Tuesday, June 16, 2009

VC Look: Neutopia 1 & 2

The success of the original Legend of Zelda prompted a few developers to design their own games that mirrored the NES classic. While decent games in their own right they are for better or worse near-exact clones. The Neutopia games fall under this classification. Though well-designed it's obvious where the bulk of their inspiration came from and thus they lack their own identity.

The Neutopia games tell the tales of young men who seek to become heroes by going through overworlds filled with secrets as well as labyrinths filled with danger(and more secrets). Both games take a fairly linear approach to exploration. The first game makes it obvious by requiring the player to collect a couple items before they can access the next section of the world. It operates sort of like a hub, where the player starts from a central area and goes through the other areas in turn. The second game is a little less linear but replaces the hub with a fairly easy to navigate path. Neither game is like the original Zelda where one could access nearly any dungeon at any time. 

The heroes of both games have access to arsenal Link can only dream of. Aside from standard weapons like bombs and boomerangs they can access magic rods that become stronger in proportion to their health, flails that can attack enemies from a distance, and even a bunch of Link's popular items like a rainbow bridge for crossing exactly one square of water. Like Link the Neutopia kids are also able to find stronger weapons & armor in dungeons or lying around the world. It's also helpful to track down various boots as not only do they let the characters access new areas but they also allow them to move faster. Early on these games start off quite slow because it takes the guys forever to get anywhere. 

The worlds these two guys explore are filled to the brim with trees and walls housing secrets. I'd say about 99% of the areas you'll visit have at one secret room per screen. Some house rewards while others give information and still others offer to restore your life or save your game(these guys tend to crop up near dungeons..which is very helpful). After a certain point though it does get tiring checking every single screen for secrets, especially if the player loses track and forgets what rooms they've already uncovered.

The dungeons are again similar to what you'd expect from a Zelda-clone. Most dungeons have one or two equipment upgrades, some prisoners who give important information, and plenty of enemies and traps. Unfortunately many rooms tend to lock up when the player enters, forcing them to seek out the sole brick that they have to push to unlock the doors. This can get quite maddening as this happens very often and some rooms can house quite a few bricks.

The monsters of Neutopia are typical for the genre. Expect lots of blobs early on but as the game progresses the army of evil starts to improve in both strength and original designs. Many enemies that rely on projectiles attack do so without providing a visual cue like pausing for a second. Though your hero can protect against most of these as long as his shield is continually upgraded, it's best to always take to the sides and never approach enemies by getting directly in front of them. The bosses are thankfully much better than the ones in Legend of Zelda. Aside from offering a greater variety in designs these guys have various attacks and unique patterns. 

In terms of mechanics Neutopia 1 & 2 is well done. I guess this is just as well since aside from ripping off the structure and design of Zelda they also went after the mechanics as well. They can be a bit though as enemies that fly or jump into the air can still damage or be damaged even if they look like they're high into the air. I guess it really isn't a big deal in the long run but it threw me off at first.

The biggest fault with these games is that they are far too repetitive and the dungeons just seem to take far too long to complete. While they're similar in size to Zelda, Neutopia's dungeons feel longer and less challenging because the enemies tend to be slow and weak. The enemies in Zelda's dungeons can be pretty dangerous and having to face off with a room filled with can make anyone wary. The creatures of Neutopia however simply don't stand a chance when the heroes have access to so many great weapons(at least the fire rod was significantly weakened in the second game). Many of the dungeons feel like just a series of rooms and there's nothing in the way of short-cuts or even a way to keep doors from locking or enemies from respawning. It becomes a bit more tolerable when the hero attains faster movement speed but by then the dungeons have grown even larger. 

Perhaps most distressing about the Neutopia games is that despite the fact that they came out years after the Legend of Zelda they did little in the way of improving on it. Sure there are more items to play with and more secrets to find but the basic structure has gone unchanged and most of the dungeons never really get beyond being just a series of locked rooms filled with monsters. They're fine games if you're interested in more of the same but if this is the best we can expect it's no wonder why Nintendo changed everything with the release of Link to the Past.

All in all they're decent enough clones but I wouldn't bother with them. 

No comments:

Post a Comment