Octurbo: Ghost Manor

Man Week finally draws to a close as we take a look at ICOM Simulations' Ghost Manor, which kind of has the word "Man" in it, kind of. ICOM's best known for their MacVenture series of early point and clicks: Deja Vu, Shadowgate and Uninvited. So this should be a fairly cerebral, fairly story-based, fairly unfair adventure game based on the developer's history, right? It's probably not an abjectly awful and completely inscrutable Castlevania knockoff. Surely.

Holy Shit I'm Finally Acknowledging That It's Halloween Month

Welcome to Ghost Manor! I can already tell this is a thoughtful adventure game because there's a high score feature.
I can barely read this with the drippy font. Anoraff? Like anorak? Wait, is that me? Why am I some mulleted douche in an "A" t-shirt and jeans? Isn't this medieval times?
I... think that says Orb Gamut? What's an Orb Gamut? Sounds like a load of balls so far.
Steadfastly refusing to take the perilous quest that the presumably less freakish villagers has foisted upon him, Arthur (because that's original) decides to go back and is punched for his insolence. I guess we're on our own.
So this is a goofy platformer of some sort. Arthur has a range of abilities which range from walking, crawling and shooting purple shit at ghosts.
Ghosts like this guy. There's a definite variety with the enemies, but they all look kind of like Halloween decorations. Maybe this is some huge prank everyone's pulling on this poor hydrocephalic?
Deciding to get a little more (Yahoo) Serious, I scour the stage to find anything I can use to proceed. This key looks like it might fit somewhere. I mean, I can only assume.
Thanks for the ride, Chauncey! For some reason, the yellow-tinged ghosts want to help us out. I don't know if I'd trust this guy to look at him, but fortune favors jumping into the arms of horrific wraiths.
Heading through the locked door, I'm now in this waterfall area. I'm going to hazard a guess that I need to head upwards.
Of course, they don't make it easy with all these slopes and tiny footholds. The respawning Red-Arremer-But-Not enemies and giant yeti monsters from Big Trouble in Little China aren't helping either.
While attempting to deal with all the bat wiener in my face, I find this fellow in a nearby barrel. I'm sure you can already tell from the jagged teeth and the fact it's an yellow skull that looks evil as fuck, that he's a friendly guy who will spring you back up the cliffside if you jump on his head.
Also these creepy hand elevators. I feel like a character from Golden Axe.
The Arthur ghost actually waves goodbye to you as it floats off, as if I'm supposed to feel anything that this weird little asshole is dead.
Dammit I hate jumping from slopes! You slide down platforms at 45 degree angles such as these for as long as you stand on them, so trying to climb up them can be damn near Sisyphean.
I once again remember that the TG-16 has more than three buttons, and discover that I can explore suspicious background objects by waving my arms at it like a spaz. Great, so I'm expected to search every nook and cranny for answers now too.
While waiting for the hand elevator to rematerialize, Arthur goes through all his ridiculous idle animations. I don't even know what this expression is. Whistling? There's no noise or anything. I hate Arthur.
Yes! The top of the damn waterfall! I'm so close! I've been here for so long, waiting for giant monster hands and slowly inching up angled platforms. Let me have this. Please.
I'm here! So is every bat in the county, but I don't care. I made it to the top. I won.
I couldn't find anywhere to go though, so back down I drop to look for the real exit... is what I'd say if I wasn't quitting this thing right now.

I don't much care for Ghost Manor. It evokes for me a great number of LJN games where the low quality wasn't simply reserved for its graphical and sound presentation, or even its inaccurate and awkward combat and platforming, but rather the complete lack of any purpose, sense or context for what's going on. I know I'm meant to be heading to the eponymous building via a "back way" through the forest, but beyond that there's no clear indication of what I'm meant to do or where to go. My singular weapon can actually run out (and quite easily), enemies either punch you off platforms or are revealed to be helpful spirits despite looking as nefarious as anything else and exits have to be specially sought out by checking every area of darkness to see if it's actually a doorway to a new area. Actually, I'd say the game Ghost Manor reminds me the most of is Young Merlin, because that game had all of the above problems with inscrutability and poor design as well as another unlikeable hero with an awful mullet.

Anyway, Ghost Manor is one of those games where you can instantly recognize the poor craftsmanship and that sort of puts a damper on trying to figure out what the hell it wants from you. You realize intuitively that whatever prize awaits those willing to puzzle out its bizarre mechanics is probably not going to be worth it. This may end up gripping horror fans like our own Patrick Klepek with the same grim fascination that they might reserve for the NES Friday the 13th game, yet somehow I doubt it'll inspire the same level of self-destructive dedication.

On a final note, ICOM would also go on to create a very badly received psuedo-sequel to Shadowgate named Beyond Shadowgate for the Turbo-CD. Might have to pencil that one in for next year, while I still hold some affection for that series which can then be summarily squandered away.

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Octurbo: Chew Man Fu

Octurbo Man Week meets Technicality Thursday with Chew Man Fu, the racially-sensitive puzzle game. Do you has what it takes to foil a grotesque stereotype by kicking him directly in his balls? Can you live with the murder of countless innocent hedgehogs, turtles and penguins? Can you abide an old man on a cloud who keeps hitting on you? Then Chew Man Fu might just be for Chew Man You.

Of All the TG-16 Games I've Encountered in My Travels, This Was the Most... Chew Man

