|Kid Icarus: Of Myths...|
Nintendo of America, Inc.
Tose, Nintendo R&D1
The original Kid Icarus and Metroid games share a common history. Both were developed by Gunpei Yokoi, father of the GameBoy (as well as the Game and Watch, VirtualBoy, and the WonderSwan). They shared the same game engine and both had scores composed by Hip Tanaka. Each of them had a followup on the original GameBoy, which were also developed by Yokoi, and again they shared the same game engine.
But while Metroid went on to become one of Nintendo’s pillar franchises, it took them nearly 20 years to release another game in the Kid Icarus series. In the meantime, Pit’s only other appearance was in the Smash Bros. series.
Also, unlike Metroid II: Return of Samus, Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters was never released in Japan. However, the original Famicom Disk System game was popular enough to be re-released on the GBA as part of the Famicom Mini series… but only in Japan. In spite of, or perhaps because of, the ongoing absence of this franchise during the next few console generations, Pit has retained a place in the hearts of gamers around the world.
From the instruction manual:
The Tale of Kid Icarus
Let us return to he past, a long long time ago, in an age when the Gods and Man lived together in harmony. At that time, there was a kingdom called “Angel Land” which was founded by the Goddess Palutena. Angel Land was a place where the sun was always shining and the people peacefully raised their crops. It was a good and happy place and a smile never left the face of Palutena as she watched over the country from The Sky Palace. But, one day her smile was wiped away as a result of a dream. A terrible dream, which seemed so real and was much more horrible than her worst nightmare. Calling a soothsayer to her, she asked him to unravel the dream and foretell what was to pass.
Seemingly in pain, the soothsayer began to speak, “Angel Land will be attacked. Attacked by an invasion of demons from another world. Terrible demons by the name of O…Or…Orcos!”
Upon uttering this name, the soothsayer was struck speechless, as voiceless as a stone.
Palutena immediately summoned Pit, the leader of the Icarus Army. The personal body-guards of Palutena, the Icarus Army was responsible for guarding the peace in Angel Land and none took their job lightly. Upon arriving, Pit was asked to have a seat, a liberty not usually given by a Goddess. Looking directly into his eyes, Palutena began, “Pit! Thank you for coming. I have a task for you,” she then told him of her dream and of the soothsayer.
“Pit, this dream will come to pass. And I believe that it will happen in the not-too-distant future. I trust you, but, you must tell no one else! News of these terrible demons will cast our peaceful Angel Land into chaos. I bid you now to begin training so that you may gain special magical power. I am placing all of my hopes and the fate of Angel Land on you Pit. You must be the one to battle the demons.” Sitting back in her chair, Palutena continued, “Since the days of old, Angel Land has possessed The Three Sacred Treasures. These treasures, when worn, will give the wearer the special magical powers to battle any demon. Yet alas, poor Pit you do not yet have sufficient power to wear these Three Sacred Treasures.”
So Pit, with the help of Palutena, devised a mission so that he might attain the power he needed to wear The Three Sacred Treasures. This mission was threefold: To battle his way up the Under World Tower, storm the Over World, and conquer the dizzying heights of the Sky World Tower. Only then would Pit have sufficient power to enter The Sky Palace and wear The Three Sacred Treasures.
To keep The Three Sacred Treasures safe in case Angel Land was attacked while Pit was away on his mission, Palutena sealed them and sent one to each of the Fortress Guardians. She knew that once they had their hands on The Three Sacred Treasures, the Fortress Guardians would not give them up again without a fight. After Pit’s mission of training was complete, and he had gained the ability to use the Three Sacred Treasures, the job to defend Angel Land from the Orcos would be his.
With this plan in mind, Palutena then dispatched Pit to the darkest depths of the Under Would (sic) Tower.
You must help Pit on his life-or-death mission to collect The Three Sacred Treasures and return them quickly to the Sky Palace before the Orcos can overrun the land.
Just what are the Orcos?!!!!!
The game makes no mention of Pit’s other adventures, in which Palutena helped Pit to escape his prison in the Underworld, regain The Three Sacred Treasures, and defeat Medusa.
Press SELECT to switch between arrows and hammers
On paper, the GameBoy version doesn’t appear to be much different from the NES original, especially given that the structure is practically identical. In each game, Pit is tasked with fighting through the vertically-oriented Underworld, the horizontally-oriented Overworld, and then the vertically-oriented Skyworld. At the end of each of these worlds is a fortress, made of interconnected rooms linked with doors and ladders, and Pit must find his way through the rooms to reach the boss at the end. Each boss carries one of The Three Sacred Treasures in a sealed casket. And once all of the bosses have been defeated, Pit journeys to the Sky Palace and uses The Three Sacred Treasures to navigate the level and defeat the final boss.
