Gargoyle's Quest II: The Demon Darkness
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Developers:
    • Capcom (NES)
    • Sun L (GB)
  • Publisher:
    • Capcom
  • Released:
    NES
    • JP 07/17/1992
    • US October 1992
    • UK 06/17/1993
    GB
    • JP 04/16/1993
Score: 80%

This review was published on 06/10/2017.

Gargoyle's Quest II: The Demon Darkness is a side-scrolling platform video game originally developed and published by Capcom. It was initially released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan on July 17, 1992, North America in October 1992, and Europe on June 17, 1993. A company by the name of Sun L later developed a port of the game for the Game Boy, which was released in Japan on April 16, 1993, and Asia in 1993. As indicated by its title, this is the second game in the Gargoyle's Quest series that originally came out on the Game Boy in 1990. The Gargoyle's Quest series is a spinoff from the Ghosts 'n Goblins series that originated in the arcades in 1985. Given that 16-bit consoles like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis were already in their prime at the time, it was a strange choice for Capcom to release Gargoyle's Quest II for an 8-bit platform like the NES. Stranger still that they went from the Game Boy handheld to the NES, but this wasn't entirely unheard of back then. At any rate, the first Gargoyle's Quest was quite good, and the second one is even better.

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This game is a prequel to the original Gargoyle's Quest. Both games take place within a fictional realm inhabited by monsters known as the Ghoul Realm, which is where all the villainous demons from the Ghosts 'n Goblins series come from. Long before the events of the first Gargoyle's Quest, before humans began appearing in the Ghoul Realm, there existed a monster called Firebrand, known in the Japanese version as Red Arremer. He lived in a town within the Ghoul Realm named Etruria, where he trained diligently at the Warriors' Training Center every day. However, one day, Firebrand returned from his daily training routine to find the town in ruins. One of the town's inhabitants informed Firebrand that this wanton destruction was the result of The Black Light. Moments before perishing, King Morock gave Firebrand the Spectre's Fingernail and told him to uncover the mystery of this attack. Now Firebrand sets off on a journey to figure out just what the heck is going on.

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You again control a red gargoyle known as Firebrand, who's basically one of those winged demon enemies from the Ghosts 'n Goblins series. Like before, the game essentially grafts a side-scrolling platformer together with an RPG. The RPG bits are still presented from an overhead perspective and function similarly to the Dragon Warrior games; you press the d-pad to walk in the four cardinal directions, the A button to confirm selections, the B button to cancel stuff, and the start button to bring up the menu. In the menu, you can check your status, use items, and equip different magic. However, these overhead sections have been streamlined considerably from the last game. For one, Firebrand now walks much faster, minimizing the amount of time it takes to get from place to place. Secondly, you no longer have to bring up the menu in order to talk to NPCs or inspect an object; simply pressing the A button will suffice. These small changes make the overhead exploratory RPG stuff far more pleasant.

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Like the previous game, the RPG sections are split between towns and the world map. Towns are filled with friendly monsters you can speak with to gather information on what to do next. In addition to that, there's usually a person in town who'll give you a password to resume your progress if you quit the game. Additionally, you'll be collecting vials throughout your journey, which are used as a currency to purchase extra lives in towns. For some reason, extra lives are referred to as "Maelstroms" in this game, whereas the last game called them "Talismans of the Cyclone." Other than that, there's not much else you do in towns, though they're often integral to your progress due to plot events. You do even less things on the world map, which merely acts as a way for you to move from one area to the next, such as other towns and the side-scrolling sections. In the previous game, the world map had random encounters, but that's not the case in Gargoyle's Quest II. That's a very good thing, because nobody likes random encounters.

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When in a side-scrolling section, the controls are obviously very different. Left or right on the d-pad causes Firebrand to walk in those directions, the A button makes him jump, and the B button is how he attacks. You can still fly horizontally left or right by pressing the A button while in the air and the appropriate directions on the d-pad. If you press the A button midflight, you'll begin to fall until you press it again to hold your altitude. However, you're still limited by Firebrand's flight meter, which drains as he flies around. Another returning feature is the ability to cling to almost any wall or vertical surface by pushing against it. All of these moves function exactly like they did in the last game, so you should be right at home if you played it. If you haven't played the previous title, then flight will take some getting used to, but the controls are fairly precise.

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As with the previous game, Firebrand begins the adventure with paltry abilities, but will acquire artifacts throughout his journey that make him stronger. Many of these artifacts will enable him to jump larger distances, fly for more time, and tank more hits. Then there's what the game refers to as "magic," which are Firebrands primary means of attack. They're basically all projectiles that Firebrand shoots out of his mouth. Besides being used offensively, many of these magical projectiles allow Firebrand to explore new areas via their unique attributes. For example, one projectile can break certain blocks and there's another that creates a sticky surface on spikes for Firebrand to safely cling to; both of these return from the previous game. This game introduces a new projectile that creates temporary platforms for Firebrand to stand on, though it's the only one that can't hurt enemies. The currently equipped projectile magic can be switched in the menu at any time, so you can switch to whatever you need at the moment. Anyway, all this stuff is just as cool as it was in the last game, except it's even cooler now.

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Considering the previous game was rendered using the Game Boy's tiny monochrome screen, the NES version of Gargoyle's Quest II is a huge upgrade in graphics and sound. However, the Game Boy port of Gargoyle's Quest II goes back to the technical limitations of the previous game, exchanging good graphics for portability. In an attempt to make up for that, the Game Boy edition of the game has a few new side-scrolling sections, which feature themes not in the original game, such an icy cave with ice physics and a swamp with spikes that go up and down. These areas are optional, though. While the new areas are neat, they quite frankly aren't worth the downgrade in graphics and sound. Neither is the portability. Plus, the Game Boy's lower resolution means that you can't see as far ahead, potentially resulting in some unfair deaths.

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Capcom is the embodiment of the old adage "don't fix what isn't broken," and Gargoyle's Quest II does just that. Basically, this game is more of the same, except better. Besides the obvious improvement in the graphics and sound departments, there are no more random encounters and the overhead RPG segments have been greatly streamlined. This makes traversing towns and the world map far less annoying, which is good. The only blemishes this game suffers from are that it gets far too hard in some areas, and is a bit short. If you liked the first Gargoyle's Quest, then you're going to like this one even more.

Word Count: 1,328

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