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Neugier: Umi to Kaze no Koudou (SNES) artwork

Neugier: Umi to Kaze no Koudou (SNES) review

"How did it get there? We'll never know. It could have dropped through an ceiling (unseen by the player) like a few do in Skyrim; it could have been the result of a Final Fantasy XIII-2 time paradox; hell, it could simply be explained by four simple words: A WIZARD DID IT — at least there's one of those causing trouble in this game!"

There are a couple interesting things about The Journey Home. Primarily that no game with that name was actually released for the Super Nintendo in the 1990s. It probably was supposed to come out -- I do remember being mildly interested in it when I saw a capsule preview or review in an issue of Nintendo Power back in the day. But I never could find it in stores or rental places and eventually forgot about it since the game really never was that high a priority for me.

The reason I couldn't find it was simple: The Journey Home was one of those games that never made the trip from Japan to America. Why? I don't know and don't care. All I know is that whether you call it The Journey Home or its Japanese name, Neugier, it's a short mediocre game that I'd have felt ripped off by if I spent more than a couple bucks to play.

Imagine playing a Zelda game. Now imagine that the only tool Link gets in this game is the hookshot. And that there's next to no exploration, as you go where the story dictates, do a dungeon and get whisked along to the next destination. And you're in a game consisting of nothing more than six dungeons, making it possible to easily do everything in an afternoon because players can save just about everywhere and there's not much difficulty to begin with. That's what Wolf Team gave the Japanese with this game. Fortunately, they apparently decided not to ship it west. We already had gotten the atrocious Lagoon -- no need to make us suffer more!

Well, "suffer" might be too strong of a word. There's nothing actively bad about Neugier -- it's just that there's nothing particularly good, either. This game is the definition of blandness. as virtually everything is mundane and forgettable; whether it be the graphics, the action or the plot. You're controlling some guy named Duke who's the son of the ruler of Neugier. For some reason or another, he's been banished by his father, but is returning because pirates have been causing trouble in the area and that's the sort of thing aspiring heroes just can't ignore.

Things get off to a rough start, though, when the ship Duke's on is attacked by pirates under the command of a stereotypically evil wizard and his witch sidekick. As time progresses, Duke gets all sorts of surprises, such as how that wizard seems to be working for his father and that the witch is an unwilling accomplice forced to do the baddies' bidding. Most of the plot advancement happens between dungeons as a framing device to set up the next phase of the quest. After chapter one's ship goes down, you'll wind up just outside a cave leading to Neugier Castle. After jaunting through the cave and exploring the castle, you'll get dropped into a dungeon. It's tidy, if bare-bones.

Much like the action. For the most part, all Duke does is swing his sword at an assortment of foes that seem to have been selected more because they're in every adventure or role-playing game rather than because they fit the mood. Obviously, you'll be fighting pirates and their assorted leaders. You'll also encounter dragons flying through a subterranean dungeon, ninjas stalking the halls of a castle and the most random giant spider attack I've ever seen. That beastie is the fourth chapter's boss. You'll walk into a room and talk to a sentient statue. Midway through the conversation, *POOF*, a monstrous arachnid is in the room! How did it get there? We'll never know. It could have dropped through an ceiling (unseen by the player) like a few do in Skyrim; it could have been the result of a Final Fantasy XIII-2 time paradox; hell, it could simply be explained by four simple words: A WIZARD DID IT -- at least there's one of those causing trouble in this game!

PROTIP: Never ponder the origins of a monster whilst fighting it. That leads to death. Even when the nice talking statue is kind enough to bring you back to life once.

Of all those monsters, few are actually challenges. Sure, that spider boss was rough, as you only could damage it at certain times and it possessed a couple damaging attacks, but most foes are more than content to slowly advance towards Duke while you tap the attack button to slash them to ribbons. You have a long life bar, so it'll take a while for Duke to be overwhelmed and it's very easy to heal any wounds if you know what you're doing. Enemy item drops are never random in Neugier. If a particular foe drops a health item, every single time you fight it, that item will fall from its corpse. Every time you walk from one room to the next, slain enemies are automatically regenerated. So, if you're low on health and know where to find a health dropper, you can easily slaughter it over and over until you're full of life. It might not work against certain enormous spiders, since you can't leave boss rooms, but for most situations, this is quite the help.

Fighting in Neugier almost could have been tolerable, but its greatest strength is under-utilized. To give Duke some versatility, he has both a normal ground-based attack and a jumping one. Both can be improved by regularly using them, allowing you to get stronger as the game progresses (and to make up for how you gain no new weapons or armor other than a couple accessories that improve attack and/or defense a bit). Kind of neat, except for how the jumping attack really is only there because of a handful of annoying flying enemies.

Take those underground dragons, for example. They fly in circles around you and tend to dodge out of the way of your leaping stabs unless you have good timing. They're kind of a pain to fight and seem to be pretty non-aggressive, so you might want to just ignore them. Until you jump down to the ground level of one of their rooms and they suddenly start breathing really damaging fire. Later, the game adds these birds which follow the same flight patterns as dragons…except for the part where these guys charge into you when you attack them. A lot of fun, these guys…and the entire purpose of the jump attack is to give them and their ilk a purpose in this game.

Neugier is sort of an annoying game. I'm a big fan of Zelda-like action-adventures, but there's just so little of what makes those games special here. Without being able to explore and discover all sorts of hidden goodies, you're left with a linear trek featuring simplistic combat -- making it the opposite of what these games are supposed to be like. It's reasonably entertaining for a rainy afternoon, but after a handful of hours, it's unlikely you'll have much desire to play it again.


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (March 15, 2012)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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