Super Magnetic Neo – Dreamcast
Publisher: CRAVE Entertainment
Release Date (NA): June 12, 2000
Nerd Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Reviewed by NerdBerry
Super Magnetic Neo is one of those games that sounds odd enough that it might actually be really fun. Unfortunately, some of the absolute best games created for the cutting-edge, but now defunct, Sega Dreamcast never got the widespread advertising or credit that they deserved, while other games that weren’t worth a nickel got way more clout than THEY earned or deserved. Super Magnetic Neo is widely unheard of by the general public, but the name alone should be enough to stick in your head . Let’s dig in and see if Neo can save the day, and the game.
The story goes like this:
The notorious Pinki gang is on the loose again! They’ve taken control of the Professor’s favorite amusement destination spot, “Pao Pao Park,” rigged the entire park with magnetic contraptions, installed evil robots and set crazy monsters on the loose! In Super Magnetic Neo – You control the Professor’s hyperactive robot, Neo. Neo runs through the park, avoiding traps and villains, as he races to stop the Pinki gang from wreaking havoc on Pao Pao Park. Using his ability to blast either North or South polarized magnetic fields from his head, Neo’s challenge is to find a way through the booby-trapped theme park.
Okay, that makes sense, right? Alright, maybe it’s still a little confusing but I’m extremely intrigued, aren’t you? So pop this disc in and listen to the annoying BEEP sound that your VMU makes followed by the beautiful and mesmerizing Dreamcast logo and sound bit bing bong bung boong bung bing and bask in its splendor as that famous red spiral swirls across a snowy white backdrop.
Prior to starting the main game, I highly recommended that you try your hand at the challenge levels if you’ve been away from the Dreamcast for a while. There are 100 challenge levels in addition to the main game levels. These challenge stages provide a place where you can practice your magnetic field technique. You’ll need to master running, jumping, and stopping on a dime, plus alternately using the North or South polarity to help you safely clear all the screens. As they so kindly inform us prior to starting the challenges games “The Challenge Stages are just hidden areas that you can use to practice your Magno-Gimmick Combinations. Don’t get your hopes up, they’re pretty hard! Just take one step at a time!” This isn’t very encouraging. But again… I’m STILL intrigued and it makes me want to learn more and get better!
One of the great things about the challenge levels is it gives you some variety in this expensive game you just bought if you’re either 1.) Sick of the main game. 2.) Can’t figure out how to advance, or 3.) You just want some variety every now and then! I think Crave could have made a pretty cool 2-player mode with these challenge levels, but I can understand their reluctance as well. After all, this game is SLAM-PACKED and I’m actually very pleased they chose to forego multiplayer and keep these beautifully detailed graphics and this wonderfully developed story mode.
There are five main stages in Challenges mode. Each main stage has 20 levels within it, typically revolving around a sort of “style” or “layout.” The stages are Kid’s Stuff, Lil’ Tricky (sounds like a rapper), This Hurts, Don’t Even!, and Impossible!!! Yes… They’re spelled that way and with those exclamation points. It’s highly difficult and challenging (hence the name of the game mode). It’s set to a black backdrop mostly, but this is good so that you can see the magnetic springboards. It’s difficult to say the least. You may want to consider removing your Jump-Pack because I’ll tell ya… you’re going to die a lot and it’s going to drive you nuts.
The challenges remind me of a Super Monkey Ball game lay-out, in some small manor. You are tasked with getting from the start to the finish in an allotted time frame. Generally, these start out easy and get progressively harder. This is a wonderful way to teach a newbie how to play the game. One of the best features is the save-mode. Much like in Super Smash Bros. Melee, the challenges can get to a point where they seem unbeatable. But with time and practice, you’ll eventually get there. So if you get stuck, save your spot and go do something else for a while. Cool off because you know you’re extremely pissed off and frustrated! Then come back and beat that challenge. They will not only acclimate you to the difficult nature of the game, but will do so effortlessly and in a fun way. You’ll play in a 3D platformer level where the camera is behind Neo and follows him. You’ll also play in a traditional side scrolling platformer level. Those are the 2 main camera angles and they provide some great variety. These can get tricky now, so don’t get mad! Get even… and beat them! Enjoy it y’all.
