I’m bored of this utopia. I want a Neutopia!
You are Jazeta, a young warrior from the land of Neutopia. One stormy night Dirth, the Lord of Darkness, takes the princess captive and steals the 8 sacred Medallions of Wisdom, scattering them in tombs across the land. Only you can travel the four spheres: Land, Air, Subterranean, and Sea, to find the medallions, return them to the shrine, and rescue the princess.
Am I the only one with a serious case of deja vu? No, this isn’t the lost prototype for Zelda III, this is Neutopia. Released in 1989 by Hudson Soft, Neutopia was the Turbografx’s direct answer to Miyamoto’s masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda. It’s easy to write off Neutopia as a simple copycat and call it a day, but relax young grasshopper, there’s much fun to be had in the land of Neutopia.
Unlike Zelda, the Land of Neutopia is not one giant overworld map. The world is divided into four seperate overworlds, each with two dungeon shrines that must be conquered. After defeating the boss of each shrine, you’re awarded a piece of tri..erm, I mean medallion that will be needed to gain access to the next spehere. Each sphere covers a decent bit of area, and there are plenty of secrets to be revealed. In almost every screen you’ll find a secret passage, usually under a stone mural or tree, which for some reason leads to the home of some hapless soul who chooses to live in isolation. Seriously, I have no idea why most people choose ten foot trees or ancient rock paintings as their front doors, but to each his own. Anyway, these people will often offer you assistance in the form of money, bombs, potions, or extra health containers.
Enough about the overworld though, the real meat of Neutopia takes place where the sun doesn’t shine-the dungeons. Each of the 8 dungeons is loaded with traps and baddies. To solve the dungeons the main strategy is to keep a healthy supply of bombs handy, because the special weapons and armor in each sphere are almost always hidden behind a wall that needs blasting. Leaving a sphere with the wrong equipment is always a recipe for disaster, as the next area’s monsters will likely take huge chunks from your precious health bar. At the end of each dungeon you’ll fight a (usually quite massive) boss. Ranging from your typical dragons, to irritated, foam-flinging crabs, the bosses all look great and are fun to fight, though a few are too easy for my tastes. My favorite boss encounter is against a giant rock golem whom I dubbed Messhuggernaught, due to the giant Star of David accompanied by an inverted crucifix on his chest.
Overall, this game is almost an exact copy of The Legend of Zelda, but to its credit, you can’t fault the game for imitating the best adventure game out at the time. Without question, Neutopia is much prettier than Zelda, due to the Turbo’s extra horsepower, and is even a bit longer to boot. If you can look past the game’s blatant similarities to Nintendo’s flagship NES adventure, you’ll find a fantastic game here that is very much worth playing through.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: TurboGrafx-16 (Reviewed), PC Engine, PSN ; Publisher: Hudson Soft ; Developer: Hudson Soft ; Players: 1 ; Released: November 17, 1989