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Blue’s Journey – Neo Geo CD

Blue’s Journey – Neo Geo CD

Blue's JourneyPlatform:  Neo Geo CD

Release Date (NA):  1994

Developer:  Alpha Denshi

Publisher:  SNK

Genre:  Platformer

Nerd Rating:  6 out of 10

Project Obscure

At the suggestion of NerdBerry over what obscure system to dig into, I started pulling out my largish collection of burned Neo Geo CD games recently.  After jumping through a few hoops to make sure both my system and its games spoke English instead of a combination of English and Japanese (more on this procedure at a later date), I started freely popping in games to see what caught my interest the most.  Almost immediately, I was drawn to the disc upon which I’d scrawled “Raguy – Blue’s Journey” at some point in the past.

Most of you have probably heard of “the Neo Geo” in some capacity, and you may even be aware that 2 home consoles exist: a cartridge based unit and a later CD based console.  However, the Neo Geo CD largely existed as a less expensive means for SNK to proliferate their extensive MVS (arcade infrastructure) and AES (cartridge based console) libraries.  As such, the Neo Geo CD is a substantially inferior piece of hardware running what was top-of-the-line software years prior.  Blue’s Journey was one of several AES titles that saw a later re-release on the Neo Geo CD.

Blue's Journey

Known as Raguy in Japan, Blue’s Journey is a quirky little platformer somewhat lacking in concept, but thoroughly well executed.  Most platformers are mere copies of copies, deserving of little attention.  Blue’s Journey falls into this camp for the most part, but it succeeds at being a competent piece of work, absent many of the bugs and questionable gameplay mechanics present in so many other clones.  There’s a thread of creativity running through the game, though I’m not convinced that it comes together in a completely cohesive manner.

Blue's JourneyThe player takes the role of Blue, who must save the planet Raguy.  Raguy is being invaded by the Daruma Empire, which intends to strip the planet of its natural resources and in the process is causing quite a bit of pollution.  Princess Fa, a hybrid of heroine and damsel in distress, is there to encourage you and act as the second player during 2-player co-op mode.

Ok, so the plot isn’t that exciting.  I get the impression that the creators had an impressive story to tell, unfortunately platformers aren’t really the greatest format for doing such a thing.  It’s also obvious that the developers had vague intentions of turning Blue’s Journey into something more than a run of the mill platformer.  At times it leans towards adventure territory, and there are a few seemingly random rudimentary RPG elements thrown in.

Blue's Journey

Blue travels through several different environments on his journey, including the damn near mandatory ice stage in nearly all platformers.

As Blue, you’re more or less human, though you do sport an interesting outfit that tends towards the insectoid.  Most of the game is the typical running and jumping, fighting against bizarre enemies that really don’t tie together very well.  Some baddies look like dinosaurs, others are clearly robots, there’s plenty of birds, golem-like rock men wander around, along with plenty of others. I don’t know what the hell the Daruma Empire is, but they come in literally all shapes and sizes.  Blue can jump on many enemies to stun them, though you’ll probably find yourself using his “attack” more often than not.  What does Blue do?  He throws a leaf…like 2 inches in front of him.  I don’t really get it either (a nature vs. pollution thing going on here?) but it’s effective enough at rendering enemies harmless.  Once stunned, Blue can pick them up and then throw them at other enemies.  Overall it’s not a terrible system, but it is a little bit too involved.

There are numerous items found along the way, and most are “roses,” Raguy’s form of currency (more on this later).  Many of the remaining items are lost on me, though I do know that some regenerate lost health, others (claim to) speed Blue up, and the most useful upgrade his weapon to something with a little more range and “oomph,” the most notable being exploding acorns.  These upgrades are found laying around along the way and also available for purchase in shops from time to time, by spending one’s accumulated roses.  I guess a lot of platformers merge disparate elements that we simply take for granted, and maybe I’m being biased, but it just doesn’t all connect with me and it feels a little too random.

Blue's Journey

The shop, which is difficult to come across and charges an arm and a leg for relatively common items and imposes a time limit on your shopping.