Looking at it in this way, this game seems like little more than a GameBoy port of the original game… and in many ways it is. Pit uses the same weapons, encounters the same rooms, and powers up in roughly the same manner as he did in the original game. However, numerous minor changes have been made throughout, which add up to a final product that is substantially different from its predecessor.
The biggest change is apparent from the moment you start playing the game, and that has to do with the screen resolution on the GameBoy. To preserve the level of detail from the original game, and the size of the levels, the action is “zoomed in” so that the sprites take up a larger percentage of the screen. This was a common practice in dealing with the reduced resolution of the original GameBoy system, and often resulted in merely a cosmetic change, rather than one that directly affected gameplay (outside of the more restricted view, of course). Here, however, this is a complete game-changer.
In the original Kid Icarus, you started the game by ascending a vertical shaft. The shaft was exactly one screen wide and ensured that all players would tackle the environment in roughly the same way. In this game, the environment is about 50% larger than the screen, meaning that if you were to make a straight ascent, you could potentially miss a door, a health restorative, or a pickup. Suddenly, the game becomes much more exploration-based, which fits well with the RPG conventions of both games.
The screen still wraps horizontally, so you will continue to loop around the environment if you move to the left or right, but often doors are purposely hidden so that you might not see them if you take the most direct route, and some can only be entered by bypassing them, and then coming back around to them from behind.
This holds true for the horizontally-oriented Overworld as well, meaning that there is essentially a “high road” and a “low road” in these areas. Since gravity tends to keep players on the lower part of the level, a lot of doors are hidden in the upper sections, often off the top of the screen from your regular view. Careful use of your jump and glide mechanics can keep you in the upper sections for large stretches of the levels.
Gameplay in the fortress levels is affected by this as well, since the rooms are no longer single static screens. With a static screen, you could walk into a room and instantly survey all of its dangers and platforms, as well as see which of the 4 walls had an exit. With a scrolling screen, you don’t know exactly what’s ahead without charging in and seeing for yourself. So, you may walk in and see a pair of Eggplant Wizards on the 2 nearest platforms. Do you brave an encounter with them and try to run to the far side of the room? Is there a door over there? There’s almost certainly another Eggplant Wizard waiting for you. It adds an element of tension, especially if you come into the top of the room and wonder if it’s safe to drop down. There could be enemies or a pit of lava waiting for you at the bottom.
To counteract the limited view area, players can look around by pressing the START button, and then moving the D-pad in any direction (except in fortress levels), which will allow you to view your immediate surroundings. Unfortunately, the START button is also the method by which you access your inventory screen, so you press it once to pause and look around, press it again to check your inventory, and press it a third time to resume gameplay. It’s nice to have a “look” function, but it certainly slows the act of pausing and unpausing the game.
The second major design change – which has an enormous effect on gameplay – is the fact that you can now scroll the screen in any direction. Not only does this further emphasize exploration as a means of progression, but it also drastically changes the balance of the game. During the vertical sections of the original game, you were constantly at war with the scroll box, as each jump you made brought a bottomless pit up with you, which would kill you instantly if you fell off the screen. No more. Dropping down just means that you lose a bit of your vertical progress, and as mentioned, this is sometimes the means by which you can find hidden items or doors.
Minor changes to enemy spawning and movement patterns have a substantial effect on gameplay as well. For one, snakes (called Shemum in the first game) used to spawn in evenly-spaced waves of 4. they would descend upon you from above, dropping down the platforms and turning to face your position on the X-axis each time they landed. After you defeated several waves of them (or moved out of their spawning area) they would stop appearing. Later, in the fortress levels, you would find pots mounted to the ceilings which would also drop snakes, but these pots would drop them infinitely, dropping another set of 4 every time you walked under the pot.
In this game, the snakes retain their same rules of movement, but now they all appear from infinitely-generating pots, even outside of the fortress levels. Because of the game’s RPG elements – namely that you can level up and gain money (in the form of hearts) – these infinitely-spawning enemies give players the chance to do some grinding. Just walk under a pot, pick off the 4 snakes that drop, grab the hearts they leave behind, and repeat until you reach your maximum number of hearts at 999. This allows you to buy as many health restoratives and other items as you may need early in the game, and reduces the risk of being underpowered or losing all of your health. Hearts appear in the same denominations as the original game, with a small heart worth 1, a half heart worth 5, and a big heart worth 10.
