tiistai 1. helmikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Gargoyle's Quest II: The Demon Darkness (1992)

Genre(s): Action / Adventure / Platform
Released: 1992
Available on: GB, NES
Developer(s): Capcom
Publisher(s): Capcom
Players: 1

1990's Game Boy exclusive Gargoyle's Quest was one of its tiny platform's best sellers in its release year, so in 1992, Capcom released a prequel to it, exclusive to... the NES. This game was a commercial flop, which was no big surprise considering the decreased popularity of the NES, as well as the simple fact that it was a follow-up to a Game Boy exclusive. In 1993, the game was ported to the Game Boy, but only in Japan, which really didn't help its financial success. So, what to expect from a commercial failure, more or less an updated home version of a game I didn't really like all that much? Nothing?

From the ashes, a demon

Greetings from the makers of Super Ghouls 'n
Centuries before his namesake descendant became a legend on his own, a gargoyle combatant in training called Firebrand witnessed his home village ravaged by the Black Light. Firebrand set on a journey to find the source of the Light and destroy it. This is his story.

I really did not expect anything from this game and I thought I'd just quickly review it to get it out of the way and move on to SNES' fascinating cult classic Demon's Crest. At first, it really did feel like just an updated version of the first Gargoyle's Quest game - the plot's pretty much the same, Firebrand's equipment and the special items we're on the hunt for during the course of the game are pretty much the same - but it all plays out a lot better. I actually found myself truly wanting to beat the game halfway through it. I'm not saying we have a forgotten jewel of the crown here, but definitely an overlooked title.

The graphics are great on NES standards, especially the world map is well detailed and if the palette was larger, I'd have a hard time spotting a technical difference between this game and Final Fantasy IV on the SNES. Really, it's that impressive at its best. The music's also quite good, repetitive but sufficient - the boss theme downright rules.

Something I've always wondered about
platformers: who the hell builds these traps?
Let's start with the menu. While the Game Boy game had every function available cluttered up in the menu, in this game you can talk to people by simply approaching them and pressing A, just how it should be. Some items fulfill their purpose automatically - you still need to manually use most of them, but this time, you are prompted to do that instead of having to resort to some really cryptic way of thinking. Like in the first game, when you thought that talking to that one guy was enough to complete the quest, when actually you had to use the quest item in his vicinity to do it. Here, they specifically ask you to use these items on them. Some cryptic puzzles remain, be they Engrish-related or just plain visual fuckery, but nothing that would really break the flow of the game at any point, for any given time.

The platforming half of the game is fun... for a while, until you get to the really juicy bits. The wall jump's a little more controllable, as are the flight controls - two of the most important features of gameplay in Gargoyle's Quest II. Generally, the controls are still a bit stiff, but getting used to the many tiny quirks is very much possible and even likely two hours into the game. The biggest problem of the game is most definitely level design. You usually need wing upgrades to make some ridiculous jumps, which have previously prevented your passage to your next concrete destination, but even after you've acquired the proper upgrade, the jump might still be ridiculous and there's only one possible way to make it - it's up to you to figure out this one way, through yet another embarrassing series of trials and errors. Even if your precision's perfect, your patience is tried by numerous leaps into the unknown, annoying enemies that have a respawn rate from hell, zero vantage points in even the crappiest of situations, and whole screens that are literally littered with spikes, enemies and moving obstacles, all around. At its hardest, the game really does feel like a part of the Ghosts 'n Goblins franchise. Only in this game, you're not controlling an agile knight - you're controlling a gargoyle that is still a bit too clumsy, and sticky-fingered when it comes to walls or their tiny corners, to star in this sort of game. No, you still can't move along walls.

"Monopolyze". Oh, Lord.
The world map comes last this time around, and it's still big and empty, but a lot more comfortable to navigate. There are no random encounters, probably because their true meaning does not fit in the way things work in Gargoyle's Quest. Every encounter on the world map is totally up to you. You can fight stationary enemies as many times as you like, or according to how many extra lives you need. The enemies still yield those vials which can be exchanged for extra lives in villages, and which can also be found scattered around each stage.

Boss fights are not limited to those in action stages - you might also encounter a boss or two in villages, castles, or even the world map. The difficulty of the boss fights varies a lot. Some are tough but totally beatable by using certain strategic patterns, some are unforgiving deathmatches that just require you to "do or die", while some bosses are laughable pushovers - and by this, I don't mean just any bosses, but the last two guys. LAST TWO GUYS. They're by far the easiest final bosses ever. You'd never believe it after the stages you have to go through to get to them... once you reach the final boss, you can pretty much lay back, relax and press a few buttons every once in a while. It's over at that point.

For some reason, I hear Samuel L. Jackson in
my head, ranting on about some motherfuckin'
The lack of checkpoints, and the highly demanding jumps that'll land you in a river of lava and kill you instantly if you fail, make Gargoyle's Quest II a hard game. Not in the most graceful way, but yeah, since it's beatable and the slightly lacking controls are something you can get used to, the game can be called difficult with a straight face, instead of just plain unfair. The total absence of checkpoints is truly retarded - getting to the boss is the only checkpoint in each stage - and I can imagine it'll make a lot of potential fans of the game turn away from it.

The demon darkness came out of nowhere and swallowed me up much on the contrary of the previous game. Gargoyle's Quest II is not perfect, it's certainly not a masterpiece, it's not even great, but we've seen much worse games steal its due sales and critical acclaim on the NES. It's definitely a curious platform/RPG hybrid every true Nintendo fanatic should at least try out.

Graphics : 8.8
Sound : 8.4
Playability : 7.5
Challenge : 9.0
Overall : 7.8


a.k.a. Red Arremer II (JAP)

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