Let’s get it started.
We’re going to do the stages in a moderately random order, starting with the Crystal Castle.
Nintendo Power introduces the castle to us.
This is actually a pretty good intro to the things that have and haven’t changed, all in one short screen: The backgrounds remain beautiful for the era.
The whip still starts small and is powered-up by crystals into the chain whip.
Notice we have a heart meter now? There are small and large heart pickups dropping from candles, instead of them being mostly coins.
Birds (ravens, eagles, whatever) are an enemy that swoops back and forth diagonally at you.
These blocks, rather than falling immediately, slowly crack as you stand on them until they crumble.
We still need to climb ropes from segment to segment.
A second crystal lets you shoot fireballs from the whip.
Bats return, and these Evil Armors (which just walk slowly back and forth) are a redraw of the Evil Armor from the last game. (They do take a bunch of hits to kill, though.)
And here, next to a moving platform I’ll need to jump across, is our first subweapon: The Holy Water!
As is typical, you hold Up and press Attack to throw it, and it makes a little flame that damages enemies where it lands.
Another nice change from the last game: Christopher has learned to swing his whip while hanging from a rope!
Not every area transition is a rope: There are classic scrolling doors, too.
Dropping down onto this moving platform lets me swap for the other available subweapon, the Axe.
It throws at a high arc, per usual.
These little things are platforms, by the way, in case you were wondering. They do look like they should be background, eh?
As we cross to the left, dark shadows appear on the water. Those are Mermans.
A single hit can kill them once they’ve leapt from the water.
And we find our pal Punaguchi, who hasn’t changed a bit.
And in the next room, Big Eyes fall from the ceiling.
Another important change: You can hold Jump and press down on ropes to slide down quickly.
The fact that moving spike walls will kill you dead has not changed.
In both of these rooms, the spike will come right up to the rope. You need to jump on as they move away, and slide down fast.
There’s a series of nooks to jump off into in this room. It’s actually significantly easier than the spike wall rooms in the first game, assume you know the sliding trick.
Then a short climb while Big Eyes fall down on you. Feels familiar.
Then we have crossroads: Up or down? This is a genuine choice; both paths lead to the same place.
Going up leads you to Punaguchi and then some platforming with bats.
Again, much easier than the first game: The platforms give you a few second before they crumble rather than falling immediately, and the bats stay low and are less aggressive.
Then you need to get past these weird floating jellyfish monsters to get to the door. (They move wildly and take two hits to defeat.)
Going down gets you to this dagger-throwing landbound Merman. He takes 3 hits but is very aggressive; practically a miniboss.
Then we have platforming through this flowing-water section.
Mermen will pop out of the shallow water and send fireballs floating along the top of it. The water also pushes you slowly towards the edges.
Then this route also features Jellyfish. Then we’re in the same place.
Through the door is more crystal block platforming.
Then the boss arena.
This boss is Dark Side. The black storm cloud appears above, and then Dark Side appears, first briefly as a crystal (which is when it’s vulnerable) then as a wizard.
It then raises the staff and summons lightning that’ll hit wherever you were standing and also ripple out. The storm cloud can only move so far left or right, so you just need to go to the far edge of the screen and jump the ripple, then cross to hit the crystal twice, then retreat.
Nintendo Power gave some tips for fighting Dark Side.
When you beat Dark Side, an orb flies into the sky, and you get points for your remaining time, hearts and life.
We can see on the stage select that the Crystal Castle has now crumbed, and we can move on to the next stage. Next time!