Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dig Dug II: Trouble in Paradise (NES) Review

Written: February 19th-20th, 2013
Year: 1986, 1989 | Developed by: Namco | Published by: Bandai

Uh, oh, be careful not to fall off!
Show of hands: how many of you have played the second Dig Dug game out there before stumbling upon this review?  ...  Okay, better question: how many of you were aware that Dig Dug had a direct sequel before finding this review?  Well, the ever-classic 1982 arcade hit by Namco got a follow-up three years later in arcade format with the title of Dig Dug II, much to a less than favorable reaction from gamers and fans of the original.  Part of that is why it's not as popular and well-known as the original (and another reason comes from the fact that it was a victim of the infamous Event that Shall Not be Mentioned).  Unlike Pole Position II where it got a few updates from the original but otherwise played the same, Namco retained the elements of the first Dig Dug while also adding something new to the mix.

Dig Dug is back!
While I played the first Dig Dug since I was really young, I haven't played the 1985 sequel until sometime in the early 2000's when I played it on one of my cousins' MAME CD; I know the original arcade version is available in a few Namco Museum compilations, but I don't own the ones that have it.  Eventually I discovered an 8-bit conversion of the game on the NES, which was actually pretty nice since it meant I could play it on an actual TV screen.  Bad news is: it's the only port that was ever made for Dig Dug II.  Originally available on the Famicom in 1986, it found its way to American soil in 1989 with the full moniker Dig Dug II: Trouble in Paradise, a full three years later.  I'm not entirely certain why it took this long, or why it's only copyrighted "1982, 1989"; totally ignoring the fact that the sequel was also an arcade game at one point.  What, did they not have room for a third copyright?  Also, what a coincidence it is that the Western port was published by Bandai, who would eventually go on to merge with Namco to become Bandai Namco Games!  Cool!  =D  Given that I really, really, really, really, really love the original game to death, the question remains: how does this sequel stack up?

Ah, self-awareness!
You reprise the role of the eponymous main character Dig Dug where once again you must dispose yourself of Pookas and Fygars.  While in the original you dug underneath soil, the second game has you stay in the surface on a variety of different islands.  Dig Dug can still move in four different directions and he can still throw the hose toward the enemies and pump them up until they pop.  That's one of the ways you can take them down; another way is to use the jackhammer to drill out bits of the island.  Any time you stand above a round spot you can drill it in any of the four directions.  If it connects to a part of an island, or even a continuation of a drill mark, then depending on how many enemies were on the portions of the island that fell the more points you score.  After all the enemies are vanquished it's off to the next island!  Which begs the question of how he gets there when he clearly looks stranded?  Does he swim all the way to the next island, or does he carry a boat in his rear end that he just so happens to have?  I'm surprised not many people are questioning his mode of transportation!  =<  I mean, the first game I get, he traveled to different gardens; this game, on the other hand, has him travel to different islands!

After a lot of rounds it'll become dark
Dig Dug II controls decently, with the pump controlled by one button and the jackhammer used by another.  This time around the action is viewed from above, and before each round starts you get a glimpse of how many enemies are on said stage.  That's nice!  It is possible to press the pump button rapidly to take down an enemy quicker, and should you manage to create a square-shaped opening a fish will jump up, which you can grab with your pump for 500 points.  If an enemy comes into contact with you or if you fall down with a drilled out portion of the island, you lose a life.  You can move while you're drilling, but movement will be slower than if you were on foot.  Aesthetic-wise, it's a little faithful to the original arcade version, albeit with some differences.

The visuals in the coin-op version were medium- and vibrantly-colored, with Dig Dug's skin color pink and arms that were blue.  In the 8-bit conversion the colors were a tad brighter and less vibrant than in the arcade, and Dig Dug was blue-skinned and looks just like he did in the first game.  =/  Wait, so Dig Dug went from digger smurf to jackhammer human, only to become a jackhammer smurf in the end?
How do you do that?  Aside from those details (and the fact that there are no shadows in the NES port), the animations are faithful as they are decent to watch.  The Pookas and Fygars look better than ever, and it's cool to see them facing the top and bottom directions for once.  They can still become invisible with their eyes in clear view, and if you eliminate enough of the enemies the remaining ones will try to evade your attack and even try to take their own lives by jumping towards the water.  Next up is the music: the arcade original had good music and some sound samples that helped add a little "oomph".  When it came to the 8-bit port, some of the "oomph" was lost in the transition.  That's not to say that the music is bad or anything, as it's nice to listen to, it just doesn't sound as ecstatic.  The regular sound effects are decent, and some sounds are lifted from the first game, like the pumping sound, the sound that plays when you lose a life, and the sound that plays when you get a game over.

Drill, Dig Dug, drill like you never drilled before!
Dig Dug II has good qualities going for it, and what's cool about the islands is how different they look any time you step on a new one.  While some islands will be shaped liked the individual letters of the company that developed the game, and one is shaped like the Roman numeral "II" (like in the title), most islands will have abstract designs.  What's also cool is how different the islands will look when you drill off bits and pieces of them in the process; making such a huge impact and difference on the solid ground you're walking on.  Gee, makes me wonder if I'm doing more bad here than I am good?  =\  Getting through each island may prove to be a lot of work sometimes, because sometimes the enemies might be faster or because they will outnumber you by a lot (the tenth round comes to mind), which makes for fun and exciting situations.  If you persevere long enough you'll see a mini cutscene (Dig Dug Theater) after every sixteenth stage, and they're fun to watch though brief they may be.  The only problem is that there are two cutscenes in the entire game!

I still think Fygar's stomach-popping death
looks graphic
Soooooo, verdict time!  =)  How do I feel about Dig Dug II, and is it worthy of the Dig Dug name?  Honestly, I think the second game is fun to play every once in a while, and I also find it to be a good game.  The gameplay is good, the challenge level is solid, and the variety of islands help it a lot.  A neat thing about the game is that you don't have to start all over if you lose all your lives.  After getting a game over, start the game, and when the font is white you can choose which of the rounds you've been to, including the latest one.  A nice option if I do say so myself.  I guess one of the reasons some found it inferior to the original was because it was less simple.  One of the appealing things about the first Dig Dug is how addicting it was despite its simple controls.  If you're going to deviate from simplicity, then you'd better have something that will make it enjoyable and engaging, and Dig Dug II sort of succeeds in that regard, even though it can get a little too hard at times.  And, for that matter, why is it called Dig Dug II if you never dig yourself down to the ground like you did in the first game?  In fact, you never even dig once in this sequel!  Isn't that false advertising?  Anyway, I found the second Dig Dug enjoyable, and it's a nice game to play in short bursts.  It's got things going for it and some things hindering it, but overall I think it's really good, just not as excellent as the original Dig Dug!  If you liked the first game, I think you'll enjoy this title enough; just don't expect it to be as a high-caliber as the original that started it all.

Thank you for reading, please leave a comment!  =)
P.S.: I'm surprised Namco never considered porting either Dig Dug game to Nintendo's 16-bit console, even in the same package.  How cool would that have been?  =D

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