The original Neutopia was infamous for "borrowing" quite a few concepts from Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the end result was actually a good offering for TurboGrafx-16 owners who were looking for a legend to call their own. Neutopia II is now available for download from the Wii Virtual Console, and continues what its predecessor started--almost to the letter. It's more intense and packs in more for you to do, but you'll likely suffer bouts of déjà vu while you're doing it.
Although not much has changed in this second and final entry in the Neutopia series, you do take on the role of a new hero. The protagonist in the first game, Jazeta, has gone missing. You play as his strapping lad of a son and, after being given a sword and a magic compass by mother dearest, you set off to find the old man. Along the way, you'll learn of a returning evil and the sinister labyrinths that once again permeate the land.
The setup here may be slightly different than the prior game, but the gameplay is nearly identical. You travel a vast overworld while trying to find special items that grant you access to labyrinths and other parts of the map. In doing so, you burn many bushes to uncover hidden staircases, move blocks to open doors and hidden passages, and so on. There are slight differences here, in that the world is presented in a more cohesive fashion, forgoing the option to completely segment unique areas. What's perhaps more significant is the fact that your hero can move and attack diagonally, which makes him more efficient and effective than his pops.
Given that you're no longer limited to attacking in four directions, combat becomes quicker and slightly more involving. Enemies respond in kind, and they start off more aggressive, varied, and interesting than in the original game. From the get-go, enemies will be leaping over your strikes and throwing spears your way, all while coming at you in higher numbers. Labyrinths are also more complex, with some sporting multiple floors and others trying to confuse you with warp portals, pressure panels, and one-way flooring. Bosses will put up more of a fight than in the last game, though their patterns are still quite easy to figure out. For the most part, then, Neutopia II is bigger and bolder than its predecessor was.
However, you wouldn't be able to tell just by looking at the game. The visual design has barely changed from the original Neutopia. You're still seeing landscapes that--though they change throughout the course of the games to depict different environments--use almost identical tile sets and simply look generic and uninspired. Many of the new enemy designs look somewhat livelier and fortunately sport a bit more unique character than before. Nevertheless, unless you look really closely, you'd be hard pressed to guess whether you're seeing Neutopia or Neutopia II. Thankfully, the audio seems to have improved a little bit. Sound effects are a bit softer and less irritating to sit through, and the samples used for the music sound less harsh and scratchy. Although by no means a symphony orchestra, the music is an improvement over the kindergarten cacophony from last time.
Neutopia II is ultimately very much an extension of the original Neutopia. It's still a somewhat linear and straightforward adventure, but with better swordplay. It's got the same rainbow drop and moonbeam moss that appeared before, though you do get a few more items. The labyrinths, though larger and tougher, are just as tightly packed, and their walls just as frequently destructible by bombs. To be fair, Neutopia II really is the better game overall; if you plan to spend only 600 Wii points on one of the two games in the series, it should be this one. However, if you've had your fill of the original Neutopia and satisfied your curiosity with regard to just how much it aped The Legend of Zelda, maybe it's better to let dear old dad fend for himself. He's a grown man; he'll deal.