Blue's Journey

Blue talking to a fellow humanoid-dressed-like-an-insect.

In addition to the shops, Blue occasionally has the opportunity to interact with NPCs.  After a short exchange of words, the player is usually prompted with 2 or 3 responses.  It seems pretty obvious which choice to go with, and as far as I can tell, the obvious choice is the correct choice, as in there aren’t any unexpected rewards to gain by choosing the “wrong” answer.  By simply being polite, Blue can elicit free powerups from the various NPCs.  The concept feels wildly underdeveloped, especially since these conversations don’t yield any information regarding gameplay itself, which is generally the NPC’s purpose.  Along with the in-game currency and divergent paths between stages, Blue’s Journey feels heavily influenced by RPG standards.  Unfortunately these elements add little more than fluff to the experience.  Blue’s Journey would’ve done better to either stick to its platforming blueprint completely or spend more time on the drawing the drawing board and perhaps emerge as something closer to an action-adventure/RPG hybrid or even just a deep adventure game.  In fact, I think it could’ve really excelled in this area and I find myself wondering if production was rushed or if a release date was pushed forward.

Blue's Journey

Blue's Journey

The underwhelming final battle.

Gameplay, on the other hand, is impressive for a no-name platformer.  Blue has excellent mid-air control.  He can make the jumps he needs to (well, except for this one really horrid section involving what looks like “sideways Tetris”).  The responsiveness of the controls is undeniable.  The player will be pulling off tricky jumps, dodges, and attacks with precision and ease.  Though the whole stun and throw system can be cumbersome, the actual controls themselves are flawless and perfectly in sync with the quirky level design.  It’s tough to gauge the exact difficulty of Blue’s Journey.  Bosses provide a significant challenge and Blue can only tolerate 4 hits before death, but as far as moving through each stage, if Blue bites the dust, he comes back exactly where he left off (except from boss fights).  This is more typical of a beat ’em up than a platformer and ultimately skews my overall impression of just how much knowledge, skill, and strategy are really needed.  The final boss is a bit of a letdown in terms of difficulty and left me wondering if the rather short and predictable battle was really all that stood in the way of completion.

Blue's Journey

Get used to it. But with infinite continues and the ability to begin anew where you left off, why not?

Blue's Journey

If you haven’t taken notice yet, the graphics are great!

The AES was known for its advanced graphics compared to other 4th gen consoles.  The transition of Blue’s Journey to the Neo Geo CD probably didn’t impress anyone at the time due to the abundance of CD-based gaming coming out, but if you think of the graphics in relation to those 2 or 3 years prior, they’re quite impressive.  The jungle settings are full of bold animation.  Along the way, a few paths branch off (although they all lead to the same end and I haven’t quite figured out the purpose of the divergent routes) and eventually lead to a very mechanic world.  Unlike the drab grays and blacks and faded backgrounds in a lot of machine-based stages in other games, these are filled with decoration and function.  Though I prefer the more natural environments both from a narrative and visual perspective, all of it is very eye pleasing and clearly developed by a talented team of artists.

Blue's Journey

The mechanical stages dominate for the last 1/3 of the game, and while not as eye catching as earlier stages, they’re still colorful and diverse.

Blue's Journey

The retractable spiderwebs are one of the more unique element in Blue’s Journey.

Recommendations are a moot point for a couple of reasons.  First off, very few gamers have a Neo Geo CD, and secondly, those that do are likely much more familiar with the console’s library than I am.  Blue’s Journey is an entertaining release with enough solid gameplay to keep me invested up to and through the end.  The thoughtful and eye popping graphics should please retro fans and those that enjoy a more fantasy-based visual experience.  In the end I don’t feel like there’s anything new or exciting happening here.  Blue’s Journey is a platformer in a sea of platformers from the undisputed era of platformers.  To its credit, it isn’t glitchy or ill-designed like so many others; I just don’t feel like it adds anything new.  A solid, decent platformer on a mainstream system would certainly be worth checking out for the right price, but a solid platformer isn’t enough of a reason to track down and pay for something like the Neo Geo CD.

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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