Welcome to Chew Man Fu! Chibi Chun Li is apparently on loan from Puzzle Fighter right now.
Man, all of it? I was kind of banking on half-assing this one.
This LP might be a little insensitive towards the Chinese. Subsequently I will be launching a separate, more deferential edition for Chinese audiences.
Wow, harsh dude. But they're really more like side bun things. You might want to try something like "I'm going to [blank] your buns!" Only, you know, reword it so it's less sexual.
So this is the game. The objective is to move the four marbles onto their colored tiles. I found the kick button right away, which isn't the easiest way to move these orbs around.
I eventually discover that you can hold a button down to simply push them everywhere. It's a little more Katamari-ish from this point onwards.
If you happen to run around time because, say, you spent over a minute figuring out how to push a marble instead of kick it, then these flame dudes show up and chase you across the board. It's pretty rough. We have a concept page for these invincible anti-loiterer enemies, right? Can we name it after Baron Von Blubba? He's my favorite.
Eventually, I get all the balls in place and the level is complete. Hooray! I outwitted some hedgehogs. Looks like they're the ones that are too slow, am I right? Eh? Eh? Ah, fuck it.
I earn these little diamond things based on how well I did. Because this is the first stage and I guess the guy felt sorry for me, I earned a full five of them. Unlike most point-related things, they'll actually serve a purpose later on.
I'm supposed to be dancing? I've just been shuffling balls around. I guess they're occasionally the same thing if you're in those tight ballet stockings.
In this stage, I got a hot tip that I can box these guys in with a little ingenuity. For all my mocking, there's a few layers to this ball business.
This is where I can start cashing in some diamonds for extra lives. He only seems to offer this whenever I'm down to my last one.
This stage is trickier than it looks, because you're completely defenseless on your non-ball side. If two gorillas decide to walk down the same corridor at either end and I'm caught in the middle, there's no escaping those apes.
Ouch, my empathy. And here I thought that "Chinese Food" music video would be the most sinophobic thing I saw this week.
All right Coach, I'm getting tough. What does that entail, exactly? More aggressive ball pushing?
In case you thought I hadn't been flicking marbles around for the best part of an hour.
If you expected an epic boss battle to finish off the chapter, nope. Just more apes and balls. Call me nuts, but this repetition is getting me a little testy.
Hey, you took my advice!
Oh man, do I have it in me to murder all these adorable penguins? This stage also introduces those little color shifter things, which change all the balls to the same color. Apparently they each have unique properties (the black ones can smash through breakable walls a lot faster than the rest, for instance) but I'll be darned if I want to play any more of this to find out.
"Has the paws to freeze the balls." Sounds like the perfect note to end this on.

Chew Man Fu is a novel little take on Sokoban/Adventures of Lolo though some of its mechanics can be a little fiddly at times, especially when moving balls in and out of tight gaps (yeah, yeah, one more salacious gag for the road). There's also that whole issue with the "we think Chinese people are inherently mockable, with their crazy little outfits, goofy names and thousands of years of culture and history" too, but we - a nation that created Custer's Revenge - can't really point fingers at the Japanese for tactless games like this. It's worth noting that the game is known by the far more neutral "Be Ball" in its native country and is presumably less packed with "Egg Roll Dynasty" bon mots. In conclusion, this game has caused me to lose all faith in humanity.

What else might I lose during Octurbo? My appreciation of the 16-bit era? My sanity? My will to live? Keep tuning in to find out!

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Octurbo: Batman

More superhero shenanigans here on Octurbo. Today we visit the foreboding Gotham City to see what ol' growly's up to on the TurboGrafx-16. There are... quite a few strange things about this particular adaptation. The chief of which is that this game was never released outside of Japan, even though it's based on an American comic book and has no Japanese text in it. Oh, but the oddities don't end there.

Honestly, Batman might be the strangest game I've covered yet in Octurbo. I know Lady Sword set a high bar to surpass, but...

Have You Ever Danced With Clyde in the Pale Moonlight?

Welcome to Batman! Safe to say that this is inspired by the 1989 Burton movie. Actually, it's not safe to say that at all.
Gotham's a very ecological city. They're all using those green lightbulbs.
If you guessed this was a maze action game where you run around picking up the Joker's garbage, congratulations! You're certifiably insane.
The Joker's goons are everywhere, but can be dispatched (temporarily) with Bats' batarangs.
Really, the only goal is to get to the various Joker objects (I assume they belong to the Joker; why else would his minions be prowling around?) as quickly as possible. There's a generous time limit, but hanging around makes it easier for these guys to get the drop on you.
These blue guys start showing up around the fourth or fifth level. They start moving pretty damn fast if they spot you.
I should really start making a few animated gifs. The ripple effect here of the river is pretty cool. It reminded me a bit of the animation found in Bitmap Brothers games. Almost a little claymation-y.
Some levels are broken up into smaller areas, and you have to collect all the items in one area before this arrow appears.
Which then leads you onto the next part of the level.
These gun-toting henchmen don't move from their spots, so you have to quickly get in, throw the 'rang and get out before they shoot you.
A few levels later, and they're sticking me on busy roads. Suffice it to say, getting hit by one of those vans hurts a lot.
The result of collecting a bomb - it eliminates every enemy on the level, sending them all flying. They'll respawn in a few seconds, though, so it's debatable how useful these collectibles are. Some days you just can't not pick up a bomb.
Holy crap, how many more of these stages are there?
Stage 12 introduces these little arrow points which cause Bats to swoop away on his grappling hook and appear elsewhere in the level. Did the Riddler rebuild Gotham while I wasn't looking?
Ah, finally! Something's happening!
Oh, the Fluegelheim! That's from the movie! So this is a movie adaptation? Like a really loose one?
So now I'm waltzing around the museum after hours, taking down Joker goons dressed as policemen.
And my task this time is to... clean the graffiti off of the exhibits. Okay. I think we're done here.

So I have no idea what the deal is with this game. I'm going to assume the following:

The lead designer assigned to this project had never heard of Batman before. He's seen pictures - the studio sent over several shots of the movie to provide a basis for the art teams - but the finer details about what Batman is and what he does elude him. However, the team down the hallway is busy at work on the NES version of the game and he's determined not to be shown up by his rivals. He quickly does some reconnaissance and discovers that Batman's mostly concerned with "cleaning up the mean streets of Gotham". "Ah," he thinks, "so he's some kind of overly elaborate costumed janitor?" Inspired, he quickly gets to work on a game that accurately depicts the adventures of the Caped Sanitation Worker.

That's probably entirely fallacious, but I can't imagine what lead to re-imagining Batman as a 16-bit Pac-Man clone. Maybe SunSoft wanted to create two very different games to give Batman fans a reason to buy both? There's a lot of cross-pollination between the two, with their similar graphical styles (the game looks excellent, for all its problems) and music (this game has a remixed version of Streets of Desolation, one of the best NES tunes ever composed). It's well crafted, though so weirdly incongruous to what a Batman game should be.

Why the hell is Batman picking up boxes and cleaning graffiti?

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Octurbo: Bomberman '93

On this episode of Octurbo Man Week, the concussive sounds of inevitability ring in our collective ears as we finally cover Hudson's most famous little bald guy. No, not that one, the other one. The one that drops bombs everywhere.