As the main game introduction will tell you, the Pinki Gang is back and the townfolks are worried. The professor sees this as a great opportunity to haphazardly send his newest invention, Super Magnetic Neo, to stop the Pinki gang. The animation, sound effects, music, and voices are extremely cutesy and remind me of a child’s TV show. Actually, something about it reminded me of an old Nickelodeon cartoon. Not sure which one… maybe Rocco’s Modern Life, but I could be way off. Either way, at first start, I’m beginning to question if this is the game I thought it would be. But there’s only one way to find out… Continue forward.
The controls take some getting used to. They are not clearly laid out or described in any detail. The layout reminds me of Sonic Adventure and Crash Bandicoot. It is a full on 3D game with the camera angled down the main path, but a path is laid out for you and this is the direction you go. Similar to, say, any platforming game. In a 2D scrolling platformer, you know that you go from one end to the other. This is the same, except in 3D fashion. You can’t stray too far to the left or right, but that’s okay, it doesn’t detract from anything. The lack of understanding what the buttons really do can cause some serious frustration, especially considering that you are given only three lives to start with (traditional platforming annoyances) and one touch from a bad guy kills you instantly. No health bar. So you will likely want to spend some time toying around with the controls and familiarize yourself with them. Maybe consider changing the buttons configuration on the home screen. I chose not to, however, as I assume the layout is designed this way for a reason. I’ll just have to get used to it.
After dying three times, I opted to turn the system off and turn it back on (would have hit reset, but there is no reset button) and try again. This time around, I’m considerably better and starting to get the hang of things. You have 5 buttons at your disposal: Right trigger is RUN, X is jump, A is “S”, B is “N”, and Y is “use”. Yea, I know. WTF are S and N? Well S is for South Polarity and N is for North Polarity. You’ll learn all about how to use these in the challenge levels, but a quick summary: The north polarity power is a sort of teal/blue color and south polarity is a sort of red / pink color. The color differences help tremendously because if you use the wrong polarity at the wrong spot, it could mean death for the magnetic-headed Neo. If used improperly, you will bounce right off (just like if you put the same polar magnet sides to each other, they push away). You’ll need to know which polarity to use in certain situations. So, again, go familiarize yourself by playing the challenges mode.
When you die three times, you are taken to the World Hall (if you choose to continue, that is). When you beat a stage you are taken to the World Hall. This is your central hub for that level. To put it in terms you could maybe understand better: Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for the Sega Genesis has at least 2 “ACTS” in each “ZONE”. There is a central hub where you can access each “ACT”. Each “ZONE” has its own specific hall, or hub. Get it? Good.
Your ability to use your polar powers on the multiple magnetic contraptions (north and south polarized magnetic springboards and floating stones, with which you can grab onto) will ensure your safe passage from one end to the other. Many times there will be two ways to get through a treacherous passage-way. One way is by literally going through and either dodging the enemies or killing them. The other way is to ride a magnetic rail across the top bypassing all of them. This will require precision timing and accurate usage of Neo’s north and south polarized magnetic powers. One misstep will lead to a definite fatality.
Super Magnetic Neo consists of four worlds, of four stages each, plus a Boss Stage at the end of each world. The four game worlds are: The Jungle World, The Ancient World, The Cowboy World, and The Future World. Each world presents Neo with unique challenges characteristic of their respective environments.
Center hallway: Center Hallway is the entrance to Pao Pao Park. Neo can move among the four worlds by attaching himself to the red or the blue polar balls which move around the Pao Pao Park galaxy. This is possibly one of the neatest features of the game. It’s just incredible. The Dreamcast’s full spec capabilities are being put to great use here (and in this entire game). This is also a brilliant way to allow players to access the multiple worlds. Neo’s private room is also located in this galaxy. His private room provides nothing more than a cool little spot where you can save the game. It’s a tiny little 1 room hut with a bed, a chair, and a TV. By exiting the door, you are taken right back to the Pao Pao Park Galaxy. In Center Hallway, you can also access World Hall.
World Hall: World Hall is the entrance to each stage. There are five Warp Tubes – four for each stage and one for the Boss Stage – Located in this room. Neo can save his progress by using the monitor (TV) found in this hall. There are numerous other monitors throughout, and you can save the game by pressing Y when facing this monitor. Each world has a world hall and you can access the particular stage that you want easily by standing under the warp tube and it will take you there.
Bonus Stage: Neo can enter the Bonus stage by collecting bonus tickets in each stage. Neo will earn an extra life by collecting all Zebi (100 total) found in each bonus stage. The bonus stage is reminiscent of many of the levels you faced in Challenges mode. So you’ll be familiar with what to do when the time comes!
