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I’ve seen my share of rip offs but this is in a special class of its own.  If you were a Turbo Grafx-16 owner RPGS were not all too common on the platform so any new release in that category was cause for celebration.  For the most part, at least.  There’s nothing wrong with aping a more popular game; hell some of the best games of all time have done that.   But at the least those games introduced their own unique spin on tried and true mechanics.  Neutopia basically says fuck that, and lifts all of Zelda’s mechanics wholesale.

The Demon Dirth invades the kingdom of Neutopia and not only kidnaps the Princess Aurora but the 8 medallions that maintained peace in the 4 lands of the world.  The warrior Jazeta is tasked with recovering the medallions from the 8 labyrinths they are hidden in and saving the Princess.  While it steals its identity from Zelda there are a few features unique to Neutopia that would not show up until later Zelda games.  However they do not make up for the game’s shortcomings and leave Neutopia as a hollow experience that is a shell of the game it mirrors.

Divided into 4 lands (land, sea, sky, and subterranean) each houses 2 dungeons as well as a wealth of other items.  While the overworld map of each land never approaches the size and scale of any of the Zelda games it’s still possible to get lost finding each objective.  Your compass will at the very least point you in the right direction but navigating there is up to you.  There is are an army of inhabitants in each world with items to sell or information so overall you aren’t left clueless at any given moment.

While the list of items you collect is very small and analogous to Zelda the one lone standout is the Fire Rod.  It increases in power up until the end of the game and its strength is determined by your health.  Low health produces a small globe that barely travels any distance.  With a longer life bar you can produce a trail of flame that will burn everything in its path.  Like the 2 candles it can also burn trees and rocks to reveal hidden passages.  If the rest of the game had shown the same level of inspiration than it wouldn’t be compared to Nintendo’s classic series as much.  But that isn’t the case.

From the moment you enter a dungeon this is Zelda with a new skin.  From bombing walls to collecting a key to unlock each dungeon’s boss no stone is left unturned.  Christ you even have to kill all enemies in a room or push blocks to open doors as well.  It goes even further than that; crystal balls will reveal the full map of each dungeon and each possesses at least one upgrade although they aren’t mandatory for completion.  A lot of the room layouts are an exact match as well; Jesus Christ they were shameless!  The mechanics are solid since they were working from a good base but the game is soulless as a result.

And that extends to the production values.  The 4 worlds are visually distinct at the very least but nothing to write home about.  The dungeons all share the same dreary look but are spruced up somewhat later on.  The music is a mixed bag with some standout tracks however the soundtrack is dull overall.  The biggest letdown though is the spotty collision detection.  Between your sword attacks and the Fire Rod your hits won’t connect like they should, leading to lots of unnecessary damage.  While it isn’t a difficult game the enemies do their fair share of damage compounded by this issue.

I sincerely doubt you’ll find a more blatant Zelda clone anywhere gameplay wise.  But at the very least it means the fundamental mechanics are sound.  I wouldn’t recommend Neutopia unless you are a true die hard action RPG fan as there are better alternatives such as Alundra.