargames". Computer Gaming World. p. 136. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 

External links[edit]