I'm probably one of the few people who has fond memories of the forgotten NES adventure game Milon’s Secret Castle by Hudson Soft. I'd owned the game as a kid although was never able to beat it, and I still found it enjoyable played through the game 8 (!) years ago. That game suffers from many of the same issues as its peers, including a sometimes painfully high difficulty level, completely obtuse clues, and some clumsy mechanics.
I'd heard good things about its one and only sequel, which is usually translated as DoReMi Fantasy: Milon's DokiDoki (i.e. "Heart-pounding") Adventure. The game was released for Super Famicom, the Japanese equivalent of the Super Nintendo. Although the original version was never released outside of Japan, it was one of several previously import-only games that saw new life on Wii's Virtual Console. I was excited about its international release, although a little wary about how it would compare to the original.
With a big sigh of relief I can report that the game builds upon the mechanics of the original and improves them in every way. The game is a vibrant and lively 16-bit platformer, and oozes with personality and charm. Milon himself is every bit as lovable as better-known platforming heroes such as Mario, and his quest to save his fairy friend has him journeying through multiple worlds, with some surprise themes thrown in. Along with the requisite water, lava, and ice worlds, there's also a candy world and a mountainous region and some other surprises. The game has all of the regular platforming elements, including auto-scrolling levels, rotating platforms, and bottomless pits, but virtually every stage introduces new mechanics. All the elements combined with the bright and colorful design come together to make the game feel surprisingly fresh and fun. The game also has dungeons, which are more like the large stages in the original, which usually feature maze-like layouts and which are a fun change of pace.
As in the original, Milon is armed with magic bubbles, although in this game instead of just damaging enemies he instead traps most of them (or he can jump on most of them). Milon also has two powerups he can collect: he can use bubble gum to save himself from falling into a pit, and use a pair of winged shoes to glide down from a jump, both of which are very handy. He also gains a couple of cool special moves as the game continues that are required for him to proceed. There are unique enemies in each world and each castle, and although most of them prove to be no match for Milon's bubbles, they all have fun animations and often have funny surprised expressions when they get trapped.
The game was released on Wii's Virtual Console in the original Japanese, but the digital manual tells you everything you need to know. The game is pretty generous with health-restoring items for most of the game, although the last few worlds and bosses are more challenging. The game gives you unlimited continues, and it also has a password feature, although I think the latter only starts you at the beginning of a world.
There aren't many bad things about the game. The bonus mini-game rooms are kind of lame in general, and less fun than the one mini-game in the original. When you die you start off with the lowest health, which is an annoyance when you're trying to beat a boss, as you have to find two health items before you can go back to the boss fight. This isn't too bad though, because the game lets you exit a stage at any time by pressing the select button. You'll have to play at least some stages a few times in order to find the hidden star, but for the most part the stars aren't too hard to find and exploring every corner of every stage is part of the fun.
All in all I was surprised at how much I liked the game, and for once found the game lived up to its hype, so much so that I had to add it to my list of favorite games of all time. I'm glad the game was finally released overseas and that Milon was introduced to more people. It's highly doubtful that this series will ever be revived, but I can now count myself among the many people who love this game and would be psyched to see Milon's next adventure.