Also, snake pots can now be aligned vertically, one over the other, suspended from different platforms. So, it is possible to wander under the lower pot, and have 2 snakes drop from the lower pot, and 2 from the upper. The pots will not generate more snakes until all of the snakes are killed and their hearts are collected (or disappear), or until the snakes fall off the bottom of the screen. Since snakes will turn toward your position on the X-axis when they land, you can opt to lure them toward you, or potentially lure them into falling off the bottom of the screen.
Most of the other enemies in the game are limited in number, and will only spawn until you have defeated all that are available, or until you leave their spawning range. But here too, some rule changes regarding enemy waves have a large impact on the gameplay. In both games, flying enemies appear in waves of 4, moving about the top of the screen, and then descending. However, since the gameplay area now exceeds the width of the screen, dropping enemies no longer come straight for Pit, but often move off the side of the screen, and fall down below the platform he is standing on. So, you’ve essentially gone from a situation where most enemies will eventually seek you out and become a danger, to one where you may have to go through extra effort just to get in front of an enemy so you can kill it for its hearts… and points.
Each enemy you kill is worth a certain number of points. While the player’s score is hidden during gameplay, it is displayed at the end of each level, and the total number of points determines when Pit will reach his next level. Pit gains a new block on his health meter each time he levels up, for a maximum of 5. Killing a large number of enemies is also the key to gaining more powerful arrows that cause additional damage to enemies (see Sacred Chamber section below), so that’s yet another reason to kill as many enemies as you can.
Like the first game, there are doors spread throughout the environments, and there are several kinds of rooms to be found behind them. While these are mostly exact duplicates of the rooms from the original NES game, there are several new items that change how you can access them.
First off, this game introduces keys. Keys can be purchased in shops for a fairly high price, but they allow you to do something you’ve never been able to do before: re-enter a locked room. You see, every time you leave a room, the door locks behind you. But if you have a key, you can re-enter any room you like. Their expense keeps you from just re-opening doors willy-nilly, but they can come in handy in certain instances, and they can be stockpiled.
There’s also a second type of key known as Palutena’s key. It is larger and more ornate than a standard key, and it has the ability to open any door in the level as often as you like. This powerful key doesn’t come easy though… you can only get one if you’ve entered every room in the entire level, and its location is hidden. So, not only do you have to find every door, but once you do, you still have to find the key to re-open the doors. Given the number of infinitely-spawning enemies and the ease of harvesting resources, you may find this key to be more trouble to attain that the value you’d get from using it. Still, it gives you license to re-explore the area and gather valuable resources before continuing to the next level. There is one key per non-fortress level, and they do not carry over from level to level.
Finally, the biggest change that has been made to accessing rooms is that some of the doors are hidden. As mentioned above, doors can go unseen depending on how you navigate the environment, and some take a bit of creative screen-scrolling to get to, but others aren’t visible to at all. These doors can only be revealed by using hammers.
That’s right, hammers now have a use outside of fortress levels. In the original game, hammers (called mallets in that game) were only useful for breaking open statues and freeing imprisoned centurions to aid you during the boss battle. That does not occur at all in this game. Yes, there are still centurion statues, but now they generally contain health restoratives. And, there are certain regular-looking blocks that can be destroyed as well, revealing hidden passages or doors.
You can use hammers infinitely to hit enemies, but each time you break a statue or a block, one of your hammers will disappear. You’ll also be automatically reverted back to your arrows after breaking an object, so you’ll need to keep hitting the SELECT button to switch back to your hammers if you need to break more blocks. Since a door is 2 blocks high, you’ll need to break at least 2 of them to get to through, but sometimes you’ll have to break a stack of 4 or 5. Often these hidden doors reveal Hot Spring Chambers, offering you full health restoration.
Since centurion statues are spread liberally throughout the game, both in regular levels and fortresses, having a large supply of hammers on-hand (they’re cheap!) means that you have regular access to health restoratives. Once again, this helps to temper the overall difficulty and reduces the chances of you finding yourself back at the beginning of the level with naught but one unit of life and your short-range arrows.
You can purchase hammers in shops or – as in the first game – grabbing a harp will turn all enemies into hammers for a short time. The hammers will fall slowly toward the ground, falling directly from the enemies’ original positions, or clumped together in groups of 4 you manage to scroll an off-screen enemy wave into the play area. Gather them up, because they’re basically your ticket to free health later in the game.
Feathers (previously known as Angel’s Feathers) make a return as well, only now they have a somewhat different function. In the original game, feathers were your protection against instant death from bottomless pits. If you fell off the bottom of the screen, and you had a feather in your inventory (they could be stockpiled), you would rise up for a few seconds, flapping your wings. This would give you an opportunity to return to a safe platform and land, and you could even manually flap your wings Joust-style by tapping the JUMP button.
