The TurboGrafx 16 is a system that holds a special place on my heart as a console that helped define how I view games today. While it was actually my second console (the first being the SNES), more games on this system stand out to me. Games like Blazin Lazers introduced me to the vertical shooter, and games like Bonkís Adventure sealed platformers as a fun genre. The TurboGrafx was also a system that had a wider array of violent games on it, which for a child of about seven, was a treat. Splatterhouse and Bloody Wolf were two games that I remember for having gratuitous violence, but were nonetheless fun to play.
But, for all of these games that defined genres to me, there is one that truly stands out from all of the gems. A game that surpassed what thought was possible to do in games (at the time), and one that had a memorable story and characters. Neutopia was the game that allowed me to live out that fantasy of a medieval-esque adventure, and was able to embark on a harrowing adventure. Still my favorite retro start screen
The game, I admit fully, is a glaring Legend of Zelda rip-off. But, at the time, I had no idea what the Zelda games were, seeing as how we had few SNES games at the time. So, Neutopia still stands (in my heart) as a great game, and revolutionary one at that, even though it is a near carbon copy of the Zelda series. Both games have a young warrior-hero (Jazeta in Neutopia), the princess gets captured by an evil nemesis (Dirth, in Neutopia), and you walk along a huge map going screen-to-screen advancing in dungeons. The similarities are endless, but I do not care. Neutopia was original to me, and a game that had enough polish to keep me coming back.
While it may be a clone game, Neutopia still struck a chord. Games like Blazin Lazers and Keith Courage were fun games with a lot of depth, but for a seven year old, they were merely a thirty minute distraction. I would insert the HuCards, and just shoot things to pass that time. But with Neutopia, I found myself playing for hours at end, walking along the map and fighting the same slime creatures and armored warriors, and earning gold and silver for the shops. The game used a password save system, and I had a small notebook filled with various passwords at different times, just incase I made a mistake or used a bomb in the wrong place.
One of the things that really struck me as a kid was the sense of freedom the game gave me as a kid. Since the entire world was open to you from the start (and having the option of obtaining bombs early), you could easily wander around the map and see what there was to do. I remember sitting in my living room one snow day, and just walking around seeing what there was to see, and trying to find every little secret I could. While you did have this freedom, the game did get punishing if you didnít go and complete the dungeons and collect the orbs (Triforce). Doing so garnered new armor and upgraded swords, and allowed you to take the harder dungeons on.
The dungeons also stand out to me after all these years, and playing the game again on the Wii Virtual Console reminded me of why. While this was the first game of this type I played, I remembered how dark, gloomy and frightening the dungeons were. The chip-tune music was creepy, and the enemies were darker and scarier, and a lot tougher to take down. The bosses, though, still amaze me. The first time I faced the low-level boss, my heart was pumping and I was filled with adrenaline. Facing this huge dragon down in a rather small room, armed with only a sword and shield (and a fire-wand), it was like a fantasy come real. The good knight slaying the dragon to get to the princessÖonly to find out I had about seven more to go. Dirth; The battle still annoys me, but is loads of fun
The only thing that irked me with the game was the lack of really useful map system. The world was rather large, and as a result, I tended to get lost easily. The menu system does give you a compass that points you in the way of the next dungeon, but due to some weird glitches, the compass would spaz out and spins wildly around. It was supposed to spaz out inside of dungeons, to make you take longer on the puzzles and navigation within. This was a negligible flaw to the game, though, because if you got lost, you could use an item and warp back to the main temple and navigate from there (which oddly reset the compass for me as well).
Neutopia is a game that will always stand out in the retro category. Itís puzzles, gameplay and story was, to me, the best that you could get (before I knew about Final Fantasy and other Square/Enix games). The day that this gem was released on the Wii Virtual Console, I downloaded and bought it instantly and played it all day. There are better Zelda ripoff games, and I fully admit it. But, for what the game is, I still adore it. HudsonSoft struck gold with Neutopia (and its sequel), as well as making many of the more memorable TurboGrafx games that I played.