𝓡𝓮𝓽𝓻𝓸 𝓖𝓪𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓐𝓾𝓽𝓱𝓸𝓻𝓲𝓽𝔂: Blue’s Journey

Neo Geo AES / Neo Geo CD


1991 / 1994

Blue’s Journey has always been a favourite of mine when the discussion of best Neo Geo games arises. Belonging to a vast library that sometimes feels as if it solely caters to fighting games, Blue’s platforming adventure on the planet of Raguy offers a nice break from brawling in tournaments or on the streets of South Town. Released in 1991, the game was a relatively early title to hit SNK’s colossal new gambit, the Neo Geo Advanced Entertainment System. Blue’s Journey (also known as Raguy in Japan) debuted simultaneously for the AES console alongside its MVS (Multi Video System) counterpart, but I’ll be focusing solely on the AES release and the Neo Geo CD port that followed it three years later for this review. 

Predating SNK smash hits such as Fatal Fury 2 and The King of Fighters ’94, Blue’s Journey is a legacy title for the Neo Geo if there ever was one. The game’s catchy music, unique enemies, and eye-popping colours bring the planet of Raguy (a world inhabited by insect people) to life and then some. To me, Blue’s Journey has always felt like the Super Mario experience that every good console needed back in the early to mid-nineties. Pure side scrolling, platforming fun that required precise timing and memorization of diverse stages, including challenging boss battles that were sure to follow. Nintendo had Mario, Sega had Sonic, NEC had Bonk, and SNK had… Blue! While insinuating that Blue was some sort of mascot for SNK back in the 90’s may be a bit of a stretch, successful platforming game mascots often carried the torches for their respective companies with regards to leading a console to mainstream victory, and although SNK already had a mascot of sorts in the form of Fatal Fury’s Terry Bogard, I still like to think of how Blue’s standing could have been affected over time had his game been given any sequels. 

As I mentioned, Blue’s Journey is a really vibrant game that pulls the player in with its impressive palette of colours, merrymaking music, and easy to learn gameplay. The soundtrack, in particular, is really awesome and rivals some of the best music in video games at the time, in my opinion. Unlike other platformers of the era that had protagonists simply jumping on top of enemies in order to defeat them, Blue dispatches his foes by stunning them with the downswing of a large leaf (though he can also stun them by jumping on top of them!), only to pick them up and then hurl them as projectiles at whatever other nasties the level sends his way. Furthermore, Blue can shrink himself down to access areas only open to him whilst in his smaller form. Blue can also jump slightly higher during his tiny transformation. To say that these were unique gameplay elements in 1991 would be an understatement. One aspect of the game that may take traditional platforming fans by surprise is the level of difficulty that the game can present in its later levels. Unlike games such as Super Mario Bros. 3 or Sonic the Hedgehog, which were both designed with the home game player in mind, Blue’s Journey was (mostly) intended for the arcade market, so I can’t help but think of how many quarters I would’ve been spilling while struggling through some of the more turbulent boss battles that the game unleashes if I was playing it in my local Pizza Hut. Blue’s trials on Raguy seem ever more difficult when you realize that he only has two hearts worth of health to count on, making it rather easy to get knocked off the screen entirely at tight spots that require near perfect skill or timing. Thankfully, this issue was addressed in the 1994 Neo Geo CD version of the game, where Blue starts off with a generous three hearts worth of health as opposed to two (while playing in Easy mode, anyway). Still, health upgrades and replenishments can be somewhat scarce on Raguy so it’s best to stay as sharp as possible while playing. 

Speaking of upgrades, Blue can actually purchase a variety of them from shops that occasionally pop up while running through the levels. One of my favourite weapon based power-ups that Blue can acquire are the bombs that he tosses at enemies, eliminating the need to stun them with leaves and blasting them on contact. For a planet that’s inhabited by insects, they sure have some heavy artillery for sale. Assets such as extra hearts and increased speed can also be bought from the shops, but they can be found scattered around the stages as well. There are also houses that Blue can enter throughout the levels but their inhabitants can stem from a mixed bag of personalities. Some of the characters try their best to aid Blue in his quest to save the planet, while one guy, a menacing looking red doppelgänger of Blue that fights dirty and seems hell-bent on being permanently pissed off, will challenge him to deadly leaf battles. Another less than friendly member of the game’s cast is the leader of the Daruma Empire. Acting as the game’s main antagonist, he plans to take over the planet of Raguy, steal it’s resources and pollute it into oblivion. Blue needs to keep his wits about him if he plans on surviving the onslaught of enemies that the Empire sends his way, particularly some of the gnarlier boss characters that attack in relentless fashion. 


There aren’t a ton of notable differences to touch on between the AES and CD versions of the game but there are a few. First off is the choice of difficulty. The AES version of Blue’s Journey offers the player no such luxury, whereas the CD version serves up the usual Neo Geo selection of EasyMediumHard, and MVS. There is also the addition of the extra heart of health that I mentioned earlier. Lastly, the CD version of the game’s soundtrack has received a slight touch-up upon comparison to its AES counterpart, but it’s nothing arranged or brand new as some other Neo Geo CD games were treated to.

I’ve been playing Blue’s Journey for well over a decade now and the game still manages to pull me back in for several revisits a year. It’s a really righteous piece of Neo Geo history that showcases its own unique charm as soon as the first stage begins, and although the difficulty can be tricky at times, I should mention that both the AES and CD versions of the game offer unlimited continues – no quarters required. Blue also respawns almost exactly where he last met his untimely demise, further making his planet saving goal that much more accessible if you don’t care much for impeccable scores. There are also four multiple endings to the game, an impressive feature in 1991 that adds to the journey’s replay value. 


For a title that carried the SNK flag so early on in the Neo Geo’s career, Blue’s Journey doesn’t get nearly the amount of love that it deserves. An absolutely killer platforming experience that any fan of the genre would be remiss to pass up on, Blue’s Journey is a game that I’ll be spinning for many more years to come. 

Original article