Prehistoric Isle 2 Review

PH2Prehistoric Isle 2 (Available exclusively on Neo Geo MVS)
ESRB Rating: NA
Number of Players: 1 to 2
Genre: Shoot ‘em Up
Publisher: SNK
Developer: Yumekobo
Release Date: September 27th, 1999
Meg Count: 478 Megs

Parent Talk: While the ESRB never rated Prehistoric Isle 2, it’s safe to say this one would have earned a T rating if only because you’re killing millions of dinosaurs, and if you play the game in Japanese mode the dinosaurs don’t explode into fireballs, they explode into pools of blood.

Plays Like: Prehistoric Isle 2 is a shoot ‘em up, which features different gameplay mechanics compared to its predecessor, Prehistoric Isle in 1930 from 1989.  While still a shmup, the gameplay now has you rescuing humans in order to earn bonus power-ups, and the setting has also been completely changed.  Compared to many shmups of the time, this one is about easy-to-average in terms of difficulty.

Review Basis: Finished the game using more than a few credits.

Prehistoric Isle 2 is complete madness.  You pick one of two available helicopters, and blast your way through six increasingly difficult stages.  The only thing in your way are dinosaurs, which just so happen to have the ability to breath fire, shoot lasers, and want nothing more than to see you perish!  It’s completely insane, and that’s what makes it so bloody great!  It doesn’t hurt any that the game was developed by the same people who made the excellent Blazing Star and Pulstar so you know you’re in for a good time.  If you have access to a Neo Geo MVS, be it consolized or the arcade cabinet itself, do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

The Great:

Two games in one!  Since this is an MVS exclusive, be sure to add the UniBios to your MVS motherboard.  It’s worth it for many reasons, but for this particular game the UniBios unlocks two radically different versions of the game.  The Japanese and North American versions of the game are exactly the same for the MVS mode, however when you switch the setting to AES mode, there’s one major difference between the two regions.  The US mode plays exactly like the MVS mode, but the Japanese mode is completely different.  In US AES/MVS and Japan MVS modes your helicopter can withstand one enemy shot before exploding.  The Japanese AES mode however ditches that setup and gives players a health gauge.  This is extremely unique and dramatically alters the difficulty of the game as you can get hit a total of six times before dying, although you only have one life before you have to use a continue.  The thing is you can regain health as the stage continues, making this mode feel almost like an entirely different game compared to the others.  I’ve included gameplay of both modes in the video review to highlight this fact.

PI2_4The Good:

+ The core gameplay is very fun.  You have a basic shot which you can hold down to spread your bullets in multiple directions, and a power shot, which is the game’s equivalent of a bomb, although it doesn’t clear all the enemies on the screen.  Each of the two helicopters has its own unique power shot.  A screen clearing bomb is available, but only from rescued humans.

+ There are two helicopters to choose from and the biggest difference between the two is the way in which they shoot their primary weapon.  The blue helicopter fires directly in front, while the green one has a spread shot.  Both copters have access to a wide array of power-ups like missiles and being able to level up their primary weapon up to level five.

+ Rescuing stranded humans not only acts as a score bonus, but is the only way to access powerful power-ups.  Think Metal Slug, and you’ll understand how the humans work.  Certain sections of each stage also require you to stand your ground and defend the humans while they make their way to safety.

+ This is one game where you’ll want a friend to join in.  Playing this madness together is an absolute blast!

+ Challenging without being cheap.

+ Fast-paced and responsive.  For a game that features pre-rendered graphics it’s surprisingly smooth.  If you die in this game it’s your fault, and not because of sluggish gameplay.  While there are areas where slowdown is present, it actually helps because your ship never seems to suffer as much as the dinos do.

+ While some detest pre-rendered graphics, I personally find they look outstanding here.  Backgrounds in particular look great with multiple layers of scaling, and just an overall layer of polish rarely found in games of this nature.  There are a wide array of dinosaurs present and they look super sharp.  Some of the special effects, like the intro 3D effect, are pretty incredible for a game on hardware from January 1990.  Then there are the little touches, like the way humans slowly move away from incoming dinosaurs and things like that.  A lot of love was put into developing this game, and it shows.

+ So over the top it’s ridiculous and that’s what makes it so charming.  Typically games like this are frowned upon because killing animals, even if they are special laser powered dinos, just isn’t something people do.  For whatever reason the wacky nature of the game is what makes it so damn appealing.

+ US mode makes the dinosaurs explode into fireballs when they’re killed, whereas the Japanese mode makes them explode into pools of blood, so depending on your tolerance, you might want to play in one mode over the other.

PI2_3The So-So:

+/- The music and sound effects are fantastic, but the scream all the dinosaurs make when they’re killed can get a little annoying.  Thankfully the music is louder than the sound effects so I really didn’t notice it, however my significant other sure did, so be warned.

The Bad:

– Boss battles are disappointing because they’re too easy.  Some of the stages put up a real fight, but then you get to the stage’s end boss and plow through them.

The Ugly:

Given Prehistoric Isle 2 was only ever released on the MVS, and just so happens to be a riot to play, it’s extremely expensive and hard to find.  Copies typically go for several hundred dollars on eBay, and given this is an MVS game, bootlegs are always a concern.  The last thing you want to do is pay $400 for the game only to discover it’s a $4 bootleg.

PI2_2The Lowdown:

While it might be pricey to get yourself a legit copy, it’s well worth it for the excitement and fun you’ll have, particularly if you bring a friend along for the ride.  SNK’s timeless arcade system may be remembered most for its incredible line-up of fighters, but titles like this show there was a lot more to the platform than most people ever realized.  This is one you really have to play.  It’s amazing!

Final Score: 9.2/10

 

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