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Video Game / Uncharted Waters: New Horizons

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The second installment of the Uncharted Waters series by Koei, New Horizons was released in 1994 for PC-98, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Sega Genesis and later ported to PC, Sega Saturn, and PlayStation. It was also the last installment to be officially translated into English until the Uncharted Waters Online beta launched in 2010.

Like the original game, UWNH is a Wide-Open Sandbox with RPG Elements, offering you the world's entire oceans to explore. The trading and combat mechanics remain mostly the same with a few new tweaks, but the exploration mode of the game was completely revamped: you now gain fame not only by discovering remote ports but also by searching native villages for unique discoveries, ranging from geographical or cultural wonders to exotic plants and animals. You can then sell these discoveries to the highest bidder, as well as make maps of your voyages and sell them to cartographer guilds for a nifty profit.

Storywise, the second game takes place some 20 years after the first one and moves away from a single protagonist to follow six new main characters. Each of them hails from a different nation (England, Holland, and Italy are added to the first game's Portugal, Spain, and Turkey as major sea powers) and has a unique and sometimes overlapping storyline. Additionally, there are now three kinds of fame: explorer (gained by discovering world wonders and remote ports and selling maps), piracy (gained by defeating enemy fleets, even if it is not, technically, piracy), and trade (gained by investing large sums into ports and fulfilling fetch quests), with each character having to build up one of them to advance their respective story.

The game has a character sheet. Please add put character-related tropes there!

Like the original game, New Horizons can be downloaded from abandonware sites and runs smoothly in DOSBox. The SNES port was also released on Wii and Wii U Virtual Console, while the PC-98 port was released on Steam for Windows packaged in an emulator in select regions in 2017.

