Legend of Valkyrie Review (TG-16)

 

Note: This game is an English-translated (extremely well done, I might add!) Turbografx-16 reproduction hu-card that was played on a component video-modded TG-16.

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Legend of Valkyrie is a beautiful action-RPG to behold in component video.

Note 2: This game may be relatively ‘obscure’ to the casual gamer, but there are numerous websites that have terrific information on it, as well as the other games in the series.  However, most of the websites I discovered primarily concerned themselves with the arcade version of the game, not the PC Engine (or Turbografx-16 in the U.S.) version.  I wanted to create a review that also, perhaps, adds some additional information that I could not find elsewhere about this console version.  As far as the story of the game goes, this review will not be as detailed as what you might find elsewhere, but I hope, if you’re interested in this version, this review may be of some use to you.

VersionsValkyrie no Densetsu, or Legend of Valkyrie, was released for the arcades in Japan in 1989; the only home console to receive a port at the time was the Japanese PC Engine (re-named the Turbografx-16 in the U.S.).  The U.S. never received the game, and it was only fairly recently that the game was translated into English (thank you, translators!!!)  While the PC Engine version of the game shares many similarities with its arcade counterpart, it is not a direct port.  Other websites do outstanding jobs of describing some of the basic differences between the arcade and PC Engine versions, but this particular review will focus solely on the PC Engine version, or, to be incredibly specific, the English-translated version that was made to be played on the U.S. console, the Turbografx-16.

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Valkyrie and Sandra’s adventure on the PC Engine is not an exact replication of the arcade experience.

Players: 1.  The arcade version had two players, with Player 2 controlling Sandra, but the PC Engine had not the horse power of an arcade machine, for all its positives.

Genre: Legend of Valkyrie is an interesting game to categorize.  It’s probably best described as a hybrid of genres; however, having completed it, I would best describe it as an adventure-RPG, not so dissimilar from Zelda or other Turbografx classics, Neutopia and Neutopia II.  It has an overhead perspective, which clearly gives it the appearance of an adventure-RPG, but it also adds platforming elements through the protagonist’s ability to jump from platform to platform at particular times.  Also, Valkyire fires a projectile almost constantly, making the game feel reminiscent of a run ‘n gun shooter.  The addition of a basic item screen, Experience Points, the accumulation of gold to buy items in shops, the ability to learn and use magic spells, and the ability to lightly ‘level up’ your character (by adding heart and magic containers) as the Stages progress, however, in my opinion, cement this game into the adventure-RPG genre.

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Legend of Valkyrie is an adventure-RPG with shooter and platforming elements thrown in.

Story: The following appears on the back cover of the game case, and is basically in line with what I have found elsewhere, as well as confirmed from a playthrough of the game: “A cute and courageous young Valkyrie is sent from Heaven to save the country of Marvel Land.  She is accompanied by Sandora, a green looking creature from the Sandora clan who is on a long journey in search of the Golden Seed, a magical artifact capable of granting wishes.  But the seed has only brought chaos and disaster to the world and Valkyrie is given the mission to find it and to destroy it before it falls into the wrong hands.  With her sword and magic powers, she travels through 7 large areas – from swamps to rocky hills, deep caves and creepy dungeons.”

Additionally, the antagonist of the game is Kamuz, who seeks to have his evil wishes granted by the Golden Seed.  Valkyrie, with help from her friends along the way, must vanquish the underlings of Kamuz before confronting him herself.

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Cutscenes advance the story after each Stage.

ControlButton I swings your sword, and your sword fires whatever weapon you have equipped.  Your basic attack, if no stronger weapon is equipped, is a straight, short-range blue fireball.  With whatever weapon you have equipped, you can switch on the turbo-fire and fire quickly.  With the turbo-switch turned off, if you hold down Button I, your magic spells can be cycled through for you to pick.  More on magic below.  Button II makes Valkyrie jump.  Tapping it lightly makes her hop, while holding the button causes her to make a long leap.  Useful in the game is hopping or leaping across the screen – she moves much faster this way than by walking.  Start pulls up your item screen.  Select has no function.

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A number of NPCs will give you clues or other assistance as the story progresses.  

Item ScreenYour item screen shows your current Experience Points, Gold, Magic Spells you’ve learned, how many lives you have remaining, and any items you’ve accumulated, from different types of weapons to items unique to the game’s 7 stages.  Important to note about Experience Points (earned through killing enemies):  You will earn extra lives at 10,000, 60,000, 120,000, and 200,000 EXP (possibly at higher levels as well, but I finished the game with a bit over 260,000).  This is the main purpose of Experience Points.

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The item screen comes in handy, particularly when you need to know what weapons you have left.

