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Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16) artwork

Neutopia (TurboGrafx-16) review


"It's not that Neutopia is a complete drag. It just doesn't capitalize enough on being a Zelda clone. With a company like Hudson, you would have expected them to expand on what Nintendo started. Instead, the only real differences are cosmetic or paltry. They don't add up to something new and exciting, or even reused and exciting. "



If you watch enough Lifetime Network or SyFy, you come to realize that they really only have about five unique scripts between the two channels. It seems like they take these scripts, erase names and subplots, and substitute them with ones randomly drawn from a hat. Hudson did about the same when they made Neutopia. They took Legend of Zelda, rewrote character names, replaced the Triforce with medallions, split the overworld into four different subworlds, and added extra dialogue and crisper graphics. What they would up creating was a clone with little new to offer that simply isn't as fun as its predecessor.

It's not that Neutopia is a complete drag. It just doesn't capitalize enough on being a Zelda clone. With a company like Hudson, you would have expected them to expand on what Nintendo started. Instead, the only real differences are cosmetic or paltry. They don't add up to something new and exciting, or even reused and exciting.

Take the setup for starters:

An evil wizard named (Ganon/Dirth) has risen and kidnapped (Princess Zelda/nameless princess). A warrior named (Link/Jazeta) rises to the occasion to collect all of the (pieces of the Triforce/medallions) by searching the eight (dungeons/labyrinths).

They borrowed more than the game's premise, but even took the gameplay just about to a T.

You start off on your adventure and might not be surprised that the first button you hit isn't on your game control, but on the TV remote. Either volume down or mute for me, please. The initial music you hear sounds moronic, like they're sending the village idiot out to be slaughtered, not realizing he's a genius with a sword. Where Zelda's iconic music brought to life the courageous feel of the adventure, this game's music only makes its journey feel cheesy. The sounds get worse when you're low on life and a grating, incessant RINGRINGRINGRINGRING bleats over your speakers. Do I really need to be warned that badly that I'm dying? My HUD is clear enough that I can see my life, thank you.

You have no idea where to go or what to do, so you just crawl down the nearest set of stairs and an old man sets you straight and gives you a useful tome for your troubles. If you walk into the next room on the left, another old man will give you Boom Bombs and a medicine. Were they really that afraid of catching hell that they gave their bombs the redundant name of Boom Bombs? I think just bombs is sufficient.

You think this game is like Christmas. The first three people you talked to were not only useful, but gave you items. Though you'll find a lot more items on your trip, you'll also find a whole lot of useless people hidden in unlikely places who do absolutely nothing expect babble and whine. Great. I just used my last Boom Bomb to talk to an old man who bemoans his having to hide because Dirth has returned. He gives me nothing. No matter how many times you hit that I button, you will not break his fragile, old hip for making you waste that Boom Bomb.

The game is divided into four subworlds, each with its own elemental theme and two labyrinths. Each labyrinth has the same goals: find a crystal ball (which acts as a map), find a dungeon key, find an equipment upgrade, fight a boss, take a medallion. This worked wonderfully for Legend of Zelda because the idea was still fresh. Zelda's adventurous atmosphere made dungeon crawling feel like a desperate act, like any minute you were going to take the wrong turn and be food for the undead. Neutopia's labyrinths don't carry quite the same feel. Something about them feels very underwhelming, almost as though they were put there out of obligation. Every dungeon feels the same, the only difference is the size and challenge. Many of them feature pointless rooms that are little more than red herrings or filler, more so than Zelda did.

Dying is the ultimate punishment. At least Zelda started you at the beginning of the dungeon. Neutopia starts you just outside the dungeon. You have to re-enter and the spots on your map that were colored in as visited are now dimmed out. This means you have to do your damnedest to remember where you have already been. It becomes especially tedious when you die at a boss. After a while, you come to learn where the boss is and can reach it easily. Sometimes, though, you can't reach it without losing a lot of life. This means you either have to use a medicine if you have one, or tediously grind for cherries that can restore life. Good luck on that, as life restoration seems to be a few and far between deal.

The mechanics of the game work just fine. In fact, it plays very well. Moving might feel a little stiff in comparison to Zelda, but it works just the same. Dodging enemies and accurately hitting them is done with ease. The first few dungeons are lightly fun and somewhat challenging. The challenge factor increases greatly, and you might find yourself dying quite a bit. No matter how many f-bombs you drop, all it takes is perseverance.

That familiar gameplay becomes less and less fun as you explore the game further. This game has the look of Zelda, but not the heart and soul. It's missing that adventurous feel and all the care that was put into making Zelda such a unique and revolutionary game. While this game cannot hope to be revolutionary, the least it can strive for is exciting, and it really doesn't accomplish that. It's fun at first, maybe for about half the game, but after a while it becomes tedious.

Other games have copied Zelda with much success because they did something that gave you a reason to play them instead of Zelda. They expanded on Zelda's premise by plugging in some of their own premises. Take Alundra, for instance. Each dungeon had a theme that played into the story and the environment. At one point you go into a mine shaft to rescue trapped miners. The game also has you going into people's dreams to save them from metaphors. Neutopia does nothing to expand on the gameplay.

Neutopia is a mediocre game that was released far too late. It's a game that's well developed and technically sound, but ultimately not as fun as its predecessor and unoriginal. It doesn't expand on its predecessor enough to justify playing it, and in the end it will only leave you wanting to play the original Legend of Zelda. It's only highlights are more modern graphics and four different overworlds rather than one combined overworld. This game is a definite sign that a gaming experience cannot be replicated by looks alone. Once an experience has been captured, trying to repeat it only results in tedious gameplay and an overly familiar feel.

Rating: 6/10

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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