Prehistoric Isle 2
by sunburstbasser

Prehistoric Isle 2 is a horizontal shooter which may have a story involving blowing stuff up. There is no narrative to indicate this.

Yumekobo had established themselves as being very good developers with Blazing Star, and SNK felt confident giving them the rights to make a sequel to a pre-Neo Geo shooter called Prehistoric Isle in 1930. Just like that game, the big deal here is that the player is pitted against dinosaurs. No dragons, huge mecha, or spaceships this time.

The control system is different from that of Blazing Star or Pulstar, and seems to be drawn from Eight Forces. Tapping the button once will fire a shot ahead of your helicopter. Holding the button will give you autofire with reduced power straight forward and another shot at an angle that you can alter on the fly.

Prehistoric Isle 2 only offers two helicopters this time around. While many vertical shooters have used helicopters as far back as Tiger Heli, this is the only worthwhile horizontal shooter in which both ships are helicopters and it also makes use of the helicopter's unique abilities. We'll get to those later.


The Blue One has a wide, straight ahead shot. When holding the B button, one small shot goes straight ahead while a second one fires at an angle up or down. Moving up will cause it to rotate up, while moving down will cause it to rotate down. The bomb is a huge wave cannon that decimates everything in front. And check out that pilot! He would have made second billing in any 80s action movie!


The Green One fires a spread shot. When holding the B button, three shots will straighten out and all go forward. Move backwards, and the upper and lower bullet will rotate out. While the Green One can cover more of the screen, the bullets do less damage than the single angled shot on The Blue One. The bomb fires a multitude of green pellets. While they won't slaughter bosses quite as quickly, they do cover a big chunk of the screen and tear through normal enemies quite effectively.

Both move at the same rate as far as I can tell, so the choice is one of preference. If you have autofire, use The Green One as it's natural spread shot, at full power, covers a big chunk of the screen and is much more effective than either helicopter's sweeping shots.

Powerups are spread fairly liberally. The standard shot powerup is a capsule that changes between a red G and a blue C. In general, it seems that the G weapon has more coverage, and the C weapon does more damage and seems to penetrate some obstacles. Missiles are also available, switching between M, H, and N. M is a volley of forward-flying missiles that do respectable damage. H fires two homing missiles that aren't as strong but will go after enemies coming from behind. N drops a single bomb that bursts into napalm flame. Hard to use, but very high in damage. Bomb icons add one to the bomb counter. Very rarely, I've also gotten an S powerup which added lightning bolts that did huge damage. I only found two of these in the game, so if you find one hang on to it as they cut down enemies very nicely.

Scoring is pretty straight-forward. Shoot things, get points. Some enemies will leave behind a medal which is worth a few hundred points (no BONUS shouts this time around). If you are at full power and collect another powerup, you'll enter a score combo mode. Enemies killed with be worth x2, x4, x8 and so on while a meter in the top left of the screen counts down. At the end of each level, a bonus is totaled and added to your existing score based on medals, rescues and a few other factors.

Yumekobo seems to have been SNK's go-to team for pre-rendered graphics, as Prehistoric Isle 2 uses the same style as Blazing Star. The animation is insanely well done, with even small enemies having fluid death animations on top of many frames of things as simple as flapping wings. It seems that enemies will also fly in from the background more often than Blazing Star. The actual colors seem a little grainy or washed out. Most of the game actually resembles a cartoon, which actually ends up fitting well with the theme of destroying dinosaurs with heavy artillery.

The music is stellar. Blazing Star had lots of good music, but it never really had a distinct feel. The soundtrack to Prehistoric Isle 2 fixes this by using a soundtrack that sounds like it was lifted from an adventure movie. Stage 2 in particular has some very cool melodies and uses the powerful sound capabilities of the Neo Geo for a track that would make a good background for a triumphant hero who has slain the dragon (or the dinosaur). Even the minor key music, full of percussion and heavy on brass, sounds like it was written for a movie of some kind.

The stage design takes more advantage of the pre-rendered graphics. When you select your helicopter, it turns around and flies into the city as a short movie plays, creating the illusion of flying between buildings. It happens again at the end of the stage, when the helicopter turns to follow the boss through a new hole in the wall. These pre-rendered FMVs pop up in other instances too, with Stage 3 having a raging thunderstorm as a backdrop. And these levels are LONG. Prehistoric Isle 2 only has 5 levels and a final boss, but a full playthrough seems longer than Blazing Star.

The first stage opens flying past a theater and round the corner to see a large, bipedal carnivorous dinosaur smashing a bus. Pterosaurs in formation fly in. While we can never know for sure, I am fairly certain that dinosaurs and their relatives were unable to fire bullets, but the creatures on Prehistoric Isle are very adept at it and fling many large, orange bullets at the player. When not using bullets, look for dinosaurs that act as natural flame throwers or simply careen into helicopters suicidally.

In Blazing Star, most levels scrolled to the right without much variation. Already in the opening level of Prehistoric Isle 2, the level scrolls down to reveal a subway. At one point, the scrolling ceases. A subway train smashes into the platform and you are give the order to DEFEND THE PEOPLE!

A rescue chopper descends and starts loading survivors. More ancient reptiles attack and they will eat people if you let them capture one, though this first one isn't too hard. The rescue chopper only has enough room for 20 survivors, and two more people will scream "HELP ME" when it leaves. Now comes that helicopter mechanic I mentioned earlier. It's now up to you to save these people, and you do it by throwing out a rope. They don't actually climb in, though. Instead, they hold on really tight while you keep flying and fighting. In a nice touch, when flying low the people will run to keep up with the helicopter while holding on. The inhabitants of Prehistoric Isle must have forearms the size of basketballs to hold on like they do. Bullets will pass right through any people being carried, but getting hit will send them flying and they don't all have parachutes.

The first boss is a pachycephalosaurus that likes to slam through the ground with it's hardened cranium. It also has giant green versions of the Ripple Laser from Gradius II. Besides dodging the bullets, it isn't too terrible and most bosses don't fling as much lead as the Blazing Star bosses. Prehistoric Isle 2 is all about the levels.

Stage 2 opens with a descent over some nicely animated wavy water. Once land is reached, a small earthquake causes the cliff in the background to shatter and send pieces hurtling into the sea below. The screen begins to scroll upwards along an enormous ruined tower that looks like the Roman Coliseum stacked on itself a dozen times. At the top it is time to DEFEND THE PEOPLE! These people have to get to da choppa too, ya know?

Behind the ruins is a desert with huge holes in the ground. Video game logic tells us that bad things live in holes in the desert, and video game logic prevails. Giant sandworms inhabit the giant sand holes. Trapped in one hole is a person needing rescue. At the other end of the desert is another cliff with the skeletons of dinosaurs sticking out of it and while they are quite clearly skeletons, they are also quite clearly not quite dead yet. The best thing to do is make them more dead.

The last skeleton is a big one with horns that looks more dragon than dinosaur. At the same time he shows up, a person is being attacked by a small dinosaur right at the bottom of the screen. The little dude flees in terror and runs right under the giant skeleton. Maybe he isn't worth saving if he's that dumb, but the powerups that it rewards make it bearable.

The stage 2 boss looks like a rejected Pokemon. Death clouds and lots of bullets and it will jump in the air and try to punch you on the way down. As it takes damage, the color palette will change to indicate that it is indeed taking damage.

Stage 3 is pretty straightforward. The level just moves to the right, and seems to be some sort of bonus level as multiple powerups are dropped and make it easy to get the score multiplier going. The background is a pre- rendered thunderstorm that is so grainy it may as well have been a Sega CD stage. Otherwise, the level gets hectic but doesn't ever fill the screen with projectiles.

The boss is a huge pterosaur. It can ram your helicopter, but also fires a lot of destructible bullets. When using The Green One, the spread shot will destroy most of these which nicely neuters this boss.

Stage 4 kicks things back up. The setting this time is a swamp. The very first thing to do is DEFEND THE PEOPLE! A very large helicopter is shot down in the background, so defend those people because getting to the choppa is all the rage when your island is under siege by bullet-flinging dinosaurs.

As a swamp stage, all kinds of wildlife take an interest in blowing up helicopters. Giant bugs crawl along the ground and flowers that look somewhat like the Rafflesia stick out of trees blowing bullets all over. No swamp is complete without bees, and this beehive is the size of a tree. It is also armed with some form of guided missile, so these bees are doing pretty good for themselves. And this is supposed to be just one island the game takes place on; must be an island the size of Mexico.

The boss is a giant queen of some sort. It starts off flying, but with enough damage the abdomen swells and flight is no longer possible. It actually reminds me of the Chykka fight from Metroid Prime 2. Once it has fallen, the head detaches itself and turns into a huge flying centipede. A fun but hard battle.

All games have a fire stage, so Yumekobo made Stage 5 a volcano. All of the reptiles here are quite tough and fling lots of bullets, but it is possible to make some enemies fall into lava and they are not at all appreciative of it. After descending into the crater itself, a purple T- Rex like the one in the first stage halts progress. It can be shot, but it's better to shoot the rock above it's head.

I believe the boss is that guy's brother. A silver T-Rex, no bigger than the others encountered so far but much deadlier. This guy flings big 5 and 6-way bullet spreads and has lots of other nasty attacks. He also appears to be a load bearing boss, as on defeat parts of the floor collapse and fill with lava. While ascending out, a huge blue penis starts moving up the screen. Well, no it isn't actually a penis. It's the last boss which looks like a kabuki squid of some kind.

He doesn't put up much of a fight.

Stage 6 is just a static painting for a background, very strange looking after all that pre-rendered stuff. Then, it is time for the requisite giant battleship which is that silly looking kabuki squid. Destroy it bit by bit, kill the tentacles, blow off pieces of the shell, and with enough persistence/credits it will go down.

Prehistoric Isle 2 is not remembered nearly as widely as Blazing Star. I keep mentioning Blazing Star because the games do share a lot in common, but Prehistoric Isle 2 doesn't ever really have the bullshit moments. It keeps the same style, unifies everything together better. The music is less eclectic, and the level progression not only makes sense but is much more fun. These levels are full of good ideas and transitions are much less abrupt. Blazing Star is often cited as the best shmup on the Neo Geo, but personally I think Prehistoric Isle 2 is the superior game. Try it out, and help those people GET TO DA CHOPPA!


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