Hearts & MagicYou begin the game with 4 hearts and 4 magic containers.  Every time you take a hit, from any enemy, you lose half of a heart.  In order to learn magic, you must seek out the old wise man, Babasama.  Babasama is located in different, often out-of-the-way or hidden places throughout the game.  Sometimes you have to achieve a certain short objective in order to get him to appear.  If you miss finding him and don’t acquire a spell in a particular stage, you can’t go back – so seek him out by fully exploring each stage.

As I played the game, I gained additional heart containers and magic containers after beating particular stages – for example, after beating the boss ‘Treant’ from Stage 2, I began Stage 3 with five heart containers from there on out.

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Babasama the Wise Man bestows Magic spells…if you can find him!

Using MagicHolding Button I will pull up a small display cloud beside your character and pressing Left or Right will cycle through the spells you’ve acquired.  Releasing the button while on a particular spell will use it.  However, if you realize you don’t want to use a spell after pulling up the display cloud, all you have to do is scroll through the spells until you reach the blank cloud and release, and you’ll cancel any spell casting.  Of note, Valkyrie cannot be harmed while preparing to cast a spell.  Use that to your advantage.

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You can’t be harmed while scrolling through your spells – The BIG spell is INCREDIBLY useful against bosses.  

Weapons: Valkyrie will find weapons in treasure chests scattered throughout the 7 stages, or she can buy them from Zoul, the merchant whose shop can be found (usually multiple times) in each stage.  These weapons range from homing beams to bombs to 3-way shots.  Each weapon has a certain amount of ‘ammo’ to it – you’ll run out after firing around 160 shots with most weapons, although, unfortunately, there’s no on-screen indicator of how many shots you have left for each weapon.  Weapons are automatically equipped when they’re next up in your weapons que, and there’s no way to manually select a particular weapon at a particular time.  It took me a few minutes to figure out why I couldn’t immediately start firing my 3-way shot after I bought it from a shop – I had to wait until the ammo from my previous weapon was exhausted before the 3-way shot became automatically equipped.  *Also, note that Valkyrie carries a shield at all times, but she can’t use it at all!  It would have been great if there would have been a block button – I’m looking at you, un-used Select button.

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Zoul the merchant sells weapons, health items, or occasionally, a dress for the heroine.  

GoldYou accumulate gold by killing enemies.  All enemies drop gold coins, or, in later stages, gold bags.  They come in increments of 5, 20, or 50 gold pieces.  Accumulating gold is important to being successful in the game.  Zoul the merchant sells weapons or heart re-fills in his tent, often at exorbitant prices, and you will need these things on your quest.

Items: There are other items that you’ll collect in the game’s 7 stages.  In Stage 3, I collected the Red Dust and Blue Dust, although I absolutely could not figure out what good they did me.  In Stage 4, I bought the Exquisite Dress for 3,000 gold from Zoul in his shop – it let Valkyrie wear a pink dress that replenished a little life and magic until I got hit.  There are other items as well, some that are obviously useful and others that are a bit more confounding.

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You’ll find a range of items on your quest to stop Kamuz.  

Stages7 stages comprise Legend of Valkyrie.  Each one is unique, colorful, and dangerous!  Swarms of enemies, obstacles, and (sometimes slightly) difficult jumps await in each stage.  The main objective of each stage, in addition to furthering the plot with cutscenes at the end of each one, is to find Babasama the wise man and learn a new magic spell, collect gold and weapons, and beat the boss.  *Note, also, you will sometimes have optional mini-objectives within stages that have an impact later in the game – in Stage 4 you have to find Landa to get the Pepper to give to Babasama in Stage 6 in order to learn the Chameleon spell.  Every stage, with the exception of Stage 6, ends with a boss fight.  Stage 6 has an Elephant that asks you if you want a test of Knowledge or Strength – the Strength test lets you play a little Galaga-esque shooting screen with Valkyrie while the Knowledge Test lets you try to put together puzzle pieces in a set amount of time – being either good or terrible at these games doesn’t matter, as you’ll advance to the final stage regardless.

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The bosses in Legend of Valkyrie range from pushovers to powerhouses.

StrategyLegend of Valkyrie will lull you to sleep with its easy first couple of stages, before you realize that this game is actually a good deal deeper in terms of how you approach it if your aim is to beat it.  It is paramount that you collect gold, collect gold, collect gold.  Also, remember the extra lives I mentioned (that you earn for hitting certain Experience Point totals)?  It is crucial that you try not to use them and let them carry over into the later stages of the game.  In each of the 7 stages, if you die and do not have an extra life (or two) in reserve, you are given the option to re-start the Stage from the beginning (any gold or experience you accumulated will be re-set to what it was when you first began the Stage).  Beyond the first couple (easy) stages, you’ll often need multiple playthroughs of each stage to memorize the locations of enemies, treasure chests, Zoul’s shops, and hidden locations, as well as a few encounters with bosses to figure out how best to handle them.