The game provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Alliance Meter: Not only do the countries have separate Relationship Values with each other and with the Player Character, as in the first game, but you can now defect to other countries by visiting their kings and play for another team. Catalina even starts the game "Allied with Piracy", hence, inherently hostile towards everyone, but nothing prevents her from entering the service of a monarch.
  • Anachronism Stew: The game is set in 1522 but...
    • The "Spanish Armada" didn't exist for another 65 years.
    • Gerardus Mercator was 10 years old at the time.
    • A marine chronometer wasn't invented for another 150 years.
    • The cafe in London serves tea and fish and chips, about 130 years before tea was first brought to England and about 60 years before potatoes were.
    • Blackbeard is mentioned as being one of the possible culprits in the destruction of Catalina's fiance's fleet, but he wasn't active as a pirate until 1716.
    • The Dutch Republic would not come into existence until as early as 1581 and become formally established until 1648.
  • Artistic License Geography: If we disregard for the moment that the map is in Mercator projection with all its distortion, one of the earliest accessible discoveries available to the player is Victoria Falls, not seen by Europeans in real life until mid-19th century. The game appeared to be pretty random regarding the navigability of inland waterways, allowing the player's blue-water fleet to sail up cataracts and falls in some, while leaving out perfectly navigable ones at whim.
  • Betting Minigame: You can play Blackjack at the Cafe to earn money.
  • Boarding Party: "Rushing" the enemy flagship now gives you an option to challenge their captain to a sword duel.
  • Bold Explorer: The playable characters of the Explorer background.
  • Boring, but Practical: Buy Arts in Athens and sell them in Istanbul. Then buy Carpet in Istanbul and sell them in Athens. Repeat until rich. In fact, this is outright suggested by the game for Ali's story.
  • Bowdlerize: The original Japanese version of the game has churches and mosques. Both of them were replaced by the Round Earth Society in accordance to Nintendo of America's censorship policies.
  • Cartography Sidequest: Main quest for Ernst, but played straight for other characters, especially those of the Explorer background.
  • Combat by Champion: The duels between two fleets' captains in the second game can decide the outcome of a naval battle in a single round without having to damage your ships much. In fact, this can become quite a Game-Breaker, e.g. when playing Pietro (whose swordplay skill is pretty high for some reason), you eventually gain enough money to afford the best armor and swords in the game. Which, in conjunction with the fact that explorers generally have very fast and maneuverable ships, unexpectedly makes him the deadliest man in the high seas.
  • Cool, but Inefficient: Blackjack can played at any Cafe for some casual fun and quick cash. Though even if you bet big and win on a long streak, the earnings are mere pennies compared to some certain trade route strategies. Oh, and if you win too many times, the dealer will refuse to play anymore since they lost too much money against you.
  • Creator Provincialism: The best ships in the game can only be found in Japan, and totally outclass anything from Europe in size, speed, weapon capacity, and cost to build.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: The first game has three endings: Leon marries the princess and becomes the heir apparent; Leon marries the princess but remains a "mere" duke; or Leon rejects the princess, instead choosing the seafaring career. New Horizons establishes that only the second is canon.
  • Fame Gate: The various royals' missions are handed out the same way as in the original game, but so do some story missions (the ones that are not handed out immediately after beating the previous ones). Additionally, there are now three types of fame (explorer, merchant, combat), and each character has to raise one of them to advance their respective storyline. The kings, however, react dynamically to your fame and only hand out missions pertaining to your highest score (so if your combat fame eclipses your explorer fame, your king will stop asking you for discoveries and instead start sending you after pirates).
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: In story-related cutscenes that involve fighting, the bad guys are "knocked offscreen" to show that they've been defeated. But when you lose a sea battle, you're treated to a glimpse of your character going down with their burning ship which has a few skeletons of their dead crewmembers.
  • Fractional Winning Condition: The Cartography Sidequest counts as complete once you've surveyed about 90% of the world map.
  • Fragile Speedster: The Kansen is the best ship for exploration as it has unrivaled mobility and a very good cargo capacity if its built with minimum bunks and no guns. And all of that is just for the low price of 2000 gold.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: If you use an infinite gold cheat and donate an absurd amount of money to the Round Earth Society, it causes a catastrophic integer overflow error that will break the graphics of the game, rendering it almost unplayable.
  • Gameplay Randomization:
    • When you are in the direct employment of a nation's ruler, they will give you a task to be fulfilled. And if you're unlucky, you might get a task that is either impossible of will take way too much of your time.
    • The Caribbean, western tip of Africa, Indonesia, and waters of Japan are all highly dangerous areas where storms will appear frequently. Thankfully, you can reduce the probability of a storm by investing in a figurehead for your ship. And the more money you pay for your figurehead, the less likely a storm will appear out of nowhere to inconvenience or even sink you.
    • Luck is an actual stat in this game although it is hidden and never explained in detail. And the only way to raise your Luck is to donate money to the Round Earth Society.
    • The game world has 96 villages each with their own unique wonder to be discovered. However, the hardcode limit is only 50 villages for one save file. So with every playthrough, a random assortment of villages will be selected to appear with the rest being undiscoverable.
    • The dueling system is basically "rock-paper-scissors" where "parry negates thrust," "block negates lash", and "dodge negates strike". If neither of these perfect defenses are performed, then the damage is calculated by the strength value of the offensive and defensive actions and the weapons and armor of the characters.
    • While some guides advise you that Pirate Fleets will attack you if you get too close to them, what actually happens instead is that they will behave unpredictably. You can casually pass by Pirate Fleets with no danger in one moment, but in the next moment you might find one that was trying to chase after you while you were exploring the world (or even a river) only to suddenly give up and just sit there wondering what it was they were going to do earlier.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Oh, Ali... if it weren't for the ridiculously easy carpet/art trade (see Boring, but Practical above), he would have been branded a con-man: he promised people they will get ten times the money they loan him! And those people are his friends!