Bomberman '93 is one of those games people tend to list as the "best" of the early 2D Bombermans, alongside Saturn Bomberman and Super Bombermans 2 and 3, which is a comparative process that has always baffled me. I purport (with a certain amount of spurious bluster, granted) to be someone with enough game design knowhow to pick apart even the minor shifts and changes between one game and the next in a series, but the Bomberman series really do all seem like the same game to me. Even with the superficial additions of kangeroos or bomb gloves or whatever other inconsequential superfluousness has been added to justify another new game. Bomberman 64, for all its problems, actually felt like the first time Bomberman tried evolving and leaving its relatively uncharred safety zone.

So, in conclusion, this is just more Bomberman. For a feature focusing on a console where half the games are from Hudson Soft, though, it's not a franchise I can really ignore forever.

Thanks O'Bomberman

Welcome to Bomberman '93! Damn, that's a busy title screen.
I dunno, I quite like this game's occasional use of heavy black outlines. This gaudy future city reminds me a little of WarioWare.
I won't make the obvious joke about Bomberman's little snub plane, but I will say that they don't make that joke any easier to avoid by sticking a giant pink "P" on there.
These are disputed planets. So I guess we've got to do some diplomacy? You know, the type of diplomacy that involves bombs.
Hi Digger! He looks like a Tetris Battle Gaiden character. (As we'll find out soon, he's about as cheap as one too.)
Yep, it's classic Bomberman. Run around blowing up walls and enemies and preferably not also yourself.
As usual, there's a single upgrade per stage. Some, like the bomb-up and flame-up, remain with you forever. Others, like the incredibly useful Remote Bomb, go away once you lose a life.
You also need to uncover the exit before you can leave. Accidentally blowing up the exit causes it to reroute to hell or something and spit out a huge number of enemies. Generally not recommended. Maybe there are some pro types out there that just do it over and over for high scores though. I dunno, I kind of don't want to imagine that there are people out there who play single-player Bomberman competitively.
This game does throw you a bone by highlighting the rock that has the power-up after killing all the enemies, just in case you hadn't found it yet. Convenient, but they still make you search for the exit.
I didn't think Digger would actually be this big. The heavy outlines kind of make it seem like he was scaled up for some reason. Probably so he'd be easier to hit. I won't argue.
Of course, I'm not a fan of his little teleport clones. They appear and shoot their blue ghost fires very quickly, and it's certain death if you thought you could flank the main guy with a bomb.
I eventually beat Digger. Didn't see him dig once. He mostly just teleports and shoots flames. I guess "Flamer" wouldn't have gone down well with the censors.
He may be defeated, but to destroy him utterly body and soul I must cosplay as him. Brutal.

Bomberman is what it is, so I can't fault it too much. I can however fault the sheer output of Hudson's favorite character, and I have to imagine that leaning on that little pyromaniac so heavily is eventually what put them under. The TG-16 library demonstrates that while not all of Hudson's ideas were great, they still had a lot of them. They were practically competing with Capcom and Konami back then in the sheer number of franchises and memorable mascot characters they were churning out. I almost feel kind of bad for highlighting what is essentially the creative cancer that led to their demise.

Man, am I getting a little too melodramatic over here. Bomberman is a series of games where a little white robot blows things up. This was one of them. Thanks for stopping by.

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Octurbo: Shockman

Welcome to Day 2 of Man Week here at Octurbo. Today we look at NCS's Shockman, another superhero parody action game that skews a little more towards Mega Man than Bravoman did. In fact, it's highly reminiscent of Mega Man X, only without the non-linear enemy select, which is quite a feat considering it pre-dates Capcom's Mega Man spin-off by a couple of years. Shockman is actually the second game in the Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman quadrilogy, but for some reason this was the only one that received a localization.

Shock-Fu

Welcome to Shockman! There's been a lot of sweet logos around here of late. Maybe I should make one?
We have a tough choice between Shockman and... Shockwoman? Well, it's Blue Arnold and Red Sonya (I see what they did there). I'll stick with the blue guy for now.
We're afforded a brief glance at more peaceful times, with Arnold in his civilian clothes. Which is to say, a shirt, a kilt and a bandana. You know, day to day wear.
These robot worker guys each doing their own task are a nice touch.
Or it was a nice touch until they all decided to gang up on me. One quick henshin later, and I'm ready to throw down (also, is it just me, or do I look a lot like MM2's Quickman?)
The worker robots toss a pickaxe back and forth until one set have been destroyed, at which point the real fight begins. It's actually a tough little boss fight this early on, though fortunately not an unwinnable one.
A quick bit of maneuvering later and the workers have gone from unionized to atomized.
But wait! We're getting a report that the alien Ryo empire is invading! Why, it's almost as if the game was starting.
I dunno, that seems like an irresponsible thing for a newsreader broadcasting to the entire city to say. Also, escape to where? They're coming in from space, right?
Late title card! I knew I was going to like this game.
So now we enter the very familiar side-scrolling shooter action in earnest. These bomb-throwing fatbots seem like the best source for health pick-ups.
They even do that "carrying in a friend" business (is that a concept page yet?). I've got a few charged up shots waiting for this lazy guy once he decides to drop down.
Entering a vertical area now, dodging inexplicable fire flumes and having a grand old time of it. Not to be contrary, but this whole section feels a bit more Contra-y.
Holy crap, it's suddenly Canabalt now. Fast horizontal scrolling and collapsing buildings.
Oh wait, I guess it's R-Type? I need to stop referring to other games already. So reductive. But man that is an ugly looking alien wing-wang.
I've got some sort of wacky doppelganger to contend with it seems.
He's content to troll us for now, but I'll be surprised (shocked, even) if this isn't the last time we see this dude.
Oh hey, it's the big computer from Strider. Screw what I said earlier, I'm just going to see if I can namedrop as many other games as possible.
Great Scott, the good doctor's been kidnapped. The Ryo Empire must have hired some Libyans.
For a kidnapped guy, he sure knows a lot about the enemy's movements and is somehow able to communicate all this to hero. Maybe put a guard on him?
Well, that's convenient. Maybe it's like the Batcave and he just has one of every vehicle just in case.
Ha haaa. We like to joke here at Shockman HQ, but Alzheimer's is a serious problem that affects many people. Pick up a pamphlet at your nearest physician's for more information.
Then again, Shockman's not the sharpest tool in the shed either.
Some mysterious person, perhaps the narrator, informs Shockman that this is the Shockmarine. Sounds like an electrocution mishap waiting to happen.
And then the game becomes a horizontal shoot 'em up, because why not. This is a TurboGrafx-16 game after all.
It actually doesn't look half bad down here, and dodging all these medicine balls isn't as easy it as looks.
I dunno, I'm starting to suspect Mega Man X of some foul play here.
Oh what the hell is this ridiculous looking thing? It's all academic, because I die almost immediately. Turns out there aren't any health pick-ups for this entire shmup stage. That means I'm going to need to get good at shoot 'em ups to get any further, and that ain't happening any time soon.