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The Tornado spell, followed by the BIG spell, will help vanquish the Ice Stage boss.  

PasswordLegend of Valkyrie has a great password system.  You get a password from Babasama after the completion of each Stage.  The password perfectly records all your stats – Experience Points, Gold, Weapons, and Lives Remaining.  While the game could be completed in one sitting, I certainly did not, and I used the handy password system to save my progress along the way.

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Passwords, given by Babasama, are short and handy for advancing the quest.

ConclusionLegend of Valkyrie blew me away with how addictive it was.  After Neutopia and Neutopia II, I was eager to discover any additional overhead adventure-RPG hu-cards (or Turbochips), and this one was the ticket.  Valkyrie is a perfect difficulty – far from a cake-walk, but it has that je ne sais quoi that kept me coming back until I beat it.  Some stages were frustrating before I realized I couldn’t just blaze right through them.  While each stage is basically linear, there are secrets to be found that help you succeed if found.  I love the simplicity of the RPG elements with just the right amount of story-telling to make the plot interesting without being anywhere close to complex.

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Legend of Valkyrie is a gem for the PC Engine and Turbografx-16, and finally it has an English translation!

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade: A+  Outstanding game!  Also, I highly recommend the English-translated version of this game.  While there’s not a ton of dialogue, I could easily see one getting confused without the hints given by the NPCs in the game.  Also, some characters ask you questions with multiple choice answers – getting them right often gives you bonus health or magic.

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You can even make Legend of Valkyrie a high score game, if you’re shooting to get the most Experience Points possible by end of the game.  

FM Towns Marty Console Review


Note: I bought an FM Towns Marty console from Italy a few years ago, and although I can find bits of information on it and the games for it here and there on the internet, it’s been frustrating at times, so I’m making this post for others who want to know about the system.  I am not a ‘tech spec’ guy, so this is an ‘every-man’s’ guide to the system.  This probably won’t answer every question and someone who knows more than me about this system will probably think, “No, he’s wrong about X,” but hey, this is the best I can do!


Console:  The FM Towns Marty is a consolized version of the FM Towns computer, both of which were only released in Japan. Their were two versions of the Marty.  I have version 1, but the consensus from what I can find on the internet suggests there are no internal differences, only the external color differences between the versions. The Marty plays both floppy disk games and CD games. Some CD games require a floppy disk as well. Not all games that work for the FM Towns computer will work for the Marty, basically because the Marty is not powerful enough for some bigger games. The internet consensus is that no game over 2MB will run on the Marty.  You can search online for a compatibility list.  Some games were designed with the limitations of the Marty in mind, while others were made with the intention of being played on the proper FM Towns home computer.


Inputs and Controller Ports. The Marty has composite and S-video outputs. The S-video looks great. There’s also a switch that you can flip in the back that in some way appears to impact the clarity of the picture, although it’s minimal.


There are two controller ports on the front. The 2nd one is labeled ‘mouse,’ as some games can only be played with a mouse. A 2nd controller can still be used on this port of course for 2p games. On the right of the console is a port for a keyboard. Remember, the system was created as a console version of a computer. Also, apparently some games that WILL run on a Marty REQUIRE a keyboard to be connected to the Marty. Not that the CD won’t run, I believe, but because you need to press a button on the keyboard to advance and you are stuck on a screen without one.  I don’t have a keyboard, and all of the games I’ll be talking about only require a controller only  (actually two require a mouse only).

Also, there’s a headphone port and a volume dial on the front of the console. This console would be great on a desk by the way (just like a proper PC!)


Controllers:  The older I get, the more I love OLD video games, but the less I like a bunch of buttons on a controller – even the SNES controller is becoming too busy for me.  I love the limited buttons of the Marty controllers. Similar to the NES in that regard. Anymore might have made me rethink buying this console!  Yeah, I’m a simple man, I guess. As you hopefully can see in the picture, you can find two different versions of the controllers.  Both work great. Notice the Marty one has an extra shoulder button that, from what I’ve read elsewhere, ‘changes the resolution’ in some games. I haven’t found that it does anything at all in the 7 games I’ve played, but it’s kind of cool. The controller cords are REALLY short, so buy (they’re called D9 extension cords on eBay, I THINK) extensions unless perhaps you plan to set up your Marty on your desk with your tv or monitor nearby.

