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   Neugier - Staff Retroview  

Wanderlust
by Mike Moehnke

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
SNES
BATTLE SYSTEM
3
INTERACTION
4
ORIGINALITY
3
STORY
2
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
2
CHALLENGE
Easy
COMPLETION TIME
Less than 20 Hours
OVERALL
3.0/5
+ Forgiving controls and combat
+ Quick and entertaining
- Pretty short
- Overhead jumping is everywhere
Click here for scoring definitions 

   Neugier's renown is based mainly around it being a product of Wolf Team, the developer that would go on to make the original Tales of Phantasia. Neugier is nothing like that game, being very much an action RPG with the emphasis on action. Though the game is far from reaching the pinnacle of that genre, it is an entertaining romp and would have acquired a moderate fan base if its original North American release had happened. Renovation did plan to release the game in English under the name The Heavenly Kingdom, but the company was bought by Sega, and all its planned Nintendo products were promptly nixed, which is unfortunate.

   Neugier is played from an overhead perspective similar to many other games of the era, in which the player runs around attacking enemies using a sword in real-time. The combat is workmanlike with the exception of its leveling system. The game distinguishes between standing attacks and jumping attacks, with both increasing in power. Many enemies fly and can only be killed by jumping attacks, making the maintenance of this attack type vital. What makes the combat easy to deal with is the requirement that an enemy actually attack the player to do damage, so that touching adversaries accidentally is not harmful.

   Outside of combat, the player quickly gains access to a grappling hook that is mandatory to navigate many parts of the game. The grappling hook does push enemies back, but does them no harm. Instead it drags the player to whatever location it hooks onto or grabs numerous breakable items around the stages. These can then be tossed at enemies or simply smashed open in the hopes that goodies are inside. The grappling hook works efficiently and effectively whenever required, which is key to navigating the maze environs of the later game.

   Items in Neugier are at a bare minimum. Specific enemies and certain breakable boxes hold hearts that increase the player's life meter. The L and R buttons toggle between the total of three pieces of equipment in the game. A few potions can also be located that will automatically restore the player to full health if Duke is slain. Items are simple and steadfast in their application, keeping the focus purely on action.

A big spiked ball smacking into you hurts, believe it or not! A big spiked ball smacking into you hurts, believe it or not!

   The focus in Neugier is definitely not story, though one is present. A fellow named Duke is attacked on a ship at sea by pirates led by a wizard named Ord. It transpires that Ord is the servant of a nasty fellow named Gunther who is trying to take over Duke's homeland, which also requires that Duke's girlfriend named Cessia be kidnapped more than once. For 1993 this was an acceptable action-RPG plot, and it has a few minor twists that actually make Japanese reading ability desirable, but it hasn't held up well. Since every enemy's name is displayed in English onscreen, and there are almost no menus, the game is a spectacularly easy import even if the story is not understood.

   Neugier is not a long game even by action-RPG standards of the early 1990's. Its six levels can be completed in under two hours, though a player who knows the game well could probably finish in less than one. Wolf Team understood this, and it included a feature at the end that ranks the player's skill at completing the game in such terms as 'an adept' and 'normal gamer.' This ranking is conveniently in English, and its presence makes clear that the game was intended to be played repeatedly.

A fire breathing dragon - how quaint. A fire breathing dragon - how quaint.

   The audio and visuals of Neugier do not stand out much but nevertheless do their job. Motoi Sakuraba, Shinji Tamura and Ryota Furuya would go on to deliver superb work in Tales of Phantasia, but their contributions here are less memorable. The music is not bad at all and suits the mood, but is not really worth hearing outside the game. By the standards of 1993, Neugier's graphics are unimpressive, but nothing is particularly wrong with them. Every area has unique enemies and is distinct -- the game simply does not use the Super Nintendo's graphics capabilities very much.

   Neugier is forgiving, but not completely so. If the player dies it offers the option of saving or continuing, but both will restart the current stage with attack levels intact. This is no doubt to keep the game from being too easy, though it may aggravate some. Enemies and bosses have easily defined patterns to allow the player's demolition of all obstacles after a little practice. More irritating than the enemies will usually be the jumping, which after all requires the player to accurately gauge how far to move using an overhead perspective, but there is no penalty save for a little lost time if the player falls down, except in level five which is more of a maze than the others.

   Had this game been released on the Super Nintendo in English, it probably would have accumulated a diehard contingent of fans. It has unique environments and a grappling hook that was quite nifty at the time. Today it holds up as an enjoyable action-RPG on a system that had plenty of them. Appreciators of the genre will doubtless enjoy it, while those whose patience is tested by games that require pinpoint reflexes should stay away.

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