Friday, April 16, 2010

Momotarou Densetsu Turbo

Hudson Soft

Being that I exist in a perennial state of discombobulation, I played through Momotarou Densetsu II before giving this game a go, but Turbo is the one that tells us (via stirring cinemas) of the peach lad's origins.

I found it to be remarkably reminiscent of II in many different ways. The primitive field graphics are eerily similar. Some tunes appear in both games, as do a number of enemies. Menus are navigated in basically the same manner; spells are acquired in basically the same manner. Momotarou's three animal buds tag along with him here just as they do in II; and as the group quested, I recognized many town and even continent layouts that I'd already explored in II. Turbo is essentially a different adventure that takes place in the same land.

However, as I played on, I noticed quite a few differences between the two; and most of these differences work in II's favor.

While both games are comparable to the original Dragon Warrior in primitiveness, Turbo turns back the clock even further than II (and does more to call to mind old DW) by having you control a one-man party for the entire game and requiring you to face only one monster in each battle. There are no playable allies to recruit, no bands of monsters to slay--just one-on-one stuff the whole way.

Granted, the animal chums chip in every once in a while with minimal-damage attacks and minor healing techniques, but you can't send them out to scout areas like you can in II (unless I somehow stupidly missed the way to do it). Scouting is an awesome feature and a big reason the animals are such excellent allies in II; but here, they're basically ornaments. They're also the only characters, playable or not, who tag along with Momotarou. You get none of the funny two-dozen-character-long caravans that you get in II.

Turbo also "lacks" status effects. Some enemies can "freeze" you for a turn and one boss can prevent you from using magic, but none of the traditional effects (like poison) are employed. Score one for Turbo's battles--I hate pointless busy-work status crap. Unfortunately, Turbo's battles are much less fun than II's due to their inferior enemy art. II has nice, large, colorful monsters, but Turbo's beasts are mostly boring. Enemy art is a significant reason I consider II a pretty good game, so this is a major issue as far as I'm concerned.

Along the same lines, the final boss in Turbo is a chump, not nearly as cool looking or as tough as the big ogre guy at the end of II. He's also a cheap asshole with a lot of hit points. You can be pounding away at him for a while without a care in the world when he'll suddenly decide to freeze you for a few turns or knock you out in an instant.

II doesn't focus much on dungeons, but when it decides to do one up for its last stretch, it does up a good one. Turbo's caves are larger than II's and play a slightly more central role, but they're duller than II's multi-area labyrinth by a long shot.

As is the case in II, there are plenty of troubled towns to help out. But in II, I feel like I'm regularly moving along and helping fresh faces and new villages, despite a decent amount of required leveling time. Turbo, on the other hand, gets bogged down in leveling and fetch questing. And some of the puzzles in Turbo can be quite difficult to solve, much tougher than just about any of the tough spots in II. They're the types of dilemmas that the Japanese walkthroughs don't bother to address (or address in a manner that will be of little help) because some essential elements would be obvious to someone proficient in Japanese while completely eluding the rest of us. I eventually solved them all because I'm a lunatic, but I don't think most people will want to bother.

II gets better and better as it goes along, with cooler and bigger enemies showing up and the whole affair culminating with the impressive dungeon and awesome boss at the end, but Turbo trudges along at times, bogged down by the aforementioned issues along with cheap enemies that either launch repeated major attacks without granting you a chance to counter or simply freeze you for successive rounds.

While it obviously fares very poorly in comparison with II, Turbo does what it does adequately enough. Allowed a little leeway as a primitive RPG, it doesn't have any flaws that would make a person run away screaming or anything. But there isn't anything particularly good about it that would warrant a recommendation either; and if you're interested in trying one of the two, don't hesitate to skip Turbo and go right to the second episode. In truth, II is the one that does all the rehashing; but it does everything in such superior style that we can disregard that somewhat inconvenient fact.

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