So Shockman's actually quite solid. Plays well, is reasonably challenging, has some bizarre bosses and lets you continue from the start of the current level as many times as you'd like. I don't know what I was expecting after the underwhelming Bravoman but this feels much closer to a 16-bit era game. I'd hesitate to go as far as to say this was the TG-16's Mega Man X, despite my many allusions to same, because that game had a hell of a lot more going on with all its wall-jumps, interchangeable weapons and non-linearity (the music's quite a bit better too). Instead, think of this as a lesser/earlier version of what would become one of Capcom's best SNES games, in the same way that Neutopia felt like a waypoint between the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past.

It does make me curious about the other Schbibinman games. You can read more about them in one of HardcoreGaming101's characteristically verbose breakdowns here. I might have to check out that third game whenever I finally start covering the TurboGrafx-CD.

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Octurbo: Bravoman

All right, let's move on from the RPGs. The only thing I had left was Order of the Griffon, and it's about as impenetrable as any of the Gold Box D&D games. Well, maybe it isn't that obtuse, but it's another first-person dungeon crawler and I've seen quite enough of those for the time being.

Instead, we're moving onto a new theme. As someone who is frequently associated with hyper-masculinity (this is emphatically untrue, but stick with me here, I'm doing a bit), it's hard to find games that are able to reflect my lumberjackian levels of testosterone. The games I'll be covering all this week all have "man" in the title, is basically what this is, because I noticed there was a lot of them and I'm running out of rational ways to thematically link these games together.

The first is Namco's Bravoman. A bizarre but inconsequential curio back in the day, the telescopic superhero has gained something of a minor resurgence of late due to his prominence in Namco Bandai's ShiftyLook campaign to resurrect various old licenses of theirs via webcomics and cartoons. Why they couldn't just release another dozen Namco Museum games or give them all cameos in the next Tales as per usual I'm not sure. Bravoman's a "parodic" superhero game, ridiculing the po-faced tokusatsu superhero shows that were a thing in Japan and decidedly less of a thing in the US. For all this pre-amble leading up to the part where I post a lot of pictures, I don't really have a lot to say about it.

This Week on "Bravoman": The Real Housewives of VILLAINY

Welcome to Bravoman! I have to admit, that's a neat logo.
You don't see it here, but the evil Dr Bomb has this really bizarre hand stabbing animation whenever he talks. And when he talks, he says "I am Dr. Bomb!" Like we still wouldn't get it after the fifteenth time.
So this is the game. It's mostly a side-scrolling beat 'em up type deal, though not so in-depth that enemies have health bars or anything. I just run right and Dhalsim anything that looks at me funny.
This floating shark thing will be the first to feel my wrath.
No wait, I guess he's my friend from Planet Alpha. Or Alfa. I'll save the kicking for later, then.
Sure, man, I got nothing better to do.
After a brief tutorial level, Professor Broccoli sends out his robotic corps. Finally, some real trouble.
This... is some kind of fish in a pipe?
And these are little RC cars and copters?
This flame robot's kind of co0l, which is why I stood safely outside his range and kicked him to death.
This wheel guy is apparently "Lottery Man" and occasionally drops by to give you health and bonuses. So, a bit like Eddie in Mega Man, that one game where you're a blue robot fighting machines built by a bushy-haired lunatic doctor.
The first boss is this underwhelming totem pole. Remember when totem pole enemies used to be everywhere? Did they vanish when we all decided to be a little more culturally sensitive towards Native Americans?
Oh yeah, I blew it up. I think I even ended that battle with more health somehow.
Lottery Man is kind enough to pay for dinner.
Though by "pay for dinner" I mean he's going to roll riceballs across the ground in the most grossly condescending way possible. Like I'm so desperate for healing that I'm going to eat onigiri that's been rolling around on the sidewalk? (Yes.)
I'd love to fight whatever the hell that is, but I've suddenly caught a mysterious case of food poisoning from somewhere. Time to bring this to a close.

Bravoman's fun enough on a rudimentary level, but there's nothing particularly remarkable about it. The TurboGrafx-16 kind of hovered between the 8-bit and 16-bit era, so you'll see plenty of its games hearken back to a more innocent time where all you needed to do was to walk right and hit dudes occasionally. The stretchy powers both enhance the player's arsenal of moves while also allowing them to stand safely far away from any danger, so it kind of feels like a double-edged sword. Or a double-length arm. I don't know. I feel like a lot of the humor and references might have got lost in the translation too.

But hey, it looks like Namco's doing some weird and interesting stuff with the character now. On top of the ShiftyLook media, there's also a new tablet game called Bravoman: Binja Bash. On the one hand, I have to imagine Bravoman is a hopelessly obscure game even in regions that actually got to play it and so all the attention and funding being put towards its resurrection is kind of baffling; but on the other hand - that is, the one that I've been using to flip off Capcom for mishandling all of its legacy properties besides Street Fighter - I can totally get behind any weird attempts to tap into nostalgic appeal like this. Namco's never one to toss an idea or an old character to the wayside, even if it's just some blue guy with extendo-limbs that everyone's forgotten about.

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Octurbo: The Tower of Druaga

We're going old-school Namco today with the PC Engine remake of The Tower of Druaga, the godfather of all Japanese action RPGs. For those unaware: The Tower of Druaga, or "Druaga no Tou" since this version was never officially localized, is a maze action game with an RPG flair in which you simply need to find a key and exit the level. However, choosing to take the direct route makes things very difficult later on, and the real path to success is to solve a series of obtuse puzzles which involve some oddly OCD requisites like killing all of a single enemy type or walking around the stage in a clockwise pattern. The treasures you earn from meeting these special conditions make the rest of the game substantially easier to cope with, as more and more difficult obstacles and enemies start to appear.

Perhaps understandably, western audiences weren't too eager to try doing random shit for hours in order to find a new shield or something, so the Tower of Druaga never really caught on over here. In Japan though, it was crazy successful and ended up becoming extremely influential. We probably wouldn't have the Legend of Zelda if it wasn't for this game (or if we did, it would probably look a lot different and didn't hide all its secrets behind random walls and rocks). This PCE port is a graphically enhanced remake that actually gives you hints before each level on how to find the treasure, but only on the first three difficulty settings.

