Neutopia

Even if it isn’t revolutionary, Neutopia is a solid title that does improve on the gameplay of The Legend of Zelda. Though the cost may be prohibitive if you’re considering it for the TurboGrafx 16, it’s only $6 (600 Wii points) on the Virtual Console, making it a solid buy and a great way to spend a lazy Sunday.

I suppose in a review of Neutopia, it is almost obligatory to reference The Legend of Zelda. Yes, Neutopia is greatly influenced by The Legend of Zelda, from its overhead perspective to its dungeons to its items. I believe it is safe to say that, had The Legend of Zelda never been created, there would be no Neutopia. Some are quick to dismiss Neutopia because of this, which baffles me. The video game industry is full of games that borrow from a successful formula (would we have the prevalence of fighting games if there were no Street Fighter II or first-person shooters if there were no Wolfenstein 3-D or Doom?). It may be that Neutopia is criticized because people believe that it really didn’t enhance what The Legend of Zelda presented, but I refute that idea. Not only do I think that Neutopia improved upon Zelda’s gameplay, but I believe that it is overall a more enjoyable experience.

Though some of you Zelda fans may be crying, “Blasphemy!” at this point, let me make my case.

First off, the graphics in Neutopia are an improvement over the Zelda graphics. This is no surprise, as Neutopia was originally released on the more powerful TurboGrafx 16/PC Engine. The character sprite for the lead character, Jazetta, is larger than Link, as are most of the monsters. The characters and game world are rendered in vivid colors, thanks to the greater color palette of the TG-16. Though the graphics are not jaw-droppingly amazing, the overall visual experience is pleasing.

In terms of gameplay, I found Jazetta easier to control than Link. Both are confined to moving in only four directions, but Jazetta seemed a little more responsive. I will admit that there is a possibility that this was due to the controller, though, as I only played The Legend of Zelda on the Gamecube using a Gamecube controller and may have had a different experience with the original Nintendo controller.

One thing that I definitely preferred in Neutopia is that there are usually clues as to where you may find secret areas. Like in Zelda, secret areas can be found by burning trees or by bombing walls. Maybe I’m less patient than I once was, but finding the secret areas in Zelda is just a chore, especially when I only had the blue candle, which can only be used once on a screen, forcing me to enter the screen, try burning a bush, leave the screen, return, and try another bush. This becomes very tedious very quickly. In Neutopia, there are no candles, but you do get a wand (like you get later in Zelda) that emits flames, and it can be used repeatedly (in fact, you’ll find yourself using it frequently as a ranged weapon, since you sword is only a close-range weapon).

The one aspect of Neutopia that I find inferior to Zelda is its challenge. Neither the normal monsters nor the dungeons nor the bosses are very difficult (though the last two bosses seem to ramp up the difficulty quite a bit). In terms of play time, it took me an entire Sunday to play through Neutopia, which has no second quest like Zelda.

Even if it isn’t revolutionary, Neutopia is a solid title that does improve on the gameplay of The Legend of Zelda. Though the cost may be prohibitive if you’re considering it for the TurboGrafx 16, it’s only $6 (600 Wii points) on the Virtual Console, making it a solid buy and a great way to spend a lazy Sunday.

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