Mouse:  I bought an Elecom mouse, but there are Fujitsu ones as well that pop up on eBay sometimes. You’ll want a mouse pad (remember those?) and a coffee table or desk top because it has the old “rolley ball” underneath, and occasionally you’ll need to clean it (very easy).


Games:  I own 6 games (previously 7) for this console, and here’s some basic info about each one.  A lot of these were ports of arcade games and available on other consoles. Also, I play games a lot now for the purposes of fun at beating my high scores. Except for LOOM, all of these games have that option (meaning there’s a score counter). While it would seem like you should be able to save high scores seeing as there is a floppy drive, for these games, I cannot figure any way to turn on the floppy drive (and mine does work after I got a new band) while a CD game is playing.  Thus, I believe it’s not possible to save high scores, at least in these games. I did own the game LOOM for awhile prior to having my floppy drive fixed, and it had a location to ‘Save,’ leading me to believe, for that game, that had I hit Save, it would have accessed the floppy drive to save my progress. Anyway, I prefer my old High Score notebook anyway.


*all games have menus in English and are not hindered by any Japanese language barriers, if they have Japanese at all.


Chase HQ: 1p.   Only requires a controller. Story and voiceover in Japanese. Really fun racer where you chase down bad guys. FAST.

LOOM:  1p. Point and Click game. I couldn’t fully describe the story, which was awesome, so look elsewhere for better detail. The music was BEAUTIFULLY done. I used to own LOOM before I sold it. It was a wonderful game that required a mouse only.  Controllers wouldn’t work and a keyboard wasn’t needed.  I would recommend that you ensure that your floppy drive works on your Marty because trying to beat it in 1 sitting is asking a lot. I played for 3 hours one day and don’t think I was close to beating it.


Muscle Bomber: 1p or 2p competition. I reviewed the game previously, check it out. Fun wrestling game.


Operation Wolf:  1p. Awesome shooter that requires the mouse.  Would have been cool if there was an option for a controller as an alternative, but the mouse works great. Voiceover for story is in English.


Raiden Trad: 1p or 2p co-op.  Awesome shooter with seriously the most exciting opening stage music I’ve ever heard. Wasn’t a huge fan of shooters until I got addicted to this one. Limits your credits with 3 difficulties, great for training yourself to beat it based on skill.


Splatterhouse: 1p. See my review, but this game is one of the reasons to own a Marty!


Turbo Outrun:  1p. Great racing game where you race the clock across the U.S.!  Option to control using the mouse, but the controller is best.


Final Info:  Finding a Marty, controllers, possibly a mouse, possibly a keyboard, extensions, and games can be quite difficult.  I ordered almost everything from Japan or Europe. I’ve read that some Marty’s have had problems and the CD drives no longer work. I had to replace the band on my floppy drive for it to work, although for the games I mentioned, except LOOM, the floppy drive isn’t needed. It may be frustrating trying to find which games work and which don’t. I’ve also read that some games run so much faster on the FM Towns computer and slower (even if they DO work) on the Marty.

BUT, I LOVE this console!  I like a limited selection of games, a simple controller, and there are some gems out there from what I’ve found so far!  Happy hunting for this one!  I hope this helps someone interested in the console.

Beauty & the Beast mini-Review (NES)

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Note: This game was played on the retrousb AVS (HDMI output).  The game was only released in Europe, and the AVS has an option to switch to PAL settings so it can be played!  I tried playing on my regular NTSC Top Loader, and the game has terrible glitches. The system was attached to a 19 inch tv.


Brief History:  I always wanted this game stemming from the August 1994 edition of Nintendo Power magazine.  I loved the movie, and I remember that issue particularly because there was, at that point, almost no mention of the NES anymore, being well into the hayday of the SNES.  I didn’t realize until recently that the game never even made it to a U.S. release, but I ordered a copy from Germany, and it’s in English.

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Movie music?  Unlike the SNES version (which is far worse than this one otherwise), this version only plays the ‘Beauty & the Beast’ song in the opening. Otherwise, it’s generic, not-so-great music.


Gameplay: Jump, punch, and growl (freezes enemies) your way through 4 levels to ultimately punch Gaston off the top of your castle, win Belle’s love, and turn back into a human. Each level has multiple parts, many of which require multiple playthroughs to master, but nothing impossible. Beast is clunky to control, but learnable.  The game took me a couple of weeks to beat, playing here and there. The AVS has no save states, or anything like that, which I prefer – gotta beat it the old fashioned way – trial and error, angry words, and perseverance.