GIRUGAMESH!

Welcome to the Tower of Druaga! I'm just going to play through the first ten floors, of a total of sixty. It's a hard to define a cut-off, because so many of the early floors are easy tutorial levels that aren't too interesting.
These intro screens are a new addition, in which the Goddess Ishtar helpfully provides a hint to the stage's secret treasure chest. Well, this one isn't so much a hint as an outright imperative, but we're just starting out here.
Gilgamesh, the hero, has an odd way of fighting enemies: The player needs to draw his weapon and then hold it there, poking enemies in front of him. Enemies get hurt if they walk into the sword's point and the hero gets hurt if he stands in the same place as the enemy. Kind of rudimentary, but then you're better off avoiding enemies if you can help it anyway.
Killing a single slime makes a chest appear and with it the first useful tool of the game. The copper pickaxe can knock down walls, but only has two uses before it breaks. Useful in a bind, but not very.
As you can see, we're simply told about black slimes and left to interpret this hint as "hey, maybe kill a black slime?". They get a little more brainteaser-y later on, I swear.
Fortunately, the black slimes are easy enough to spot. You can also see the key here, necessary for completing the stage, and a floating blue gem which is used in this game's newly integrated level-up system.
The Jet Boots are a downright necessity because they double your speed. You wouldn't believe how slow Gil was before grabbing these.
After each stage you can spend your blue power-up gems however you wish. The most useful stat right now is health. Wouldn't hurt to put a few points in your sword, though. The red gems define a fixed stat boost that comes from your equipment, rather than XP gain. Because there's equipment for every stat, it's also worth spreading the blue gems around a bit so you don't go over the max later and end up wasting them.
You are prohibited from attacking the outside walls, naturally enough, and trying to do so automatically breaks your pickaxe. However...
...you need to try it anyway to make the chest appear. It's sort of like a tutorial where you earn rewards for following instructions.
The Silver Chime is an item that tells you where the key for the stage is. Unnecessary right now, but at some point the keys will turn invisible for no other reason than to make the game extra obfuscating.
The shield works in the same way Link's does: It'll deflect projectiles, but only if you're facing the direction of the projectile and haven't drawn your sword (your shield actually switches to protecting your left flank if your sword's out).
And this stage introduces the annoying disappearing/reappearing Wizzrobe enemies that would later become such a menace in the Legend of Zelda (and eventually Super Mario World).
I keep forgetting the TG-16 has a Select button. Hitting it at any time takes you to your inventory screen, where you can change your equipped items. Items like the Chime need to be selected before you can use them.
The Map Book is another item like the Chime that only works if you have it equipped. It shows you the whole floor, but not where the key or the monsters are.
It took me a moment to figure out what she meant by this.
The magic circles are those little round things on the floor. They don't have a purpose, or at least didn't until now. There's only one white circle on this floor, and that's the one you have to walk over.
The White Sword is our first piece of equipment. It replaces our crappy old sword and is just a straight boost to our stats.
As you can see, it automatically boosts our sword power by three red diamond thingies. In harder difficulty modes, where the blue XP gems don't appear, finding new equipment is the only way to get more powerful.
This stage introduces bats and black knights. There had been blue knights earlier on as well. The knights mean business, and will chase you around if they see you. As will the bats, but they don't hurt you as much if they catch you. The bats are indestructible, however, so they might be the greater danger overall.
The condition for level 6 was to simply draw my new sword. And I get a new shield out of it. All these easy giveaways are meant to lure you into a false sense of security, I assure you.
I try not to rely on my shield too much, since I have to be standing in the right place for it to have any effect, but I guess having a shiny new one can't hurt.
This is when the hints start getting a little more obtuse. I'll let you guys figure this one out, though keep in mind what we've picked up so far (yeah, yeah, these puzzles are hardly Mensa level right now).
Floor 7 does introduce that old fan-favorite: Gelatinous Cubes. Trying to walk through one is a very slow and agonizing death if you don't have the HP to survive it, so it's, uh, best to not do that.
Even more armor. It goes without saying that grabbing this equipment is useful for survival if not totally essential. There are items that are absolutely required to complete the game though, so getting used to this game's puzzle logic early on is handy.
Easy for you to say. Man, they really do spell it all out for you this early on.
I have no idea what these guys are, but fortunately I only have to kill the blue knight on this level for the treasure. I can leave these walking menhirs be.
I haven't even used the Chime yet and I've got the upgraded version. Instead of telling you where the key is, the Gold Chime lets you know when you've solved the floor's puzzle and caused the chest to appear. Until now, I've had to walk back and check if it's shown up yet.
She's actually referring to the hero this time, rather than the enemy knights. Like this game needed to be more ambiguous.
Some of the magic circles have started shimmering, so it's simply a case of finding them all. Also the Wizzrobes now shoot fireballs that stick around for a few seconds and kill you instantly. I really hate those guys.
A new gauntlet. These things boost your Agility stat, which governs how quickly you can draw/sheathe your sword. Before finding this gauntlet, Gil took his sweet time with that thing.
Now this seems like a really arbitrary condition.
But actually an enemy crossed over the requisite magic circle almost instantly. I didn't have to do squat for this one. Why can't they all be this easy?
And I'm awarded the Silver Pick, which lets me knock down even more walls. A lot of these early upgrades aren't necessary for right now, but every resource helps when you're on floor 50 and getting nuked by all the tough enemies up there.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. Druaga's a weird combination of a really primitive RPG (hey, the game was originally made in 1984, what do you expect?) and a puzzle game, but while its aged quite a bit it's still worth playing for its historical value. This PCE remake removes a lot of the arbitrary guessing BS and makes the game nicer to look at, but it's still the same experience at its core. It's kind of nuts that this game's approaching its 30th anniversary; maybe we'll see something from Namco Bandai soon to celebrate the occasion. "Druaga Championship Edition DX"?

While earlier home versions never left Japan, the Arcade game can be found in a large number of Namco Arcade compilations, many of which were released worldwide, as well as on Virtual Console. This particular remake seems to be unique to the PC Engine, but there's a translation patch out there on RomHacking.net (which is where I got the translation patches for Blue Blink and Lady Sword too). Oddest of all, if you play the first Tales of Destiny, there's an entire optional dungeon based on Tower of Druaga that has all kinds of useful items for the main game - they're just hidden in the same obtuse manner. Lastly, the Steam RPG Chantelise is kind of a modern interpretation of Tower of Druaga, splitting its focus between tough action RPG combat and meeting "how the hell was I supposed to know to do that?" conditions to make chests appear.

