Gargoyle’s Quest II… yeah, that’s a sequel alright. I was pretty into the original Gargoyle’s Quest in spite of its shortcomings, but must admit I wasn’t really looking for a sequel to it. It was a cute idea for a one-off side-game to Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts. Why trample over that by doing it a second time? Why bring it to the NES where it inevitably has to compete with its parent franchise?
Like its predecessor, GQ2 sees players take control of the gargoyle Firebrand as he sets out on adventure to rescue the Ghoul Realm. A darkness came over the land and slew countless of his people, with even the powerful kings teetering on the edge of life and death. As the lone warrior to survive the ordeal, Firebrand must discover the source of all this evil and slay it.
The story once again sees you journey around an overworld with towns and dungeons where characters can be found that progress the plot. While it has the makings of a decent story, the poor quality of the translation and lackluster presentation rob it off any impact the story could have had.
Journeys across the overworld are tied together with 2D action levels that play much the same as the last game. Firebrand can jump and hover in the air with a stamina meter, and he can cling to walls to recharge this energy. You unlock different types of ranged attacks and levels are somewhat non-linear. Especially the tornado makes for a fun attack, as it creates a platform for you to stand on and you can make multiple ones to reach higher places or create a good point to jump from. It’s rubbish as an attack, however, and thus necessitates a lot of fiddling with the menu to swap between attacks.
Despite now featuring on consoles, Gargoyle’s Quest II somehow manages to feel so much stiffer and slower than its GameBoy counterpart. Firebrand is so frustratingly slow. True to this gargoyle nature, it really feels like you are pushing this big stone block around everywhere. He’s just not fun to play as and makes for a massive target as you try to dodge projectiles and enemies. This leads to a lot of deaths that then mean you gotta slog through the stages all over again.
Everything in this sequel feels more bothersome and underdeveloped than in the original. Only the overworld segments are an improvement as they removed the random encounters with monsters. You now only enter combat when you decide to talk with an enemy, though that does leave the land kind of barren and makes the adventure somewhat uneventful. More so than ever before, it raises the question of why we gotta walk around the map when the stages follow a linear order anyway and there isn’t anything to do besides talking to poorly-translated NPCs in town.
Gargoyle’s Quest II is what I feared it would be: a rethread of a good idea that can’t match the surprise and creativity of the original. It’s plain and simply not fun to play, owing to the sluggish controls, mediocre stages, a bad translation that leaves the story unintelligible, and boring downtime between actual levels. Gargoyle’s Quest did its best to be a 2D Platformer-RPG hybrid, but its sequel fails on a fundamental level in both those genres.