Difficulty:  This is subjective, I know. At first play, it has parts that appear to be ridiculously hard, but they just take practice. Once you know where to go and how to react, you could beat the game in 25 minutes, no problem. The level where you have to catch the snowballs from Belle almost made me give up the first 5 times, but now it’s easy as can be.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade:  C. This one is for fans of the film who want something different in the world of Beauty & the Beast. Much more enjoyable than the SNES game, but nothing special, that’s for sure. 

Splatterhouse info (FM Towns Marty)


Note 1: This is not a proper review, just some info!


Note 2:  Splatterhouse was played on an FM Towns Marty console that was connected to a 32-inch tv through an S-video cable, which is the best of the two available outputs of the Marty (the other being composite, which looks good, but the S-video looks outstanding, in my opinion).


Note 2: Splatterhouse is not a terribly ‘obscure’ game, and in fact, has actually become quite a popular ‘retro’ game in recent years, as evidenced by the number of websites you can read about the game on. However, this particular version, for the Japanese FM Towns Marty console, is quite uncommon, hence my review.  This version, so I’ve read, is nearly identical to the arcade version. Splatterhouse is my favorite game for the Turbografx-16 and PC Engine, and I wanted to play the ‘arcade’ version without using a computer emulator, and I fortunately found a reasonably priced copy on eBay awhile ago.


Background: Splatterhouse, after being released in arcades, was only ported to two systems, the Turbografx-16/PC Engine (U.S. and Japan names of the same console) and the FM Towns computer and FM Towns Marty (the ‘consolized’ version of the computer).  The TG-16 (U.S.) version was ‘censored’ a bit from the version Japan got for the PC Engine, giving Rick a red mask instead of white, removing the inverted cross boss, and a few other changes. Mostly, however, those two versions are the same.


The FM Towns version, however, has tons more blood, gore, background and foreground detail, better ‘cutscene’ graphics between the 7 stages, a ‘complete’ intro and ending that were cut from the TG-16/PC Engine version, better music and sound effects, and a high score screen (this might save if your floppy drive was working, but I can’t test it since mine needs a new rubber band, so I have to use the old print-out and pen in a binder method for personal high-score keeping), among other things.


Difficulty: In the FM Towns Marty version, there are 3 difficulty levels, each which give you more or less health, yet making no other changes to the game, unlike the TG-16/PC Engine version, where enemies took more hits to defeat on ‘Hard.’


Penalty for taking too long: In this version, if you don’t move quick enough or finish a boss fast enough, an electric wall or blue orb are sent to take you out!


Verdict: Absolutely amazing version of Splatterhouse.  Also, there’s no Japanese at all, of the little text that appears in the game.

Neutopia II review

Neutopia II for the Turbografx 16

Note: This game is a Turbografx 16 reproduction of Neutopia II.  It was played on a Turbografx 16 console that has been modded to output in component video. The console was connected to a 32-inch tv, outputting at 240p. Connected to the console is a Turbobooster Plus, which enables game saving without the use of passwords.  The Turbobooster Plus is a reliable way to save game data, I believe because it does not use a save ‘battery’ that might die over time.  Instead, I believe it uses some kind of memory chip that is ‘charged’ every time the system is turned on.  In a few of the game manuals I have for other games (ones that also are capable of saving), you are encouraged to turn the system on at least every two weeks so as not to lose any data you’ve saved.  My unit has worked great and I’ve had no problems saving.

Story: Your father, the legendary hero Jazeta (play Neutopia to experience his story) has gone missing. It’s up to you to discover what’s happened to him and discover why evil seems to be returning to the land of Neutopia.


Gameplay:  Explore a huge over world filled with towns, fields, icy mountain ranges, and even an underwater kingdom.  Uncover Neutopia’s 8 labyrinths to find weapons, armor, and other helpful items to help you destroy the encroaching evil forces and follow the clues as to your father, Jazeta’s, fate.

Control: Button I controls the sword (which you’ll upgrade multiple times by finding better swords in labyrinths). Button II uses any one of the ‘select’ items you collect – moonbeam moss illuminates dark caves, the medicine restores your hearts, the flail hits enemies surrounding you at the expense of 10 gold per use, etc.
Gold and Stores: You’ll collect silver coins (10), gold coins (50), or money bags (100) by defeating enemies. Use these to (mostly) buy medicine, bombs, or a boomerang (it will be lost if you don’t catch it while using it). Enemies drop gold often, so stockpiling money is not too difficult, particularly in the cave leading to labyrinth 3 – the enemy rocks are loaded with gold. Beware: Dying reduces your gold by HALF.  When in doubt (or low health), use the Wings of Return item to make it back to the ‘save’ lady – if for no other reason than to keep your gold. 


