Like the first Kirby-game, the sequel to Gargoyle’s Quest was released for the NES. Having established a good concept with the first title, there was a lot of potential for a sequel, especially on a more powerful system. Just like our pink marshmallow, our red demon builds upon the original game and has aged tremendously well. The more accurate boxart also helps.
From a warrior to a legend
Set as a prequel to the first game, you take control of the legendary Firebrand who is training to become a true warrior. After a successful training-stage, he comes back to find his town deserted and one dying ghoul asks him to go and see the king.
The setup is rather basic where you are once again the hero to save the day. This time however, it has gotten more lore to work with, such as different kingdoms with more unique inhabitants and small plot-elements such as imposters and magical elements that have gotten more flavour-text to them. Even the towns are more interesting, with the villagers reflecting on their situation and having something interesting to tell. It is surely not a grand story or even really a driving-force, except for finding out where to go to and why. It is enjoyable however, and shows that there was some work put into this.
Story Score: 7/10
Soaring through the demonic realm
After a well-made training stage, you will be taken to one of the features of the game: the overworld-map. It once again functions as a traditional RPG, with dungeons, castles and towns to visit, as well as items to find and encounters that can be activated at will. The random battles are gone and you move fast on the map, which is a welcome change. Adding to this is the better implementation of RPG-elements, where townspeople are more diverse and helpful, making it so you are never lost. In the towns you can also trade in vials that can be found throughout the game for lives and get passwords so you can continue the adventure another time.
The other main feature are the platforming-segments, representing most dungeons, battles and castles. You have the ability to once again hover for a short time, cling to walls, jump and shoot projectiles left and right. These are well implemented in the stages, which they differ a lot from each other. Some will have you climb and hover through jungles, others might have a river of fire and my personal favorite: the house of mirrors where there are few enemies and you must find your way through a maze. With each stage varying enough to be memorable and still focusing on Firebrands abilities, every platforming-stage is a treat. The enemies themselves also have unique patterns to them that must be remembered, or you might see the game-over screen often. This is definitely a hard game and while the challenge is, for the most part, a fair one with good difficulty-curve, some jumps feels really narrow and can be harsh. This is not common, but something the game could have done without.
The fights that can be triggered at your choosing on the overworld-map are small, short and only requires you to kill a few enemies, so they are a fun addition.The bosses however, can be unbalanced since they can be incredibly fast and hard to dodge. They aren’t impossible, but they have a high and uneven difficulty-curve, where you will take some hits. They will make you jump and hover around, so they keep the action at speed, but could definitely have been tweaked. Luckily, you will always replenish health after a stage and be able to acquire upgrades for your length of hover, health, height of jump and get different projectiles that will both affect platforming and attacks.
Firebrand is certainly fun to play as, with a great concept helped by entertaining and broad level-designs, as well as a quick and easy overworld-map to traverse through. The game can be a tad harsh and the boss-fights are more often than not unbalanced, but these are the only issues that keep this from reaching a higher score. Even if it will be finished in 3-4 hours.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
A showcase of why dark doesn’t have to be colorless
For an NES-title and still to this day, this is a beautiful game with backgrounds being gothic and mixed well with the design of the levels. It is all so colorful and spooky, with each level being imaginative and diverse, making it a joy to look at. The enemies are extremely detailed and creative, with our boy Firebrand stealing the show with the best animation of all the creatures. It is impressive how well this holds up. The overworld is still not as good as the platforming-segments, with much simpler design and layout, but it is still colorful and has enough elements to never get repetitive. The town’s layout and houses are hard to distinguish from one another, but the NPCs are more diverse, with ghouls, mummies and goblins.
The soundtrack is really impressive with composition from Yuki Iwai, who would later work on Megaman X and a couple of the VS-series. It is her first work and she manages to create a gothic and dark soundtrack, with good variation in tone through light and dark chiptunes. The music goes from more classical and mysterious, to more action-packed tunes that I would not be surprised if they were remade with metal-instruments. This complements the gothic atmosphere of the game, while still being diverse enough to be enjoyable and memorable.
Presentation Score: 9/10
Gargoyles Quest 2 is a well made sequel that improves upon its predecessor for the most part. The bosses can often be a hassle, some jumps are a tad too stingy and the game is a bit short. These are however only gripes that keep this classic from being a masterpiece. With its unique mechanics that shines through in the level-designs and good RPG-elements, it is still one of Capcom’s finest games for the old NES.