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Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16) review

"The Triforce doens't stand for this."

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16) image

If you watch enough Lifetime Network or SyFy, you come to realize that they only have about five unique scripts between the two channels. When writing a new screenplay, they seem to erase names and subplots from a previous used one, replacing them with words more relevant to the fresh plot. Hudson basically accomplished the same feat with their The Legend of Zelda clone, entitled Neutopia. Here, medallions replace the Triforce, Link becomes Jazeta and Ganon transforms into Dirth. Eight labyrinths await you in the overworld, only this time they lie in one of four unique "sub-overworlds."

As you start your adventure, don't be be surprised that the first button you press isn't on your game control, but on the TV remote. The opening area greets you cheerful, nauseating music that fails to accentuate the game's adventurous qualities. The soundtrack thankfully improves marginally as you advance, save for one other glaring flaw in Neutopia's sound design. Whenever your hit points reach a critically low point, an incessant RINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRING plays until you strangle yourself with your controller cord. Do I really need to be warned that badly that I'm dying? My HUD makes it clear enough...

Neutopia screenshotNeutopia screenshot

Perhaps Neutopia's biggest selling point, though, is that its much easier on the eyes than its inspiration. The game features terrific visuals, with a colorful and lively presentation. Bosses are nicely detailed, featuring a three-headed, undead turtle and a handful of monstrous golems. This rogues gallery actually appears fully formed, and doesn't simply resemble a mess of pixels. Neutopia's graphics are lovely enough that you might feel like you're playing a classy clone that could outdo The Legend of Zelda. Unfortunately, that mirage dissipates when you actually progress through the campaign...

You can at least thank Hudson for programming decent mechanics. Neutopia handles wonderfully, allowing you to take precise stabs when fighting and dodge foes effectively. It's impressive that the game features fairly limited movement, but still allows you to mitigate damage via smooth moves.

Neutopia screenshotNeutopia screenshot

Each of the four subworlds bears its own elemental theme and two labyrinths. Each labyrinth has the same goals: find a crystal ball (which serves as a map), locate a dungeon key, acquire an equipment upgrade, fight a boss, swipe a medallion. This is a tried and true forumla that works for many games, but falls flat here due to lackluster stage design. Neutopia's levels are plain, and at times overly large and daunting. You run afoul of a lot of filler rooms that only serve to pad these stages out or attempt to confuse you. The first half or so of the campaign is no biggie because the labyrinths are short and sweet. As they grow, though, they become less exciting and challenging and more bothersome.

Death is Neutopia's ultimate punisher. At least The Legend of Zelda started you at the beginning of the dungeon when you perished. Neutopia, however, positions you just outside the level. You have to re-enter and the spots on your map that were colored in as visited are now dimmed out. This is especially problematic when you consider the irksomeness of the latter stages, especially if you fall when battling a boss. In addition to the tediousness, pile on the frustration of trying to remember where you've already been, memorizing where the boss dwells, needing to farm cherries so you have enough health to stand a chance against the boss (which takes forever, since restoration drops are rare) and the worry that you might have to use up one of your medicines.

Neutopia screenshotNeutopia screenshot

The farther you advance, the more Neutopia appears inauthentic and cheap. It does little to separate itself from The Legend of Zelda, which raises an important question: why not just play that instead? Neutopia doesn't expand on Zelda's core concepts, nor does it showcase any standout features. It's less of an inspired piece (see also: Alundra) and more of a straight knockoff. That notion combined with the game's ho-hum campaign adds up to a chore-like title that's only briefly entertaining.

I know, it's unprofessional and typically unfair to criticize a game for not living up to its technically unrelated inspiration. However, Neutopia is such an unabashed carbon copy that I don't feel terrible whatsoever for slating it. There's no shame in cloning superior pieces of art or entertainment. However, developers who program ape titles find more success in delivering adventures that offer at least some fresh content or concepts. That Neutopia borrows from Nintendo's classic isn't an issue. That it does so mindlessly (and without creating an enjoyable experience) is problematic, though.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 29, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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