Combat was a mixed bag, partially due to the two styles. The active battles were strangely more enjoyable than the turn-based ones due to the heavy emphasis on luck and required grinding to beat the latter. While I improved in the first, my ability to tackle the other saw little improvement. Overall I do give it credit for trying, and it never became too easy. There were enough options in combat to keep it interesting. My main gripe comes from the encounter rate, which is probably the worst I've come across. Seriously, why does the game allow a battle to start right after escaping a second battle that started the same way? Gold and experience gained were all over the place too, and rarely correlated with enemy level or difficulty.
|Still, probably the only game that allows escape from bosses|
Playing the game solo? Then you're Jack. There's not even an option to play as Ryu unless you have a second player (although you can ring him up in turn-based battles). Jack's appearance is unalterable, and he doesn't gain any new skills throughout his journey. There's no character growth. What you see is what you get throughout the game, although slightly stronger by the end. Levels only increase HP and attack power. There are special moves, which are collected and used as items, but in my experience quickly run out. The only change to the character is their punch sprite, which reflects the claw equipped when attacking.
|I'd rather play as blue|
Puzzles? Once again we're left wanting; however, the main quest is quite clear. I never got lost at least. It's possible to skip certain objectives and come back to them later, but there's only one path that will lead to the end. No side quests to speak of, and not even a riddle to cite. One mystery item I thought I might need to figure out on my own was the golden claw, but the hint outright spoils the discovery. I awarded the game an extra point here though for being (as far as I recall) the first RPG to offer mini-games. Sure the outcome doesn't really matter, but they are present all the same. There's even a healing mini-game where you collect food items. It costs less than a hotel stay, but it's a gamble if collect enough to get fully healed.
|After that, you'll have 160 seconds to do my laundry|
I usually don't fault a game for a lackluster story, but with this one I have a problem.The goal from the outset is to retrieve seven prism bells and defeat Blu Boltar. We later learn that a demon named Big Gulp is actually behind the Yoma clan. The seven bells we collected build a rainbow bridge where we receive the prism sword from our mentor, who's actually a divine being, and we head off to vanquish Big Gulp without even using that sword. I can't be the only one that sees a problem with this. I guess there wouldn't be much of a game if our mentor just gave us said sword at the beginning and allowed us to power through, but it all seems now to have been for naught.
Anyway, on to the points that matter for the rating. NPCs offer good hints although sometimes in cryptic nearly lost in translation ways. There aren't any descriptions for the items and equipment, so we'll never know if Lee's Robe is really Bruce Lee's. No influence from choices as there aren't any, but the dialogue is mostly entertaining.
|Strong man crying like a baby! So funny! Hahaha!|
There's only a single slot for each piece of equipment, a very limited amount of support items, and no way to store additional items. Throwing stars are the only exception, where there are four available to collect (well buy). I was never exactly sure what the difference was between a talisman and an amulet, but I kept upgrading them hoping it helped. I think I finished with the best of everything, but there's no way to be sure. The strength of items was (like most games) linked to their value, but the game only lets you sell something when you buy the same item type. At least there's a place to look at the prism bell collection.
|Strangely they're all called "The Bell of Prism"|
There's nothing to discover, no special encounters (unless you count Rogee Rabit), and no Easter eggs I've found. One of the more notable features is the sheer openness of the world. Now if only is filled with something interesting to stumble upon. Even the dungeons are a vast emptiness of random battles until the boss is found. Treasure chests in dungeons may not seem very realistic, but they sure do break up the monotony.
|This one interesting view comes late in the game|
Overall, an average game. I didn't expect it to take quite this long, but really there was nothing to go off of except a time listed on howlongtobeat.com for the sequel (which should prove much shorter). In the mean time, we have about a year of gaming before that. For now, on to Ultima: Quest of the Avatar. After which we'll finish off the gaming year of 1990 with a different blog format for Double Dungeons. But first, let's find out why Neutopia isn't quite RPG enough for this blog.