I'll go back to covering weird obscure shit soon, I promise.

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Octurbo: Dragon's Curse

All right, so that last Octurbo got a tad too salacious towards the end there. Perhaps I should actually start vetting these things before jumping in with the screenshot button. At any rate, let us all never speak of the Lady Sword incident again.

Moving right along, today we look at Bubble Bath Babes Dragon's Curse, part of the Wonder Boy dynasty and one of many TurboGrafx-16 adaptations of that series that underwent a few edits to get around Sega's inconvenient possession of the Wonder Boy license. Dragon's Curse is probably the least trifled with out of all those ports: a fairly straightforward conversion of the Master System/Game Gear game Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (and not to be confused with the other Wonder Boy III, Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair). Dragon's Curse was renamed Adventure Island in Japan, despite having nothing to do with Hudson's axe-and-skateboards franchise. Well, besides the fact that Adventure Island was originally a graphical edit of the first Wonder Boy. You know what, I've explained this all once on the Wonder Boy wiki page, so just go check that out. It's nuts.

As for the game itself, it's a mix of a side-scrolling action RPG (though it's actually about as RPG-y as Neutopia) and a Metroidvania and was quite well regarded at the time. It's unfortunate that the Master System was more or less on the way out in all regions besides Europe and Brazil when the game came out, because it's probably the best thing on there. Wasn't a lot of competition, mind, but why diminish that accomplishment?

From Nudity to Cursing: This Feature Used to Be So Wholesome

Welcome to Dragon's Curse! No Wonder Boy in the title, but besides a few graphical tweaks and script edits I believe that's the only difference between this and the Master System/Game Gear version.
The 5 Ghostly Goons. I won't lie, that's a great name for an organization.
What's the bet that I'll be turned into a "totally disgusting creature"? It sounds like it would also be bogus to the max.
Why are you telling me all this? I'm surely not getting transformed. Surely. (Also this game has some real problems with body image. Those demons have feelings too, you know.)
So I start as a human with full stats and armor that seems to block all damage. Yeah, this has "abilitease" written all over it.
Suddenly things get all Star Wars down here. Cyberdragons?
Jeez, I was only kidding! I don't think I'm quite ready for Mecha-Gamera just yet. Or maybe I am, since I'm wearing pure adamantium.
So here's the deal with the bosses: After you kill one (and man was this one easy with all my end-game gear) a little fire pops up and spits coins. If you can avoid the flame long enough, you can collect quite a bit of cash.
Inevitably, though, the curse hits you and you become some kind of awesome dragon thing. As curses go, I've seen worse.
Because that giant metal turtle was a load-bearing boss, I need to get my new scaly ass out of here.
I've been on the internet long enough to know that there are entire DeviantArt communities who would kill for a "curse" like this.
I can't see or hear this narrator, but I can definitely detect a tone of "I told you so" in their voice.
What happened to the Ghostly Goons? Did they get replaced?
I'm a desperado! A desperado who is a little full of himself!
This is the coolest pig I've ever seen, and I've seen Porco Rosso. It took me a moment, but this guy is what HardcoreGaming 101's Twitter account uses as an avatar.
Exploring the initial town, I find a not-so-hidden room with this heart container. Since I lost most of them escaping that castle, I'm going to need quite a few of these to not die a lot. If I can get it down to "only dying sometimes", I'll be all set.
There's also this nurse who recovers health, but charges more the more hearts you have. Might as well grind for heart drops in the nearby low-level areas.
The only way I can go is through the town's sewer system, so off I go on an adventure. Through dookie.
This initial area is a hop across the beach. Nothing too challenging, but it can be a little tricky to get out of the ocean once you fall in - you have to fight a few aquatic enemies to find this exit. Curiously, there's a few places underwater I'm as of yet unable to swim to in my dragon form. Hmmm.
Eventually, I find a key for a door in the starting village. I'm guessing this was just a tutorial level, then?
Solid Swine also operates all the stores in addition to the save point church. In an odd entrepreneurial twist, he refuses to let me see any item I cannot currently afford. I guess it deepens the mystery, making me want to farm cash for a while to see what this ludicrously expensive item actually is. Damn, cool looking and a savvy merchant. (NB: I later find out that these mystery items are based on a separate charm stat. I'm not allowed to buy them until I've made myself more adorable. What did I tell you about this game and body image issues?)
While I couldn't afford anything from the merchant on the beach, the one back in town sells some reasonably priced armor that's a darn sight better than the stuff I had on before.
Through the locked door I go to the first real dungeon of the game.
Just need to exit through the, uh... the sky.
The door floating in the sky obviously takes us to a desert region, with two directions to head in. Going right takes me to a place that resembles Bowser's Castle and is full of tough enemies, so I figure I might be better off heading left instead. I've played enough open world RPGs to recognize where not to go until I've gained a few levels and possibly after funding a bazooka or some other form of heavy ordinance.
I don't care for these antlions. A lot of enemies are indestructible and are really just there as obstacles to overcome, rather than goofy monsters to breath fire on.
I skipped over the entrance to this pyramid structure to hop over the thing instead.
And I find this little sphinx room at the end. Hooray for exploring!
Another heart container! Just... pretend you didn't see the third heart in the previous two screenshots.
I love these little Pac-Man wizards. Well, it's not like he's going to want to dress up as a ghost on Halloween, is he?
I get a boss key, though it's actually on the path to the boss and hard to miss. Why even have a locked door? Maybe it's one of those "we'll show you that you need a key to get to the boss so you won't be confused about it later" design decisions?
Back at the top of the pyramid, though this time I'm on the inside! Mwahah! This was worth screencapping!
But there's actually a lot more dungeon to go. People always talk about crows/eagles/bats as the most annoying enemies in these early platformer games, but I really can't stand frogs. They jump around so erratically. Daikatana was wise to fill its first stage with them - screw demons and zombies, frogs are the real threat.
This looks like a secret room, but it's actually the way to the boss. For some reason i just fell through the floor and got here.
Each of the five bosses is a dragon that's had to dress up to fit in with their dungeon's theme. Mummy Dragon is the first. He tends to just float around breathing poisonous fog at you.
This is a screen I might have seen if the boss was difficult. In a surprising act of largesse, continuing the game drops your character off at the hub town with all his cash. If you happen to land the spinning potion icon on one of the red hearts, you get a free potion to take with you too - they act like fairies, recovering a lot of health as soon as it runs out.
The boss isn't actually all that tough though, due to his predictable pattern. Just gotta know when to duck and when to move outy of the way. With all that tough armor I wisely bought earlier, his attacks don't even take off that much.
And here's my reward: a new curse! I'm now a super dinky little mouse guy. And now that I think about it, there were a few narrow gaps earlier where I was simply too big to fit through...