In this game, feathers are used immediately upon being picked up, and there are no bottomless pits to avoid. Instead, the feather simply provides Pit a few seconds of free flight, allowing him to bypass enemies, lava, or other obstacles, and to potentially fly up to an otherwise inaccessible door. As before, tapping the JUMP button allows you to control the rate of your ascent.
Of note is the fact that Pit now has the ability to glide, even without the use of a feather. By tapping the JUMP button in midair, Pit can slow his descent. This makes lining up landings on narrow platforms considerably less difficult, and allows you to make longer jumps than you could previously. Combined with the variable jump height, Pit becomes a much more easily maneuverable character.
Health restoratives are more prevalent in this game than the original:
Water of Life (Goblet) – restores a little bit health immediately. This is a new addition to the series. Unlike the original game where restoratives could only be found in the levels or purchased from shops, Water of Life goblets can sometimes appear as enemy drops, and appear frequently as a result of breaking centurion statues with your hammers.
Water of Life (Chalice) – restores 1 full unit of health immediately
Water of Life (Bottle) – restores 1 full unit of health; this is a stored item that is used automatically when your health reaches zero
Water Barrel – allows Pit to carry up to 8 Water of Life bottles at once; you can only have 1 barrel
There are certain items that can only be found in fortress levels:
Map – In the first game, rather than a map, you had a Check Sheet. It didn’t actually show you all of the rooms in the fortress; it only showed you where you were and where you had been (and that was only if you had the pencil and the torch). Now the map functions more like you’d expect, working in the same way as the map from the original The Legend of Zelda game, showing you the layout of the rooms, although you’ll need some additional items to track your movement. You still don’t get to see where the fortress boss is on the map, so you’ll have to explore until you find him.
The torch shows your position on the map and the pencil shows the rooms that you've already visited.
The map, torch, and pencil are usually found within the first few rooms of the fortress, and you must break open centurion statues to reveal them. Torches and pencils can also be purchased at a fortress shop, if you’re not able to find them on your own. However, fortress design is a bit more linear this time around, and it isn’t until the 3rd fortress that you really start encountering long meandering paths. The first 2 fortresses are pretty straightforward room-to-room romps from the entrance to the boss, with a small number of side rooms to be found.
There’s one last regular item to discuss – which is a very odd item given the mythological nature of the game – and that’s the credit card. While the credit card also appeared in the original game, it worked differently than it does here. In the first game, you could buy whatever you wanted on credit, but you couldn’t make any more purchases until you had paid back your debt. Any earned hearts went toward reducing the amount owed. In this game, the credit card basically allows you to grab 1 free item from the Black Market. You don’t have to pay the money back, and the credit card is used up until you can find another. The Black Marketeer will accept this as payment and recommend that next time you pay using hearts, but otherwise the credit card is free money. Not a great lesson for the kiddies.
The game offers 3 special items to help you tackle the levels. Each of these must be gained by passing the trial in the Sacred Training Center (see below), and each can only be equipped once you have enough “strength” (i.e. once you have leveled up and raised your health meter). If your health drops too low, you will temporarily lose the ability to use the item until your health has been restored. This means that the game will actually become more difficult the more damaged you are.
The Fire Arrow adds a ball of fire which spins around your arrows, greatly increasing the width of Pit’s attack range. The fireballs don’t hurt enemies as much as the arrows themselves, but it does at least let you cause some additional damage, and it’s good for sweeping out low-powered enemies. It can only be used if Pit has at least 2 blocks of health.
The Long Bow (Sacred Bow in the original game) allows Pit to fire his arrows from one side of the screen to the other. As with standard arrows, you’re limited to one shot on the screen at a time, so this does decrease your firing rate somewhat, but arrows move quickly so this is rarely an issue. This special item requires at least 3 blocks of health to use.
A pair of Protective Crystals revolves around Pit, causing damage to anything they hit, and offering Pit some additional protection. To use this item, Pit must have at least 4 blocks of health.
There is a major change to how you can use the Fire Arrow, Long Bow, and Protective Crystals. Namely, you can now use these items in fortress levels, against bosses, and even in the final Sky Palace level. In the first game, the powerups were disabled during these sections, which made things a bit more difficult. This change makes it substantially more easy to navigate fortress levels, since you can hit your targets more easily, and you can hit enemies – and bosses – from across the room.
As in the original game, Pit is on a quest to find The Three Sacred Treasures. Although this time, rather than escaping from the Underworld and fighting his way to the Sky Palace, he has purposely entered the Underworld so that he can fight and build up his strength and earn the ability to wear The Three Sacred Treasures. Each boss he defeats reveals a casket, which Pit keeps in his inventory until he reaches the Sky Palace. There, he opens the caskets and equips the treasures… provided that he has completed his mission.
