This review is for Ultima: Quest of the Avatar on the NES console.
This happens to be my favorite game for the NES as well. This game is also known as Ultima III, however, is actually Ultima IV on the SMS. The SMS version has slight variances but is basically the same game.
Lets start with graphics. The game was released in 1990, and with that being said, these graphics are impressive. Far better than the SMS version and superior to many other NES games. Even the smallest items on the screen are distinguishable
Sound is the usual, repetitive, midi. I still give it a "B" since the music is decent but most important, tolerable. It does have a "Renaissance" sound to it, but no sound effects only music.
Now, gameplay. The depth of this game is fantastic. From the very beginning of the game your character is not chosen by you, but determined by how you answer the initial seven questions. These questions come up after you choose your name. You make a party of four by adding three of seven different available characters. You collect eight runes, eight stones, three keys blah, blah, blah. You do those kinds of things in all other role playing games. What sets this apart is the process to become the Avatar. You can buy $500 worth of Moss from the blind herb shop owner and pay only $1, you can run from every battle, you can kill innocent people but what does that say about you? You see, the basis of the game is based on virtues. No matter how many of the items you collect, or how deadly are the weapons you bought; it is how you behave in the game. You need to give to beggars even though money is hard to come by in this game. You need to give blood despite the fact your health goes down afterward. The game cannot be won without reaching avatarhood in all eight virtues. That's what makes this game fantastic!
I gave replay value an "A". Even though the game is the same, you can answer the initial questions differently in order to end up with the shepherd for instance, which I would imagine makes the game quite difficult. You can also change up your party by choosing a different combination of characters. I may be biased on this because I have beaten the game three times though.
Learning curve is "B+". Once you figure out where you need to go and what you need to do the game is easy to figure out. Kind of an 8-bit Oblivion. The menu can be aggrevating. For instance to equip a newly purchased weapon: Menu->Other->Ready->Ready->Geoff->X-Bow and instead of being able to go back to say Menu->Other->Ready->Ready so you can then choose a different player the "B" button closes the entire menu screen. So you have reopen: Menu->Other->Ready->Ready->Mariah for example. It would be better to have the "B" button to go back instead of closing the whole menu.
The only complaints I have about the game is the only way to heal during battle is by using magic. I would like to have seen healing items in the game. The battle setup in about 90% of the battles causes your hero and the character that's third in order to get pounded during battle. In this situation those are the two characters closest to the enemies, therefore they get attacked until one of the other two characters in the back move to the front during battle (see screenshot). Of course, you can change the order of your party except the hero has to stay in front, thus, the constant butt kicking the hero receives. The other battle layout is staggered so everyone gets beat up evenly. Other than these two small things, this game is flawless and for 1990, ahead of its time.