Progression: Neutopia II does a great job of directing you where to go next. The citizens of Neutopia, either in the towns or hidden in caves in the over world, will often tell you exactly where you should be headed. If you do get lost, it’s usually not for long. You’ll advance your strength and defense by acquiring new armor, swords, and shields.  Your arsenal of weapons will expand as you acquire the boomerang, wands with elemental powers, and the flail.  After beating the dungeon bosses (which can be challenging – always carry 2 medicines), you’ll gain a unit of health (heart) to extend your life bar.  You’ll also encounter elders in the wild who will increase your life bar as well, or monks who will increase your bomb-carrying capacity.

Labyrinths: The 8 labyrinths get increasingly complex. The first two are quite simple, but starting with the 3rd one, they often require you to play them a bit, collect a few items (the crystal ball map and ‘boss’ key, for example), then leave and buy more medicine and save your game before continuing. The labyrinths aren’t impossible at all, they simply take patience and a large supply of bombs to uncover secret rooms hidden behind walls.  The crystal ball maps you’ll always find help every labyrinth become solvable.


Saving: To save your progress, visit the pink-robed woman who lives in every town or resides under a rock near the entrance of each labyrinth. She’ll give you a password or offer to have you save in the file cabinet, which is only possible if you have the Turbobooster Plus or Turbografx 16 CD attachment hooked onto your console. The file cabinet is awesome because the password is quite long, yet all you’ll need to do is select your save file. However, you should NOT let the long password deter you from playing the game. The first time I played through Neutopia II a few years ago, I used a password all the way.  It takes about a minute to write it down in a notebook, and a minute to input it when you’re ready to begin playing again.  No big deal, and a password in a notebook can never be frustratingly deleted like an electronic save file (although this shouldn’t happen on your Turbobooster Plus unless you don’t turn on the system for more than a couple of weeks).

Differences from the first Neutopia:

Improvements:

1. Your character can be moved diagonally, unlike the first game.

2. Your sword can be swung in an arc instead of only straight ahead.

3. Gold is easier to accumulate as more enemies drop it, plus there’s the addition of the 100-coin bag.

4. Citizens offer more useful advice on where to go next, although neither game is really confusing in that regard.

5. More attack weapons than original game.

Steps backward from the first game:

1. Fire wand, Lightning wand, and Wind wand sometimes pull enemies towards you when used, causing them to hit you. This doesn’t always happen, but is frustrating when it does.

2. You cannot cancel talking to citizens once you’ve engaged them. In the first game, you could press Button II to cancel.  Now, you have no choice but to hear every word they have to say.

3. Labyrinths are more complex this time, but that could be seen as a positive or negative, of course.

4. Neutopia II has a longer password save feature than the original does.

5. Your character moves much slower to start the game in Neutopia II than he did in Neutopia.  However, you’ll acquire the falcon shoes after the 3rd labyrinth, making your movement much quicker.

6. *This one is a bit of a rant – skip to my final review if you’d like.  The medicine ‘problem’ still hasn’t been fixed.  In both the first game and Neutopia II, you can hold up to two medicine bottles at one time.  Each one will completely re-fill your health meter.  You can buy medicine from vendors in town.  Also, in every dungeon (usually behind a hidden, bomb-able wall), and sometimes in rooms you’ll enter in the over world, you’ll also find a chest that contains 1 dose of medicine.  Now, one would think, if you tried to open a chest that contained 1 bottle of medicine, and you already had the maximum allotment of two doses in your inventory, you might get a message like “You don’t have room for it!” like in other games of this ilk.  Then, if your health meter was low, you could use one of your own doses, then collect the one from the chest.  Or, you could return and collect it later, after you’d used one of your two doses.  But NO, not in Neutopia II (or Neutopia).  Even if you are already carrying two bottles and you open a chest with medicine in it, you’ll hold it up, receive the message, “You got the medicine!” and you won’t actually get anything except an empty chest!  It’s REALLY frustrating to be in a labyrinth and come across a hidden room with a chest in it – you only have 1/4 of your energy bar – not enough to use one of your precious two doses of medicine yet.  So you open the chest, thinking it will be the crystal ball or new sword – and you get a medicine!  Except now, instead of being able to re-fill your hearts and THEN collecting it, it’s gone forever and your energy is still low.  I HATED this from the first game, and wish they would have fixed it in Neutopia II.  Alas, this is one of the game’s few flaws, in my opinion.  This design flaw makes you approach the game a bit differently – my strategy now is to (when in doubt), just use a medicine bottle if my health is at half or less when I find a hidden chest in a dungeon BEFORE I open it, just in case it happens to contain a dose of medicine I’d like to NOT lose.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade:  A  Neutopia II is a fantastic adventure RPG. It, like the original Neutopia, feels like a mixture of the original NES Zelda and A Link to the Past on the SNES. I haven’t reviewed the first Neutopia, but the two games are strikingly similar – I would recommend playing the original first, which is a bit easier. But Neutopia II is a fantastic Zelda-style game, certainly better (in my opinion, as always) than the NES Zelda it models itself after, and it even comes close to the stratosphere of classics like A Link to the Past. 