You see, before you can enter the Sky Palce, you’ll meet up with Palutena in a cutscene. She will determine how well you’ve done on your mission to become a hero. According to the instruction manual: “If Palutena recognizes that [Pit’s] mission was successful enough, she will allow him to wear the Three Sacred Treasures. However, Pit will not be allowed to wear all three of The Three Sacred Treasures if he has not been successful enough in his mission.”
This works similarly to the Sacred Chambers (see below) where Zeus evaluates your hero-ness and determines whether or not to reward you with more powerful arrows, and again the manual is purposely oblique as to how you go about doing this. Palutena will drop each of The Three Sacred Treasures down from the ceiling, one at a time. If your stats are high enough, she’ll drop all 3 of them. Otherwise, you won’t get them all, making the final level and boss fight more difficult.
Oh, and after she gives you the treasures, Orcos breaks in, turns her to stone, and abducts her.
Two of the treasures are identical to the ones that appeared in the first game, but one is new:
The Wings of Pegasus essentially operate like the feather, giving you infinite flight. The difference here is that there is no time limit, and you can fly through the entire Sky Palace level with them.
The Light Arrow travels all the way across the screen and allows you to kill most enemies in a single shot. Obviously this weapon cancels out the effects of your Long Bow, but your fireballs will still appear around these arrows, provided your health is high enough.
And the last is the Silver Armor. In the original game, you gained armor at the beginning of the Sky Palace level, although its presence was never explained. Instead, the other treasure was a Mirror Shield, which deflected Medusa’s gaze during the final boss fight. Since Medusa does not appear in this game, the Mirror Shield had no purpose. And so, you have Silver Armor, which protects you and cuts enemy damage in half.
According to the instruction manual, “When Pit wears all of The Three Sacred Treasures he becomes Amazing Pit.” Amazing!
Aside from leveling up your character, and gaining new weapons and abilities, there is one other piece of the design that strongly enforces the RPG elements of this game… and that’s the many rooms you will encounter along your journey. You can enter a room by passing through an open door (or unlocking a closed door with a key).
As in the first game, the Treasure Chamber is a room with 8 pots. Each of them can be broken, and it will cost you 5 hearts for each one you break. Inside are hearts or hammers, but one of the pots contains the God of Poverty. If you break open the pot with the God of Poverty, the game ends and all of the remaining pots disappear.
Here again, a change was made to the rules of this game that drastically alter how it is played. In the original game, you could break as many pots as you wanted, but the game ended as soon as you picked up the treasure that was left behind. If you uncovered the God of Poverty, you were immediately kicked out of the room and were not allowed to collect anything. So, you spent 5 hearts to break each pot, but risked losing everything you had revealed up to that point, making it quite possible to come away with fewer hearts than you had when you entered. The tension in the game came from placing your greed and/or desperation up against luck, and seeing which fared better.
In Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, the game does not end when you grab an item; it only ends when you find the God of Poverty. And even then, you can still go back and pick up all of the hearts and hammers you’ve revealed. As such, you always leave with more than you came in with, and finding the God of Poverty only limits the number of pots you can break; it doesn’t get you booted out of the room empty-handed. The result is that the Treasure Chambers have almost none of the risk-reward factor as they did in the original game.
If you manage to break all of the pots in the right order (as in the first game, there is a pattern), then you will uncover a rare item, such as a Water of Life bottle, a credit card, or a key.
This is functionally similar to the Enemy’s Lair in the original game, except that the only enemy type here is bats. The bats fly around in a pattern, and the trick is to find a safe spot to start picking them off, revealing half hearts and health-restoring goblets as you do. In your first encounter, these rooms may pose a bit of a threat, but the pattern of the bats is always the same. And once you get the Fire Arrow, Long Bow, and Protective Crystals, they become very easy. (In the original game, the Protective Crystals did not cause damage to the enemies in these rooms, but they work just fine here.) Bat Chambers appear in only the scrolling levels; they do not appear in fortress levels.
Here a shopkeeper will present you with 3 items, and below each is the price. Jump up and touch one of the items to buy it. These can include Water of Life (in bottle and chalice forms), hammers, and keys. In fortress levels, you can also purchase a torch or a pencil here, if you’re not able to find them on your own.
After you make a purchase, a new set of goods will be displayed. Or, if you press DOWN on the D-pad, the shopkeeper will cycle through the available items. Even without doing this, the items will cycle through after every few seconds.
The Black Market
The Black Marketeer has some more valuable items for sale, such as the barrel, which allows you to store up to 8 Water of Life bottles. He has some of the items that are carried in regular stores as well, but at a higher price. Like the original game, there is a trick that allows you to threaten him, and – depending on your stats – he’ll either lower his prices or raise them.