And that's how the rest of Dragon's Curse goes. Your new forms act like Zelda items or Metroid upgrades: you can switch between them and each has a special application to allow you to pass through new areas. Recalling where the small passageways are, or where I needed to smash through some blocks, or underwater areas I couldn't swim through is the key to progressing, as well as procuring new heart containers and finding money caches. Plus, I can definitely appreciate any game that doesn't penalize you too badly for dying.

This is probably the most fun I've had with an Octurbo entry. It's a little disingenuous to call this a TurboGrafx-16 highlight considering it's a barely improved port of a Master System game, but there's a lot more craft and innovation on display here than in many other games I've covered so far. I mean, it is still cartoon fantasy Metroid at the end of the day, but I can definitely deal with that.

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Octurbo: Lady Sword

Well, today I was going to look at the sequel to Dungeon Explorer in order to continue this "sequels to TurboMento-12" angle I had going on, but it's a TG-CD game and thus a little outside the scope of this feature. I can't really ignore the CD games forever, though, because they're as much a part of TurboGrafx's legacy as its HuCard games. More so, perhaps, since it includes all the Valises and stuff like Rondo of Blood and Lords of Thunder. Think I'll save all that for next year's Octurbo, should I be crazy enough to go through all this again.

So instead today I'll be looking at a game called Lady Sword. I knew absolutely nothing about this game going in, beyond its ludicrous title and that it was one of a handful of PC Engine games listed in RomHacking.net's Translations section with the genre designation of "RPG". Good enough for me. Famous last words.

New From Remington: Lady Sword

Welcome to Lady Sword! Is this the Lady Sword? Who knows!
Sucks about your name, dude. Weintein is the first friendly NPC you bump into, but definitely not the last. Oh no.
Big McLargehuge here is the first enemy I happened to meet, but it's all random. There's a list of enemies you can encounter for each floor and the game just throws any one of them at you whenever it feels like.
Oddly, the game never tells you how much damage you do, just vague descriptions of how hard the attacks hit. I can only imagine that it's some weird attempt at maintaining some sort of immersion by taking the numbers away, though I still have a whole bunch of other numbers displayed on the right.
Anyway, the Elemental was a weakling. It barely made a dent in my HP. Fair enough for a low-level monster, right?
I have no idea how to pronounce that. I'm just going to call you Bert.
He says that, but then immediately vanishes. I continue to have no idea what I'm doing or where I'm going.
I figured this guy was dying or something, but no. He's just old and likes to talk. Out of all the NPCs I've met so far, this guy pops up the most by a wide margin.
Wasn't the last guy an Earth elemental? I guess they have boy ones and girl ones.
So this is a screen I saw a lot. Half the enemies in the dungeon will kill you in one or two hits, and the rest can barely scratch you. The trick, or at least what I've been doing, is to run away from the "one or two hits" ones.
AGH WHAT THE oh her name is Tanya. Hey Tanya! Does the terrible secret of the tower have anything to do with enormous disembodied heads floating around?
This caveman with farming equipment, as you might have already guessed, is one of the deadliest creatures on this floor. Really not worth contending with.
Well, I mean I tried contending with it, but let me tell you how that turned out...
A whole lot of these lumber-based enemies. They're really quite strange, like something out of a horror game set in a sawmill.
I'd be less afraid of you if you stopped jumping out of nowhere to talk to me. It's not like you or anyone else down here has anything useful to say.
I came across this Faun Fresco, which are a couple of words that sound dumber the more you say them. As you might expect from a mural painting of a satyr, it's a device used for mapping.
See? Of course, this is a map that always reorients itself so that up is always in the direction you're facing, which really doesn't help a whole lot. At least I can tell which pointlessly serpentine corridors I've been down.
The game throws you a bone by letting you rest anywhere to recoup all your health. There's no food requirement either, so you can do this after every battle.
Though you do occasionally meet this guy. Oddly, he's not even all that tough, but considering he always attacks when you're down to a few HP and sorely need to heal, he doesn't really need to be.
I'm treated to a full body shot of Sophie here completely apropos of nothing. Oh man, is this one of "those games"? Is it Knights of Xentar? This feature's going to end up giving ZombiePie conniptions, isn't it?
Just in case you thought boners were the intent of this game, here's the headless girl again. I'd drop a "ask for a little head and this is what I get?" joke here, but I feel like I'm already regretting everything about this playthrough without adding more to the shame pile.
What the hell? Am I getting attacked by a 19th century industrial loom? What's it going to drop when I kill it, textiles?
So here's the first Earth Spirit. These things are like mini-bosses, complete with portentous music changes and everything.
Rhea wasn't all that tough, but I am called an asshole by the game for killing what appeared to be a harmless floating priestess. Hey, she started it.
Tanya's clearly a got a self-esteem problem. Hey, look at it this way, you've lost a lot more weight recently than they have.
I'll take your word for it, old man. It's certainly not a magnificent game.
The Beelzeboule (damn amateur translators) allows me to walk through hidden walls. How hidden are they?
Well, the map helpfully points them all out with a red line. So... pretty hidden.
Is it the one in Phil Fish's skull? *badum-tish* Haha, no seriously, what the hell is even going on in this game any more.
I can tell this is an Earth Spirit because she's knee-deep in what I hope is mud. Like the last glowy lass, she's kind of a pushover.
I'm beating up women because you told me to? I'm not sure this game's a good influence.
And I really don't care for these bizarre lumberbeasts. What the Packard Saw Mill am I even looking at here?
This thing's straight out of horror town. What is it? What's a "bol"? Uwe Boll? It murdered me almost instantly, but then that's nothing surprising.
The Tachyo-Stone, presumably not its original name, allows me to create a waypoint anywhere I'd like. I can only have one, as far as I'm aware, but they're good for setting in front of bosses.
Like this guy. Like most things on this floor, it kills me pretty quickly, but unfortunately unlike other monsters I absolutely must beat this guy to move to the next area.
Instead I spend a bit of time exploring the rest of the dungeon after setting a waypoint before the boss. Nothing worth capping, since this isn't a game with treasure or shops or fun, but at least I appease my own sense of OCD completionism by filling in all the remaining gaps. Polytron!!
After save-spamming the floor boss a few times (there's a risky attack that either hits five times or not at all, and always gives the opponent two attacks) I finally beat him and am made to feel even more guilty about some sinful something or other. Like what, exactly?
Really shouldn't have asked. So, yeah, the game's true nature reveals itself. Good thing I had a Jeff head handy to censor it.
I'm turning this off is what I'm doing.