Bonus – Dirth Strategy: 

Step 1: The final boss of the game, Dirth, is quite challenging. Many of the bosses are, but Dirth is certainly the most difficult, if you don’t game plan. My advice is to beat the entire labyrinth leading all the way to him – collect the key and crystal ball and bomb all the walls that create a path to him. Then use the Wings of Return to see the save lady. Go buy two medicines (if you don’t already have them).  Now save your game, so if you die, you can return via save file or password to the save lady, and you won’t have to buy medicine or figure out the labyrinth’s secrets again.


Step 2: Memorize the exact labyrinth path to Dirth. This won’t be hard, particularly if, like me, it takes multiple times before you beat him, forcing you to re-start at the save lady. (From the save lady to Dirth takes about 10 minutes if you know the way). It’s important to reach him with close-to full health, in addition to your two medicines.  Use the Fire wand or flail on the enemies – the flying squirrels and green caterpillars in particular cause significant damage, so keep them away.  This isn’t tough with practice.


Step 3: Only the Sun Sword can hurt Dirth. Also, MAKE SURE you’ve acquired the gold armor and gold shield like the old man tells you just before the Dirth battle, which you should have acquired in previous labyrinths.  Without these, it will take more hits to kill Dirth, which you don’t want.  I forgot the gold shield in the Twin Towers, and was hitting Dirth 30+times without him dying, so I went back for it, and upon fighting him again, found it took fewer hits to beat him (not sure why a shield matters when you’re hitting him with a sword, but okay). *As a side note, re-entering previous labyrinths, after you’ve already started another labyrinth, RE-SETS them, so pick up everything the first time around to avoid a headache.  The Dirth battle is fast and frantic. Use the Run button to take a pause if it gets too hectic.  Dirth splits into two – a fake and the real Dirth – stand in the MIDDLE of the screen and pick one when he appears.  Run towards it, swing ONCE and RUN AWAY, NO MATTER WHAT.  If you hit him, great – if it was the fake Dirth, no sweat. Keep going with THIS STRATEGY.  If Dirth hits you with his spinning tornadoes, or you accidentally touch him, don’t panic and try to go beserk on him because he WILL win. Beating him takes PATIENCE.  Expect to get hit (but very seldom with practice), and follow this strategy, and even if it takes 10 tries, you WILL become a master of this battle and beat him with a medicine to spare. Good luck – you didn’t come this far to give up.

Final Note: Enter the name ‘KOALA’ to play as a weird-looking character with a big head!  He’ll also start with TWO doses of medicine in his inventory!  Just don’t open the left chest in the room in the picture – it contains a medicine that you should come back and collect later instead of paying a vendor for one.

KOALA looks quite different than the regular hero.

Alas, the Neutopia Trilogy would never come to fruition.

Die Hard Review (Turbografx 16)


Note: Die Hard was played on a 19 inch tv. The console is a PC Engine (Japan version of TG16) that is modded to allow Turbografx 16 games, and although Die Hard was only released in Japan, I requested that a reproduction maker make a TG16 version using a terrific English translation. This console was also modded for RGB and is outputting it through a SCART cable directly onto a tv I was fortunate to find that has a SCART input.  It looks awesome.

Note 2: I won’t be comparing this to any other Die Hard games because I’ve never played any. I’ve seen the movie on which the game was based, but I’m not familiar with it enough to know all the minute details of what the game gets right. There are probably longer, better reviews on the Internet.


Genre: Overhead Shooter

Players: 1

Stages: 10, timed between 3 and 10 minutes.

Continues:  4 per stage.  No password feature or cheat code for level select. Hold button 1 on the title screen before pressing Run to gain unlimited continues.

Story:  John McClane must ascend the Nakatomi Plaza Tower, shooting terrorists along the way in order to thwart the plans of the evil Hans Gruber.  Oddly, you don’t encounter Gruber in the game (although he appears in a pre-game cutscene), and your final battle is with a helicopter.


Cutscenes: They play between some stages and attempt to use scenes from the movie. They add to the story and are pretty good, actually!


Guns:  Four guns are available: (1) a weak, single shot rifle, (2) a machine gun that fires rapidly in a straight line, (3) a rocket launcher with short range that has a bigger killing radius, and (4) a long-reaching flamethrower.  None of the guns are that great – a spread gun would have been most welcome.  All have limited ammunition, and if you run out you’ll have to use your fists.  Fortunately, gun pickups are plentiful and are dropped often by bad guys.