Of note is that the Black Market is the only place where you can use a credit card. Also, if you’ve had your Fire Arrow, Long Bow, or Protective Crystals stolen by a Sticky Talon (see BCE section below), you can buy them back on the Black Market. This occurred in the original game as well, but the prices for getting your weapons back here is significantly lower than it was in the first game.
The Black Market does not restock its items after you make a purchase. So, if you’re trying to buy back your stolen weapons, you can only purchase them one at a time (or you can re-earn them in a Sacred Training Center).
Depending on Pit’s stats when he arrives at the Sacred Chamber, he’ll either be told that he must train harder, or he’ll be rewarded with Power Arrows from Zeus. Oddly, Zeus is wearing a halo, which seems neither fitting with his fashion sense nor his religious beliefs. In the original game, these rewards were bestowed upon Pit by a “friendly god”, who had robes but no halo.
Whether or not you are rewarded is determined by the number of enemies you’ve killed, items collected, rooms discovered, and damage taken. Each arrow adds to your overall strength, and your arrows will gain the ability to penetrate lower-powered enemies as you grow stronger. You can get up to 8 Power Arrows during the course of the game.
Sacred Training Center
Zeus is back, and this time he’s not just handing out rewards for good behavior; he’s punishing you with spinning monoliths from the skies! Unlike the monoliths from Xevious, these can be destroyed.
You don’t have to destroy a particular number; you just have to survive for a certain amount of time. This can be pretty tough early in the game when you have only 1 unit of health, but it becomes easier as you go along. If it’s too tough, you can duck back out of the room, and this time you won’t be verbally berated for doing so.
Your reward for surviving the challenge is your choice of the Fire Arrow, Long Bow, or Protective Crystals. Be aware, however, that you need to have a certain amount of health to use each of them, so it’s best to collect them in the order listed. If you manage to make it to the Sky Palace without collecting all of the treasures (or having them stolen by BCE Sticky Talons), you can easily pass the Sacred Training Center challenges by simply flying to the top of the room and waiting until the challenge ends.
These rooms didn’t exist in the original game. Here, a man named Don gives you hints, often revealing clues as to the whereabouts of Hot Spring Chambers hidden in the levels. Don wears a hat with earflaps, and has an uncomfortably large beard.
Hot Spring Chamber
Hot Spring Chambers are far more prevalent in this game than they were in the original. They appear throughout the game, both in standard scrolling levels and in fortress levels. They can also be revealed by using a hammer to break open blocks in certain areas to reveal a hidden door.
Jumping into the hot spring slowly refills your health. Sometimes you’ll find an empty room with a hot spring, but other times you’ll find guardians protecting the spring. In the standard scrolling levels, the guardian is a series of heads that fall down from the ceiling and begin to stack up into a totem pole in front of you, firing projectiles horizontally. You can pick them off one-by-one if you choose, but you can also jump between them and into the hot spring, which will make all of them disappear.
In the fortress levels, you will sometimes encounter a very small spring in the corner of an otherwise enemy-filled room, so you may need to fight off some spear-wielding guards or Eggplant Wizards before you can safely bathe in the rejuvenating spring.
Other times, you will encounter a single Eggplant Wizard near a full-size spring. So, while you may not be concerned with losing a bit of health in a room where you can refill it to its max, you do have to contend with the possibility of becoming infected with eggplantism. In which case, you can still heal, but you’ll need to seek out a hospital to be cured.
The hospital is the one place where you can get turned back into your angelic form after being transmogrified into a bipedal eggplant. The hospital is staffed solely with nurses who are trained to cure your of your eggplant affliction. The room will be empty otherwise, because if you’re not a walking eggplant, they don’t have time for you. Hospitals appear in fortress levels only, which is the only place where you will find Eggplant Wizards… so it’s a symbiotic relationship, really.
As in the first game, you’ll deal with a variety of platforms on your quest. Most of them are solid on all sides, but others – such as clouds, ice, and thin platforms – can be jumped through from underneath. And, ducking on these platforms will drop you back down. Fortunately, this time around, instant death does not await you at the bottom of each screen, so accidentally dropping through a platform will not generally be cause for cursing the name of Zeus.
This game also introduces a save system. Technically, the Japanese original offered game saves, because the game was released on the Famicom Disk System. In the U.S., however, players of the original NES game had to deal with lengthy passwords. At the end of each stage, the player will be given the option to walk to the left and enter the save menu, or walk to the right to continue without saving.
