UNCHARTED WATERS: NEW HORIZONS / Koei / SNES
 
 
UW2 returns with the open-world style of the first game, but with six characters to play as now, each with their own nationality, special skills and overall goal. Their quests intertwine in various ways; of course, you're also free to just eff off their quest and spend your thirty in-game years as a pro pirate or align with any other nation you choose.
 


There's also a wealth of little things added to the formula that weren't present in UW1, too many to keep track of - an investment system in ports and shipyards (which not only changes their alliances to nations but also causes new goods and ships to be produced), natural wonders to discover (and sell), cartography skill and the ability to make money from mapping unknown territory, more detailed combat and captain-to-captain duels. The game also has a much smoother engine, particularly for sailing which now allows you to move in 8 directions and scrolls the world map around in one big contiguous screen. And whoever chiptune'd up Yoko Kanno's music for this one did a much more competent job than the first SNES entry.
 


The only real issue with the game is the antiquated menu system. It was clunky even for the mid-90s when this came out, and modern game pampering certainly hasn't made it any more sufferable. It's actually fine and fairly sensible most of the time, but restocking your ship, buying cargo and assigning crew and mates while in port is just too slow and fussy, requiring an inordinate amount more clicks than it should. Well, the only other problem is getting started with no manual or foreknowledge, as like the first game (and most Koei games), you're kind of dumped in with little explanation to sink or swim. That's why I wrote a Beginner's Guide (linked below.)
 


There's lots of number-heavy sim games with similar levels of depth, but very very few that both manage to make complex mechanics as accessible and convenient as this game does (port menus aside), and marry the whole thing with pleasant aesthetics and a fine sense of being immersed in the historic period. New Horizons is really a bit of an underappreciated marvel, and I think the SNES version of the game is the best of the ports of it.
 
 
 
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