Other pickups: Other pickups include body armor, which doubles your life bar, beer, which gives you 3 health meters back, and a first aid kit, which completely restores your health bar.

Bosses: You’ll fight a small handful of bosses from the movie every few stages.  They will take a few tries to learn how to kill, but after that, they’re a piece of cake.

Blood:  McClane bleeds when his life bar is low, which is a nice touch.  Sadly, the enemies don’t when you blow them away.


Translation: This English translation is terrific!  It has some cursing, but it’s the same way McClane talks in the movie.

Difficulty:  Minimal. Stage 3 is an annoying maze (see below for tips), and Stage 7 has some semi-difficult jumps that result in your instant death if you don’t make them.  Most of the stages are short, however, and the slightly longer ones have checkpoints you’ll start at if you die.  Using the unlimited continue code is highly recommended for beating the game.  There are definitely some stages that will take multiple tries to beat.

Stage 3 Help: Take the left door, then the next-to-last door. Take the right door, then the next-to-last door. Take the right door, then the last door. Stage complete.

Stage 4 Help:  There’s body armor hidden to the left of the door to the boss. Walk around the left-hand wall to find it. This makes the boss fight much easier.

Stage 10 Help:  The last fight against the helicopter may seem tough, but is actually quite easy if you know what to do.  Stand on the far right and fire the machine gun. Jump or move out of the way of the normal bullets, and jump CONSTANTLY when the homing missiles come at you. As long as you’re in the air, the missiles won’t hit you near as often, and you can shoot them down without fear of getting hit. Yes, the helicopter takes awhile to bring down, but it drops approximately 3 beer bottles periodically and a first aid kit near the end.  It also drops multiple machine guns, a couple of rocket launchers, and a flamethrower.  Even with all this fire power, you may still run out of ammo near the end.  I literally had to jump and PUNCH the helicopter for the last few hits to make it explode – surely one of gamings all time great moments.


The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion and Letter Grade:  C.  Die Hard is a nice shooter with big sprites and is based on a great movie.  The challenge is minimal, which is either positive or negative in the eye of the beholder.  The music is bland, as is the general gameplay, although the control of McClane is excellent.  Other overhead shooters have done it much better (True Lies for the SNES, the overhead levels of Super C for the NES). The cutscenes and English translation are brilliant, which help the game overall. 

Crystal Beans mini-review (SNES)

Quick History: Crystal Beans is the “sequel” to Dungeon Explorer for the Turbografx 16, and a re-make/overhaul of its sequel (for the Turbografx CD), Dungeon Explorer II.  The game was only released in Japan, but today, like many RPGs, it’s been (expertly, grammatically speaking) translated into English and can be played on the Super Nintendo.


Players: 1-3

Story & Characters: Select one of 8 characters – Wizard, Witch, Warrior, Bowman, etc. and traverse the land seeking to kill 15 demons and restore peace to the land (in a nutshell). The game is a “real time” RPG, so no menu-based fighting.  Each character, while possessing different stats (strength, speed, etc), fires a straight forward attack, has a whirling defense move to repel enemy projectiles, and a magic attack that can be activated upon finding enough Black Magic (skull) items.

Gameplay: Select a different “area” on the map to visit to explore a new dungeon or visit a new town (straightforward “linear” gameplay).  Visiting new towns and speaking to residents opens up new dungeons, and exploring dungeons and subsequently beating the dungeon boss opens up new towns.


Leveling up: Level up by beating the dungeon bosses.  Each boss drops a gem that brings you up 1 level and additionally boosts your stats in one area based on the color you selected (blue=strength for example – you can see the color coordinated stats on the ‘status’ screen to balance your character as you play through the game).


Saving? You save your ‘character’ in this game into 1 of 3 save files, or you can use a short password (great if the battery dies).  You’ll pick up at the last dungeon or town you were in at the level your character was on when you resume play.

Continues:  You get 5 total, and they’re shared in multiplayer.  Lose them all, and it’s back to the beginning of the dungeon or a checkpoint in the larger dungeons.


Conclusion: Crytal Beans is one of the simplest RPGs I’ve played.  The story is simple, the gameplay is simple, the dungeons are simple – everything is simple (bosses provide a decent challenge).  This is no Legend of Zelda or Secret of Mana or Chrono Trigger.  However, it’s fun to be able to pick up Crystal Beans and beat it in only a few hours.

The Southern Gentleman’s Opinion & Letter Grade: C.  Add a plus with 2 or 3 players.