This certainly makes continuing easier. However, be aware that if you resume a game from a continue – even if you didn’t die – you will be reduced back down to 1 unit of health. So, even if you’re fully powered up, with Fire Arrows, a Long Bow, and Protective Crystals, shutting off the system will return you to your original weakling self until you can earn or purchase enough health restoratives.
In the first game, this made some sense, since you only received a password upon death. But here you’re essentially being punished for not having the time to play more levels in a single sitting. This can be frustrating if you’ve worked to make it to a fortress with all of your items intact, only to save your game, and return later with none of them. Granted the overall difficulty level makes it easier to regain this lost health, but it still it’s still a bit unfair. The game also provides you with 3 continues, which is an odd design choice given that you have the option to save your game at the end of each level and restore it as often as you wish.
There are a couple of wacky new enemies, this time around. For one, as you climb the Sky World Tower, you’ll frequently pass half-moon shapes in the background, each with smiling faces. Later in the level, you’ll encounter Linus, a full moon with fangs who will actually attack Pit.
The enemy with the most humorous premise is Pythagoras. According to the instruction manual, Pythagoras is “a lively old man who throws equilateral triangles.” Sadly, his illustration shows him holding triangles, but none of them are equilateral. And in the game, he tosses right-angle triangles at you. So one wonders why they would go through all the trouble to say that the triangles are equilateral, when they clearly are not. Moreover, what is Pythagoras even doing as an enemy in the first place?
The famous Komayto enemy makes a return, but he has been redesigned. In the first game, this creature strongly resembled a Metroid, and the instruction manual even described it as “A mysterious floating creature. Nobody knows where it came from. One theory has it that it came from a planet other than Earth.” Here, it’s still described as a mysterious floating creature that resembles a jellyfish, but the Metroid connection is no longer apparent.
BASTARD CLASS ENEMIES (What's this?)
In the first game, one of the BCE’s we discussed was the Grim Reaper, and his Reapettes. In that game, the Reaper would walk along a platform, pausing from time to time to look behind him. If he spotted you, he summoned forth a wave of 4 Reapettes, with some cacophonic music to accompany them. The reason why these fights were tough is that this was an infinite cycle, and the Reaper was temporarily invincible while his hood was pulled back.
Not any more; the Reaper can now be damaged at any time, whether he sees you or not. Just keep firing arrows at the him while the Reapettes come down, and you can easily destroy him without fear of additional attacks. And since he will run in your direction when he discovers you, this just places him closer to the business end of your bow. Sadly, the newly-neutered Reaper’s tune has been changed to something much less impressive. Death has a hard life.
Eggplant Wizard But we do still have Eggplant Wizards, and they’re just as bastardly as ever. As mentioned above, they can now appear in Hot Spring Chambers, and they can also appear in sets of 3 instead of the pairs from the original game. Since you can’t see the entire room due to the screen size, you may find eggplants flying at you from offscreen! Since thrown eggplants fly in high arcs, it’s easy to walk into one’s trajectory without being aware of it.
Getting hit turns you into an eggplant, and you'll be unable to use your arrows during this time. Interestingly, you can still use your hammers to attack enemies, so you're not entirely defenseless, but hammers are considerably weaker than arrows.
However, this game does something a bit differently with the eggplant-infected Pit… There are now some passages that Pit is too tall to fit through normally. But, if he has been turned into an eggplant, he can walk right through them. Often, this leads Pit to a hospital, but it also means that Pit cannot use this as his return path after he is cured, so he is forced to find another route. And, in the final fortress level, it’s actually not possible to get to the end of the level without being turned into an eggplant first!
So… um… thank you, Eggplant Wizard!
Sticky Talon In the first game, there was an enemy known as Pluton that could steal your special items (Fire Arrow, Long Bow, and/or Protective Crystals). They were invincible, and each time one of them touched you, one of your weapons would disappear, and it could only be regained by purchasing it in the Black Market (at a very steep price), or by re-earning it in a Sacred Training Center. Avoidance was the only possibility.
Here, this function is given to a sunglasses-wearing bird called the Sticky Talon. Like Pluton, these appear in small groups and head for you with thievery on their minds. However, their BQ (Bastard Quotient) isn’t quite as high as Pluton’s. For one, they can be destroyed by your arrows, so you’ve got a chance to pick them off before they can even get to you. And secondly, if one of your weapons does get stolen, the price to get it back is about half of what it was in the first game, so the penalty isn’t nearly as high. Still, no one likes other people touching their stuff, and no one has the right to touch you in your bathing suit area.
Boss rooms are slightly different from the other rooms in the fortress levels, in that they are exactly 1 screen wide, as opposed to scrolling horizontally. However, they are still just as tall, so bosses can move up off the top of the screen, forcing you to jump up to meet them or wait until they come back down if you want to deal some damage.