  • A Girl in Every Port: Any Player Character except Catalina (the only female captain among the six) can woo any of the waitresses he meets in major ports around the world with stories of his exploits, jewelry, or treasures until she falls in love with him, and there is no limit on how many girls can fall for him.
  • Hard-Coded Hostility: The pirates. There are six other factions (Portugal, Spain, Turkey, England, Netherlands, and Italy) but you can ally with or even defect to them. Pirates, on the other hand, are always hostile. They even attack "their own" (e.g. Catalina, who is "Allied with Piracy" the beginning of her storyline).
  • Historical Domain Character: Quite a few:
  • Infinity -1 Sword: In terms of ships available in the game, the La Reale is available right from the start in Europe, is almost as fast as a Kansen (the fastest ship in-game), needs three times the number of minimum crew yet still not too many at 30, still had the endurance and speed combination to reach almost anywhere on the map, and retain enough supply to placate natives for discovery. You'd likely be already in one complete with an expensive and locally irreplaceable figurehead, by the time you can get a Kansen in an exploration-focused playthrough.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: Blue Crescent (from Far East) and Eroll's Armor (from Copenhagen). They (and other star-ranked weapons and armor) make even the wimps (Ali, Ernst) capable of going toe-to-toe with fleet commanders!
  • Manual Leader, A.I. Party: Your ships other than the flagship are now controlled by AI (in the first game it was possible to control all your ships yourself). The AI was particularly bad and thus battles in the second game are extremely more costly for the player (unless you chose to use Combat by Champion).
  • Maximum HP Reduction: Ships can be repaired after sustaining damage in battle, but constant damage wears down their maximum durability. Notably, there is no way to restore this permanent damage, except selling the used ship and buying a new one.
  • Never Lend to a Friend: It strangely works well during Ali's story. He pesters his friends for loans so he can get a trading running. Later, he meets Pietro (also a potential player character), who is rather overly friendly and asks him for loans. Both cases end well for the lenders.
  • Nintendo Hard:
    • Joao, Catalina, and Otto's scenarios will present the most challenging gameplay difficulties as you have to win Naval Battles to increase their battle skills and progress the storyline. You'll also have to amass and expend a considerable amount of wealth into acquiring and equipping warships, staffing them with officers and crewmen, and having to constantly pay for their upkeep in the form of monthly wages, hull repairs, crew replacements, and supplies.
    • Although they're considered easy by definition, Ernst, Pietro, and Ali's scenarios can still be challenging for first-time players as a significant sum of your gold will be spent on food and water and having to pay for clues in case you don't know where to go or what to do next.
  • Number Two: You can have number two (the First Mate), number three (the Book Keeper), and number four (the Chief Navigator) in your Player Party.
  • Player Party: You still have to hire navigators to helm your additional ship but you now also have three additional positions for your mates: First Mate, Book Keeper, and Chief Navigator, who possess skills that the PC doesn't (e.g. haggling and celestial navigation if the PC specializes in combat).
  • Politically Correct History: Ports that were historically associated with the highly unpleasant "slave trade" instead deal in ivory, coral, and musk as trading commodities.
  • Rank Up: Like the first game, in every story except for Catalina's, in addition to leveling up, you can rise from being a commoner to a duke. No chance to become king though.
  • Required Party Member: Each PC has an entourage of starting mates who accompany them throughout the entire game (except when they leave for story reasons).
  • Romance Sidequest: You can romance the waitresses in various bars, who'll eventually fall in love with you if their affection is maxed out. Unless you play as Catalina (she can still max out their affection for the gameplay benefits, just never receives any love confessions).
  • A Side Order of Romance: Various waitresses around the world's inns can be wooed by any protagonist (except Catalina) in a sort of a proto-Romance Sidequest.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Characters have skill scores tied to their Sailing and Combat levels and up to five learnable perks.
  • Stat Grinding: You improve your and your mates' seamanship skills by undertaking long sea voyages (preferably in unfamiliar waters), and your combat skills, by winning sea battles.
  • Static Role, Exchangeable Character: Downplayed. If you have mates who aren't busy navigating ships, you can appoint them as First Mate, Book Keeper, and Chief Navigator. While mates appointed to these roles will participate in specific dialogues (e.g. the Book Keeper will chime in during market negotiations), their impact on the plot is negligible.
  • Take Your Time: Subverted. While you can take as much time as you want to complete the various objectives the game gives you, on December 31, 1553, the game deems your Player Character too old to sail and forcibly retires them, resulting in a Non Standard Game Over.
  • Three-Quarters View: Only in ports.
  • Time Skip: Between the first two games.
  • Timed Mission: The game begins on May 17, 1522 and will permanently end after December 31, 1553. Meaning that you have 31 years to complete the game.
  • Undying Loyalty: Plot-relevant party members will never abandon you (except for plot reasons).
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable:
    • If you mess around for a bit instead of going straight to Lisbon at the start of Pietro's scenario, you can end up being stuck in port forever.
    • If Catalina betrays Joao or any commodore of the Spanish 'Invincible Fleet' before the final battle, Joao will complain about how the player has prevented them from seeing the ending.
    • Depending on your selected character and circumstances, Defecting to another nation can permanently ruin your ability to progress their story.
    • Sell a single piece of map data to anyone but Mercator, and Ernst can no longer beat the game. Of course, since Ernst's entire objective is to complete the world map for Mercator...
  • Utility Party Member: In addition to the navigators, you can also appoint your mates to non-combat roles that let them bring their special skills to the table without ever participating in battles. For instance, a Chief Navigator with the Celestial Navigation perk allows you to auto-sail to any known port, while a Book Keeper with Accounting and Negotiation helps you get better prices for your goods at the market.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Plundering a village for food, whether it's done out of desperation or sadism, will reduce your character's charm and can result in crewmen being lost.
  • What the Hell, Player?: If Joao attacks Catalina's Fleet before the final battle, an exasperated Rocco Alemkel will call him out for the unbelievably stupid act of betrayal after which Catalina points out that Joao has suffered a considerable drop in his stats as punishment for going to battle against her.
  • With This Herring: Played with in Pietro's route and double-subverted in Otto's.

Alternative Title(s): Uncharted Waters II