First off, I'd like to thank Lee at VGI for bringing this game to my attention.
I would have missed out on some truly incredible games if it weren't for you. :)
Over the last couple of weeks or perhaps even months I got the feeling that there were almost no unknown games left to be discovered. This was mainly due to visiting various message boards.
For even on the most mainstream of boards someone would once in a while start a thread about classic Japanese games, and just about everyone would be talking about Chippoke Ralph, Umihara,
Harmful Park, etc.
Games that a couple of years ago very few people in the west even knew existed.
So my search for them came to somewhat of a standstill.
The all of a sudden I receive this email from Lee, telling me that I really should try out this game. As it's supposed to be a forerunner to Chippoke Ralph No Daibouken.
Suffice to say, I couldn't resist an offer like that. ;)
So here we are again.
It make me very happy to say that the comparison with Chippoke Ralph No Daibouken does hold up, which makes me very, very happy.
Both games have many things in common, but also allot of differences.
For starters Magical Pop'n is again a pure arcade style platform game. The heroin in this case also uses a sword and has a range of similar moves, like the upward thrust (both while standing or jumping) or downward stab when in the air.
She can also crawl and do a sliding kick.
But the biggest difference between these two titles lies with the item system.
In Chippoke Ralph you can power up your sword, obtain a shield and even get a little companion to help you out.
While in Magical Pop'n you start out with only your sword. And as you can see at the top of the screen shots, you also have a range of special moves or attacks.
These gradually become available as you progress through the game.
Some of these are very straight forward, like the one you start out with: the Magic Laser. This is a small laser beam which you can use to strike enemies from a far.
Soon you will come across different caves where the other abilities await you. You can switch between them by pressing the L or R shoulder buttons.
The second one is a magic bomb which you can throw at enemies, but it can also be used to blow up certain walls that block your way.
The third one is my favorite. Its a grappling beam. Sort of in the same style of the fishing rod in Umiharakawase or like the whip in Super Castlevania IV for swinging from platform to platform.
Only here it's a bit more restricted. And with that I mean that it's used as a simple swinging motion and not as versatile as in the other games mentioned.
Next up is ice magic which can again be used to attack enemies but also to freeze flames which can then be shattered with your sword.
Ice magic also has the ability to freeze pillars of fire, which can then be used as platforms.
As for the last two abilities, I'm going to let you discover them for yourself, as I believe it's always fun to keep a few surprises hidden. ;)
Oh and besides using these different kinds of magic like I just explained, you can also use them as a special attack by pressing the Select button.
This will however consume a lot more magic points than the normal attacks.
It would be easy if you could just use magic whenever you wanted to, but there is always a catch isn't there?
When casting magic you consume magic points, which you can replenish by collecting stars. Stars are scattered around the levels, but you can also collect them by defeating enemies or opening up treasure chests which contain big stars that are worth 10 MP instead of 1.
Stars can also be found in hidden rooms. There are plenty of fake walls to be found throughout the game. Some hide treasure chests containing a large star, a cake or if you're really lucky, a heart piece which extends your life bar.
The characters in the game are created with lots of love and it shows. A couple of my favorites are the little penguin like creatures and the small fire breathing dragons that hide inside barrels. These pop-up throughout the entire game and the little penguin like creatures appear in a variety of ways.
At first they just appear with armor and small swords, but you will quickly encounter ones that shoot cannonballs at you, drive tanks or even camouflage themselves as bushes in the forest. :)
For a great example of the care that went into the designs, you only have to look at the expression on the face of the fish to the right, after I had just poked him with my sword. ;)
The bosses have been designed with just as much care. And it shows, not just in the way they look but also in their attack patterns.
The levels themselves are a bit mixed when it comes to the graphics. The interior of houses and caves is sometimes a bit basic, although one could argue that a cave is basically just a big hollow rock. :p
Little details like flickering torches on the walls or the way floating orbs enlighten altar rooms do bring them to life though.
On the other hand you have the outside environments which are a whole different story.
Like at the start of the game during the thunderstorm. It's so very simple yet so beautiful.
It's night time, so the only thing you see are the clouds drifting by in multiple layers of parallax. The rain falling down and hitting the surface, when all of a sudden lightning flashes and you can for just a split second see the mountain range in the background while at the same time the lightning accentuates the movement of the clouds.
You might not even notice these things since it's easy to run through them in 10-15 seconds, but these are the small touches that make me appreciate the hard work of the designers even more so.
For instance, anyone who played "A Link To The Past" all those years ago, will still to this day remember how it felt to wake up inside your uncle's house and step outside into the thunderstorm.
You will come across many of these small touches during your time with Magical Pop'n.
Like the sunset in the background or walking over the roof tops at night with the moon in the sky and the houses scrolling by in the background with so many different layers of depth.
The game itself is relatively easy for the first couple of levels, but it does ramp up in difficulty during the second half of the ice world.
Here you will come across some very tricky platforming challenges which will test how well you're able to use and combine the skills you picked up in the previous levels.
In the end Magical Pop'n is a true platforming classic which sadly seems to have been forgotten.
It makes me wonder how many of these games are still out there. When a company as unknown as Polestar can come up with a gem like this, you just know there have to be others...
To anyone who loves classic platformers, or anyone who has tasted the delights of Chippoke Ralph and loves it like I do, please do yourself a favor and give this incredible game a chance. :)
Andy De Wilde