Overall, Super Magnetic Neo is a brilliant one-of-a-kind game. It is possibly the most unique and inventive game I’ve come across on the Sega Dreamcast, or possibly any system. Well, I guess it’s tough to say it’s the most unique game ever made, but it sure is up there. I was very pleased with the depth Crave put into it. This game is so filled with layers and variety, it’s impossible to get tired of it. The replay value is moderately high because by the time you beat the game, you will have mastered the controls (if not, then you’re a cheater). The graphics are stunning and stand strong going up against ANY GameCube, Playstation 2, or Xbox game. Truly a marvel of a game, Super Magnetic Neo demands your undivided attention and requires your patience as you learn how to work this goofy little guy around a dazzling galaxy with vibrant colors and challenging stages.
I have two main concerns and problems with the game, and they actually tie-in together, so it could sort of be considered one main problem. That problem is the controls. They’re extremely difficult to master. The camera angle doesn’t help any either. Trying to control Neo in this 3D environment with a camera I can’t grasp is very frustrating. I fell into many holes that I didn’t even know where there all because the camera was in a bad spot. And my other main problem is the sheer difficulty level. It might not be so difficult if the controls were simplified a little, but they’re rather complex and hard to learn. It took me hours on end over a couple days until I felt even somewhat comfortable. But please do not let that deter you from this rare gem of a game. I honestly have not been this happy with a game purchase in a long time. This game isn’t all that expensive and is worth every penny. OR, you can follow The Cubist’s advice on how to burn Dreamcast games right here at Nerd Bacon. Either way, you’re bound to fall in love with this lovable little goof the same way that I did. Super Magnetic Neo is a great time in a cram-packed disc and provides a fun-filled, albeit somewhat frustrating, experience unlike any you’ve had before.
I think the world would greatly benefit from a remake of this game with updated controls better suited to the standards of 2014. Super Magnetic Neo is all but forgotten in this large video game world. However, he is not forgotten here at Nerd Bacon. This game is near 14 years old and it’s still just as unique today as it was back then. Dig in and enjoy y’all.
BONUS MATERIAL. GET TO KNOW THE CHARACTERS!
The Good Guys
(straight from the booklet)
Neo: Neo is a magnetically charged robot who was created by “The Professor.” His artificial intelligence is based on the Professor’s own mind, so he has all the same quirks and bad habits as the professor. He’s always excited, energetic, and eager to please. Neo is good-natured and lovable.
The Professor: The Professor says that he created Neo to help maintain world peace, but the truth is that he just loves to tinker with machines and show off his inventions. The Professor is somewhat absent-minded and always preoccupied with thoughts of another invention. Neo is a practical application of the Professor’s discovery of the Super Magnetic Theory.
PeeDee: PeeDee thinks he’s the Professor’s second in command, but he’s really just a helper. PeeDee is designed like a toy, but he is highly functional with advanced features. He tends to get very frantic and, at times, hysterical.
The Bad Guys
(straight from the booklet)
Pinki: Pinki is the leader of the bad guys and she’s just a 2-year old baby! She rides around on a floating pink rubber ducky. Don’t let the appearances fool you though; she’s the most evil villain in the game. Pinki’s most noteworthy skill is the ability to put people down, making them feel bad with her foul tempers. When she is happy and in control, she speaks with a sweet little baby voice. However, when she gets angry, her voice gets deeper and she begins to scream.
Yasu: Yasu is Pinki’s right hand man and spends all day and night coming up with new gadgets to promote evil in the world. He’s brilliant, but also stingy, confrontational, and quite self-absorbed. He rambles on all day with stories of his life and his evil doings.
Gasu: Gasu is Pinki’s #2 man. His brain doesn’t work too well, but he’s very strong. He’s been held back in elementary school ten times and still can’t graduate. If you get him upset, he won’t stop until the object of his anger is completely destroyed. He also love banana milk.
I really like the character backgrounds. They don’t really make Super Magnetic Neo better or add to its playability, but it does add some realism (even if it is completely unreal) to the game; almost as if these characters are real and they think and act so human. The humanization of the Professor’s robots is enjoyable. There is an obvious level of humor that is meant to be taken from the character backgrounds. I mean, PeeDee is like Dwight from The Office and Gasu is straight up retarded. They might not use that word for Gasu, but they really want you to think it’s funny when someone can’t graduate elementary school because their “brain doesn’t work too well.” I got a good little chuckle from this.
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