Under World: Minotaur
The Minotaur is a bit tough for a first boss. He can toss a stream of 5 skulls (!!) up in the air, followed by another set of 5 shortly thereafter, alternating between short- and long-distance attacks. The gap between these volleys is just large enough for you to squeeze through.
The Minotaur will also periodically disappear, turning into a fireball, and floating around the room. This form is fairly easy to avoid, but you have to be careful because he will rematerialize into his former bullish self at a random spot in the room, potentially on the spot where you’re standing. The location where he appears has nothing to do with the location of the fireball when it disappears.
There are several platforms in the room, and a limit to the places where he can show up. If he appears on the upper platforms, you can simply stand beneath him and dodge all of his attacks. If he appears on the lower platforms, you’ll need to do some active dodging, while taking every opportunity you can to fill his snout with arrows.
He takes a ton of hits to kill, especially given that Pit can’t have received many Power Arrows at this point in the game. Once you finally bring him down, he’ll drop a casket containing one of The Three Sacred Treasures.
Over World: Skull Wing
The skull wing is a skull, with wings. He flies slowly around the room, occasionally dropping a fireball that spreads out into 3 flame spouts when it hits the ground. If you have the Long Bow at this point, you can easily avoid these fireballs and hit him from a distance.
If you stay on the ground level, most of the dropped fireballs will detonate on the platforms above you, and the only other attack available to the boss is to fly directly into you for melee damage. However, he’s a slow enemy, and generally won’t follow you into corners, which means that you don’t need to be terribly aggressive to take him down.
Once you make him part of your 80's metal album cover, you’ll receive another sealed casket.
Sky World: Fire Serpent
The Fire Serpent flies around the room, occasionally tossing 3 fireballs at you in spread-shot formation. The serpent’s body is made up of a series of fireballs, which can sometimes make it difficult to discern between his body and the projectiles that he’s firing at you. It doesn’t help that there’s quite a lot of flicker happening during this battle as well, making projectiles momentarily disappear and reappear.
His head is his only weak point, which is a fairly small target. Extinguish his life force to reveal the last of the sealed caskets.
Sky Palace: Orcos
Your path through the Sky Palace is one long, continuous level culminating in a boss fight. There are tons of enemies in this area, as well as a huge number of hidden passages and doors, many of which lead to Hot Spring Chambers. So, as long as you’ve brought enough hammers, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make it to the last boss with something close to full health.
You’ll have infinite flight through this area, so getting through requires a slightly different skill set than you may be used to, since you’ll need to repeatedly tap the JUMP button to ascend, while using the SHOOT button to put arrows into anything that moves. Pressing DOWN on the D-pad will also allow you to make a quick descent and help you to dodge enemy attacks.
In your fight against Orcos, you’ll face off against his 2 forms. The first is fairly straightforward. Orcos flies around the room, occasionally stopping to fire a spread of 3 fireballs at you, and he’ll try to fly at you for some melee damage as well. Dodge Orcos and his fireballs, and return fire as often as possible, and he’ll be destroyed... revealing his ultimate form.
Orcos returns only now he is huge, scary, and highly detailed. His body doesn’t even fit on the screen entirely (and doesn’t actually exist, from a programming standpoint), and he is nearly 1.5 screens tall.
Orcos will swing in to shoot a large fireball out of his mouth, which will fly to the far side of the screen and detonate, exploding in a tight semicircle of projectiles that expand outward as they move in your direction and Orcos pulls back. The gap for dodging these projectiles is small, especially if you’re between the blast and Orcos and don’t have much space to wait for them to spread out.
Ocros can back up and spin around (offscreen), bringing his tail onto the bottom of the screen to launch a series of darts up at an angle. They will aim in your general direction, so it’s best to start out high, and then slowly descend while the darts lower their trajectory to meet yours. If you go too low too fast, you’ll have to try to dodge between them.
Finally, when Orcos returns to the screen, he’ll extend his claw and send out a series of bats from his fingertips. Fortunately, your arrows make quick work of them, but you need to make sure you’re lined up with them, lest they get in behind you. Since you can’t fire up at an angle, it’s important to kill them off as quickly as possible, lest they attack your weak spot while Orcos brings his head back into view.
Introduce as many arrows as you can to the ugly face of Orcos to cause him to disintegrate, and you’ll receive your ending. The ending is the same regardless of your stats and what you have collected.
Why this game should be part of your 2D heritage:
- Pit is easier to control, and precision is jumping easier with the glide mechanic
- RPG elements emphasized more though exploration
- No insta-death penalty from falling
- Slow pause / unpause
- Risk-reward factor missing from Treasure Chambers
- Continuing takes you down to 1 unit of health