So uh, this was actually a porn game? But with whole stretches of uninspired dungeon crawling to break up the girly pics? This has to be the oddest game I've covered for this system so far, and I recently played one where a magical blue donkey regularly flies in to save your bacon. I really can't recommend Lady Sword: The game just seems to throw random enemy after random enemy at you with no rhyme or reason or any attempt to balance the game's difficulty. Shining in the Darkness, which I last played a few months ago and came out a year before this game, is a much better example of what they're trying to do here.

It might be worth it for the sheer insanity alone. Some of those monster designs were really unique, and I have no idea what further adventures lie in store for our nameless swordsman, those two useless wizards with unpronounceable names, Tanya the giant floating head or the bevvy of scantily-dressed damsels that lie in wait in the upper floors of the tower. I'm pretty reluctant to find out, honestly.

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Octurbo: Neutopia II

Man, how excited am I to jump back into Neutopia? For those who didn't join us on the ludicrous 300+ screenshot journey last time, Neutopia is a quite blatant Legend of Zelda clone intended to give the TG-16 its own version of the green-clad adventure series. Neutopia II seems to be more of the same, though hopefully with a few improvements and, perish the thought, a bit more of its own personality to differentiate it a little from its clear inspiration and its many other imitators.

This one will be a little longer than most of these Octurbos, but we certainly won't be revisiting the madness that was the Neutopia TurboMento-12. I don't think I have it in me to screencap hundreds of NPCs stating the obvious again.

Never Bet Against Me Being Stupid, Part 2: A New Neutopia

Welcome to Neutopia II! Welcome to more swords sticking into things!
I'm super enthused about jumping back into this series again so soon!
So we immediately begin with this boss fight between a bearded Jazeta, the hero of the first game, and some giant octopus.
And of course, I'm instantly killed because the game only gave me half a heart to contend with. Hey, I wonder if this was meant to happen?
I can't tell if she's screaming from the nightmare or calling my name. Maybe a dumb idea to call him that.
As Mom recounts the entire first game's plot to us, I have to wonder if this is still Princess Aurora. If so, where's our castle? Why did she decide to move to some cave in the countryside where we have to sleep in shifts because we only have one bed?
Or he's fish food. The intro didn't quite make that clear.
Oh hey, this thing's back. As with the first game, it tells us where we need to go so we don't end up wasting our time exploring. Because exploring a wide world full of secrets wouldn't be fun.
Neutopia still hasn't got around to building any houses, so welcome to our crappy cave village. Some real Quest for Fire shit around here.
Well, so long immersion.
Since there's no longer a fourth wall, Nooooo just holds everything up so we can see it. Thanks dude, we get it, they're bombs. Looks like I'll be blowing up every wall "just in case" again.
Yo, I don't have any cash. (This isn't bad value, as it turns out, because most enemies drop currency in 10, 50 and 100 gold amounts).
What a question. If only Wal-Mart greeted shoppers like this.
Ah yes, Grampa Murdock. "Howlin' Mad" we used to call him, but that was mostly because of the senility.
Neutopia II still persists with a password system. These places also act as respawn points in case you die, so it's worth getting the password even if you don't intend to quit for the day.
Oh hey, these transparent slime guys are back. And I can move and fight in eight directions now!
The knock-off Moblins are back too, it seems. I didn't screencap any NPCs around here, because all they do is explain the game's mechanics, occasionally two or three times. Yep, this is the sequel to Neutopia all right. I have to wonder if this game came with a manual at all.
Pushing random rocks to reveal houses is still a thing.
Well that answers a plot thread that's been dangling from the first game. I assume these people are getting air somehow?
Well, after walking around a bit I finally spot the first labyrinth. Just one eentsy tiny problem though.
Well, that's an unsettling sight. Given what roses are meant to symbolize, this just became some kind of Freudian nightmare.
As subtle as a rock. Ten rocks, in fact.
At least they improved their localization budget for this one.
So yeah, a labyrinth. Still Zelda dungeons. Don't believe me?
This Crystal Ball reveals the whole dungeon map to me. Yuuup.
Now that I have the map, all I need is the boss key. The game hasn't changed a damn thing.
These zombie enemies dig themselves out of the floor. It's pretty cool, or would be if there weren't Zelda enemies that did the same thing.
Not the boss key, just the "Key".
The guys chained up in the dungeons are back too. Has anything changed? Besides my haircut?
Wait, did I just ask a dungeon boss monster if he'd seen my father? I'm the weirdest kid.
The game evidently felt it had to get the requisite centipede boss out of the way with early. I can respect that. Blow through the classics and leave the weird ones for later. I can hope, at least.
Of course, it wiped me out because I didn't find this armor first. As with the first game, each dungeon has a piece of armor or a weapon to find that'll make the boss way easier. I clearly should've done my due diligence and dropped bombs next to every wall.
I remember these cat ghosts! These are things I remember!
All right, I'm back with my dumb bright blue armor you segmented son of a Steelix!
By hitting you whenever you popped out of the ground is how. You're not exactly Sun Tzu.
Honestly? The Mechaworm? Is this one of those games with a whole lost advanced civilization angle? (I suspect it's that the localization team saw a shiny grey worm and just assumed it was a robot. Fuck a bunch of thematic consistency.)
That sounds like something I want to hold in my hands.
Uh... Team Rocket's blasting off again?
Nope, I was just being teleported back outside the dungeon. Convenient. Completely random, but convenient.

I think that ought to suffice, then. Guess what? Neutopia II seems to be pretty much identical to the first one. I'm hoping the game is saving a few new tricks up its sleeve for later, but at the moment I can only predict another giant screenshot thread with much of the same content as the old one, give or take a ridiculous set of armor and a few new bosses. It does set up an interesting Tales of Destiny II angle with its "former game's hero in peril" opener, but then that plot point has been a JRPG staple since Dragon Quest III.

I dunno, I'm not super enthused to go through all of this again. It's not a bad game, because anything that resembles the Legend of Zelda this closely can't be, but I'm not going to put everyone through that horror again by LPing it. Next.

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