Saturday, 13 April 2013

Classic Game - SonSon 2 (PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16)

SonSon 2 is the sequel to the classic Capcom arcade title from 1984. Developed by NEC Avenue (under license from Capcom) this sequel never saw an arcade release and was only released on the PC Engine – or TurboGrafx-16 as it is know in the USA and Europe – in 1989. Whereas the original was a forced scrolling affair that had you moving your little monkey boy between different planes to shoot at the approaching enemies – a strange combination of horizontal shmup and platform game, SonSon 2 is more of a standard 2D platform adventure. Like its predecessor, SonSon 2 is clearly inspired by the Chinese novel 'Journey to the West' – more commonly recognised in the West from the tacky 1960's TV show, 'Monkey'. You play as Son Goku and must rescue your buddies from an unknown monster. As the game is entirely in Japanese, this is as much as I can tell you.

The visuals are extremely colourful and 
contain lots of charm

Ropes and vines can be used as ladders or to 
avoid lava and spike filled pits

The graphics are bold and colourful and have a very cartoony appearance. The characters are all cutesy anthropomorphic critters based on animals such as a pig and a duck (I think), and there is a random appearance of a young girl throughout the game who often acts as a shopkeeper. The music is twee and very Chinese in style, and while perfectly acceptable for a game of this type, can be a little grating after a while. 

You can ride a cloud for some encounters, turning 
the game into a shoot-em-up in the process

The gameplay though is where SonSon 2 shines. It is a lot of fun to explore the vibrant stages, battling the troll-like enemies and slimes with your long staff weapon, clambering around looking for secrets, and fighting large bosses at the end of each of the 7 stages. Collectable fruit is everywhere, but there are also more important items to find such as medicine to replenish Son Goku's energy bar, and a magic lamp that revives you after death, just like the elixir in Wonder Boy in Monster Land (or the Fairy in a bottle in Zelda 3, for that matter). There is even a cloud that allows you to fly during a boss battle.

This lovely lady can sell you useful items 
to aid you on your quest

While it does play a lot like the aforementioned Wonder Boy game,  SonSon 2 shares a great deal in common with another Capcom title, Black Tiger. After playing that title recently on Capcom Arcade Cabinet (on Xbox Live Arcade), the similarities are glaringly obvious; SonSon can duck to destroy pots that reveal items or even enemy slimes, while ropes and boney structures can be climbed and leaped from to reach platforms. Shops offer upgrades to your weapon (increasing its length and power), walls can be bashed to reveal secrets and the currency used to buy items (Zenny) is the same. Even some of the enemies are ripped straight from Black Tiger – the slimes that drop from above and the chomping plant monster that appears from the floor right in front of you are practically identical. This is not a criticism, rather an observation. I really enjoy Black Tiger, so a cutesy version on the PC Engine is a nice alternative.

The bigger they are the harder they... 
are to defeat usually

For fans of Black Tiger, the Monster Land / World games, or just platform games in general, SonSon 2 an engaging and entertaining way to spend a couple of hours, and will keep you hooked until you reach its finale.