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Neutopia II (TurboGrafx-16)

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100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
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Written by  :  Will Ford (6)
Written on  :  Mar 15, 2018
Platform  :  TurboGrafx-16

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Shameless in design, competent in execution.

The Good

As someone that has failed over and over to "click" with the classic top down Zelda games for various reasons, I was surprised to find myself enjoying both Neutopia and its sequel given how overt the games are in their influences.

The core gameplay is quite enjoyable: one button to attack, the other to use your item. Finding enjoyment in this simplicity works in tangent with the easy to follow route the game sends you on. Directions are given bluntly by NPC's and the simple English they speak in makes knowing where you need to go a breeze, unlike Nintendo's classic title.

Also dissimilar to TLoZ, Neutopia's secrets are (somewhat) logical, even if incredibly rudimentary. Burn down a certain tree, push a certain rock and boom, reward. Having "infinite" tries at discovering the secrets - in comparison to Zelda's finite use of bombing random walls - means it never feels like you're fighting archaic game design... there are other reasons it feels like that!

Presentation wise the game is a step up from the original. More diversity in the score and general increase in quality for both said score and visuals makes Neutopia 2 pleasant to look and listen to. They wont stick with you like say TLoZ's overworld theme, but they serve their purpose well in moment-to-moment gameplay.

The Bad

If there was one single thing that killed Neutopia for me it would be the hideously imprecise hit detection system. Unfortunately that transfers over to the sequel, albeit maybe a little less egregious, but still highly unpleasant.

The problem lies in the fact the game seems to draw hitboxes around sprites rather the objects, meaning logically, standing above a target, even if there is a massive gap between you, will result in you taking damage because you're technically touching their hitbox i.e. their sprite. It doesn't help that certain enemies very in size or create the illusion of flight through shadows. So to attack a flying enemy you merely walk up a few tiles and strike the sprite, even though in theory and in the logic the game wants you to believe that shouldn't be possible.

Other issues are all tied to gameplay, notably how the game ramps up in difficulty in annoying ways. Rather than have enemies with unique attack patterns, they simply either get bigger or faster, usually with more broken hitboxes or projectiles which always feels off.

My other gripe would be with the dungeon design which actually took somewhat of a step back from the original, relying more on Zelda's "bomb random walls" philosophy than any rational puzzle solving. "Push random block" also becomes more prevalent in these sections and make the dungeons feel like a slog to get through, resulting in bosses which somehow have even worse hitbox detection due to unique movement and attack patterns.

The Bottom Line

The Legend of Zelda. If you like the The Legend of Zelda and doesn't have some weird elitist mindset (i.e. are okay with game blatantly ripping it off), there is substantial enjoyment to be had. As someone that has never liked TLoZ, I quite enjoyed the first few hours of Neutopia 2 due to it's 8 direction movement and overall simplicity. I just think the flaws I highlighted get more prevalent as the game goes on and I eventually couldn't take any more.