In 1988, Sega released the follow-up to Zillion on the Sega Master System in North America. Dubbed “Zillion II: The Tri-Formation” the game completely changed the formula of what made the first Zillion great. Instead of exploring an underground base on foot, our hero J.J. must survive eight side-scrolling levels. Would Zillion II be able to compete with the fantastic debut of its predecessor? The White Knights are in trouble again in this Zillion II review!
Zillion II Plot:
The story picks up from where the first game ends. A quick recap for you…You control J.J. a member of the White Knights who protect their planet from the evil Norsa Empire with the power of their Zillion guns. The Norsa Empire is a race of masked aliens who seek the destruction of all beings in the galaxy.
From the manual of Zillion II:
“When we last left the White Knights, J.J. had rescued his friends Apple and Champ who were being held captive deep inside the Norsa Empire’s labyrinth on Planet X.
Together, the three bravely searched the catacombs of the mothership and found five floppy disks which contained the key to the labyrinth’s destruction. The White Knights located the laster computer and used the floppy disks to trigger an explosion which would destroy the base.
The trio made their way back through the maze of tunnels to the surface and escaped just as the base exploded in a great ball of flames. The Norsa Empire’s labyrinth was destroyed and the Planetary System was saved!
Or so the White Knights thought.
Little did the peacekeepers know that Baron Ricks’ evil plans had only just begun. The worst has yet to come!”
There you have a nice little recap of the first game. It was just as fun as it sounds, and no I’m not being sarcastic, it was a terrific game!
But alas, just like the manual says, there’s a new mission.
“A faint distress transmission, barely understandable, was received at the headquarters of the White Knights. Sent from a distant outpost at the extreme edge of the Planetary System, the garbled message told of a new, gigantic Norsa Battle Fortress at the edge of the Norsa Galaxy. Apply and Champ, two members of the elite White Knight special peacekeeping force, immediately set out on a reconnaissance mission to investigate the Norsa Fortress.
The last words which anybody heard from Apple and Champ were: “Help us J.J.! Baron Ricks has…”
You would think that Apple and Champ would learn their lesson and not be so headstrong to charge into another Norsa Base again, but here we are. I will also point out that Baron Ricks is possibly one of the worst evil villain names. He’s a nine foot evil alien with badass armor and a sick mask and he calls himself Baron Ricks? Come on!
Zillion II Gameplay:
I’m not sure what game companies were doing back in the 80s, but they loved changed. Remember how The Legend of Zelda and The Legend of Zelda II featured such drastic changes between the two games? Well, unfortunately for Zillion fans like myself, the second game took a completely different route than the first one.
In the first game, you explore a huge base, searching for five floppy disks and your teammates Champ and Apple. The game is one large maze with tons of secrets, puzzle-solving and a unique computer system that you can input commands. There’s none of that in this Zillion II review! Instead, you’ll cruise through eight side-scrolling levels.
The levels are alternate between J.J. being on his motorcycle and him on foot. When you are on the motorcycle, you’ll be forced to ride to the right side of the screen, jumping over enemies, pits, and shooting anything in your way. It’s difficult, and you’ll die a lot. I need to emphasize this because I shouldn’t pretend I can beat these games without some help. I use emulation for most of the games I review for the SMS, NES, Super Nintendo, and Genesis. That allows me to pause the game and save it when I want instead of having to wait for save points or passwords. It makes the games much easier and if I die, I can reload my last save which hopefully just a few minutes ago instead of having to replay full levels over and over to get to the point of where I died. My Zillion II review was a suicide mission without emulation.
J.J. will be able to pick up small power-ups throughout the level to increase the power of his gun or refill his health bar and boy, did I need those during my Zillion II review! They come at midway points throughout the bike levels and helped immensely. The bike levels were difficult in part because you didn’t have much control over the bike. Sure, you can speed up and jump but no matter what it keeps on rolling. The last two missions on the bike, you can transform into something that resembles a Gundam machine when you collect enough power-ups. This gives you the ability to fly and you’ll need it when you are crossing areas that are filled with electric spikes.
The levels where J.J. is on foot are much easier. You’ll be able to control where J.J. goes and can walk left and right on the screen to make your way through the level. The enemies here have patterns and once you learn them you’ll be able to defeat them without much trouble. For example, the Norsa Jetpack guys always swoop down in front of you, fire their weapon, and then zoom behind you. I liked these levels much more than the bike level as they had a small resemblance to the first game. On foot, you’ll also face bosses at the end of these levels. I liked this a lot, and that’s something I wish the first Zillion had. It featured just one boss at the end of the game, but Zillion II has one at the end of each level on foot. You’ll rescue Apple and Champ again, but unlike the first game, I didn’t get to play as them during my Zillion II review, which was again disappointing.
I just beat the first Zillion a few weeks ago and found out it’s an anime show from the 80s. I couldn’t help but look into it and I’m hooked. I love it! It consists of 31 episodes and it’s fun to connect the characters from the show to the first two Zillion video games. I have hundreds of memories playing the first Zillion as a kid but the second one I never played until this review but you can bet I watched the anime as I played it.
Zillion II Review Score:
Zillion II is a decent game if it was a standalone game. Unfortunately, it’s the sequel to an amazing game on the SMS. In my humble opinion, the developers went backward on this game. They had such a unique formula for the first one with the exploration, puzzles, and computer system. Zillion II feels like a game made only for the arcade with its high difficulty and simple mechanics of jump and shoot. It’s really hard too! I wish Zillion II would have kept the formula of the first game, perhaps we would have been treated to a Zillion III if that was the case.
Zillion II scores a 7.3 out of 10.
What would you write in your Zillion II review? Have you watched the Zillion anime? Which levels did you like more, the bike or foot levels? Have you played both Zillion games? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments!