SonSon II is the 1989 sequel to Capcom‘s 1984 arcade game, SonSon, and was developed by NEC Avenue and released exclusively for the PC Engine. Once again it is loosely based on the adventures of the “Monkey King” as popularised by the 16th-century Chinese novel Journey to the West.
Anyone who remembers the 1970s TV series “Monkey“ will recognise the characters in this game – the Monkey King himself (the player character), the pig (aka Pigsey), the fish monster (aka Sandy), and Sanzo (aka Tripitaka), the Buddhist priest.
At the beginning of the game the Monkey King’s friends are kidnapped, which is one of the few similarities between this sequel and the first game, and your job is to rescue them from the mysterious villain shown (not shown) in the intro sequence.
The game is a fairly straightforward cute platformer. You control the Monkey King who can jump, duck, climb, and throw out his stick to defeat enemies. He has a life bar and a magic bar at the top of the screen. Coming into contact with hostiles depletes his life bar and if it reach zero then you lose a life. You can top-up your health by breaking pots or killing enemies and consuming the food that they drop. You also collect “Zenny” which is money that can be used to buy things from shops.
As you explore the various levels you’ll notice that some have multiple exit doors, so you basically have to explore a maze of rooms to find the key that will unlock the door to the boss at the end of each stage. Beat the boss and you continue to the next stage. There are seven different stages in total.
You’ll also occasionally find your companions, who you speak to and they will help you or give you advice. There’s also a girl dressed in pink who will open up her shop and allow you to buy items to make your exploring easier (these include a magic lamp that allow you to continue after dying; a cloud that allows him to fly during boss battles; longer and more powerful staffs that improve your attacks; bombs that will break walls, and other items that top up health or are offensive/defensive).
Each stage has a hidden timer and if you take too long an indestructible demon will appear and begin to chase you and throw lightning bolts at you (which is a bit unfair really).
SonSon II starts off quite easy, but increases in difficulty gradually. By the second stage it’s really quite a challenge to stay alive, and enemies change colour and become more hazardous as a result. Boss battles aren’t easy either. In spite of the game’s cute exterior SonSon II is quite a difficult game and learning the patterns of enemies in a must. There are also some very difficult jumps to make too; especially those above lava that will damage you if you fall into it, or those where – if you bump your head on something above – it will stop the jump dead.
SonSon II was originally only ever released in Japan, but there is an English fan translation available for the PC Engine version. That said: the Japanese version is still playable because there’s very little text in the game, and what there is is mostly reduced to shop encounters, the occasional note or cut sequence, and boss battles. I’m showing the fan-translated version here.
More: SonSon II on Fandom