Sunday, January 17, 2010

Videogame Classics - Neutopia 2

Did Neutopia 2 really arrive on Virtual Console one month after the original? Hudson likely figured that you had enough time to finish that game, and since you had such a fun time wasting your precious hours away, here's the crack sequel, better in every way. Pony up the cash, kids.

If you thought that first game was a ripoff from Legend of Zelda...hoo, boy. Get a load of the title screen from the sequel. Hudson didn't even try to hide it this time. They gave up any pretense of originality, and instead focused on creating the best damned Zelda ripoff they could. I think they really did a great job. No, I still insist that Sega's Golvellius was the best Zelda clone ever made, but Neutopia gives a serious run for the money.

This game features one unique premise, and it's one that I'm surprised Nintendo never tried. In this game, you play the son of the hero from the first game, who has turned up missing. You spend the game chasing him down. Travelling through towns and exploring dungeons just happens along the way.

I've spent some time with this game, since I've missed it entirely the first time around. I only had one or two chances to spend time with the Turbografx back then. Fortunately, I knew this kid in my high school, and we swapped game systems - his Turbo, my Genesis - for a few weeks. It was a good plan. I think this was after Sonic the Hedgehog appeared, by which time Nintendo was in the game, and poor Turbo was on the way out. The next time I saw any consoles was when local stores were dumping their excess stock for sale.

That's too bad, because it meant that a great game like Neutopia 2 largely missed out. And you have to admire Hudson's drive to push the system's limits, and push themselves. The tendency would be to just run through the numbers, planning their jump to greener pastures. But Hudson and NEC were joined at the hip, and the PC Engine was popular enough in Japan to keep the game running for another couple innings. Good news for us.

The first Neutopia looked very good for the time, and the sequel improves in every way. It's really amazing, actually. Far more color and detail, for more touches like grass and trees and rocks, desert and snow, and underground caves without any light. There was a tremendous amount of effort put into the graphics, and the assortment of monsters that lie scattered across the landscape. The landscape, of course, looks terrific, brilliantly conceived and varied.

Your hero, Junior, or whoever he's called, can also move and attack in eight directions. This is a great addition, one of those obvious things that too few developers noticed when copying the original 1986 Zelda. The feel is looser, as well; the pace seems a touch faster and more limber. Neutopia 2 is like an athlete who's already warmed up and ready for action.

I find myself constantly praising Hudson's virtues with their Turbografx reissues on VC, and there's a reason for that. They definitely deserve their praise for this effort. If the greater gaming public doesn't stand up and take notice of the Turbo, then there's really no hope for 'em, is there? They'll probably just go back to their karaoke games and custom drinks.

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