Zillion II (simply called Tri-Formation in Japan) is a massive departure from the original SMS game. Instead of being an daring, open-ended adventure game, it’s a pretty standard side-scrolling action game…and a pretty banal one at that.
The first stage, and all odd-number stages thereafter, feature J.J. riding on the Tri-Formation, a futuristic motorcycle/robot thing. These levels are auto-scrolling, so they kind of feel like a combination between a shooter and platformer, as you’re constantly jumping over pits and laser spikes and whatnot. There are power-ups to pick up that regenerate health (marked “L”) and strengthen your gun (marked “Z”.) Grab the one that says “A” and you’ll turn into the robot. This thing is called the “Armorator”.
The even numbered levels are side-scrolling endeavors that might resemble the original game, but are relegated to straight walking, jumping, and shooting. There are some pits to jump over and that’s about it.
As far as the story, Apple and Champ have once again been kidnapped, but upon rescuing them, do they say anything? Do they help? Well, no, they just kinda disappear when you touch them, and only barely appear thereafter. They can be called to take your place momentarily in the vehicle levels, but that’s the extent of it.
Zillion II, from the point of view of anyone who loved the original, is a disappointment. From someone else’s eyes, the best you can say is that it’s probably inoffensive. One could only guess how this happened. Zillion was a toy, with a tie-in cartoon designed to sell more toys. Its first game was one of the best games the Sega Master System had, but it was far too complicated to kids to really appreciate, and it certainly wouldn’t sell any transforming motorcycles. Maybe this was a “better” licensed game than the weird, open-ended original game.
Zillion – Anime (1987)
Zillion had well over thirty episodes in Japan, but only five of them (plus a extra-long special called Burning Night) were translated into English by Streamline Pictures. Some of the music used in the games is actually from the anime, complete with cheesy 80s synth and wailing Japanese vocals. The biggest disappointment is that J.J., one of many gamer’s childhood heroes, is a moronic goofball, a failure who only runs with the White Knights so he could provide comic relief. In addition to fighting the Norsa empire, they also play in a band called The White Nuts, a particularly large bit of Japanese/English mangling. Seeing all of these characters animated makes for some decent fun, and Opa Opa from Fantasy Zone makes more than a few appearances.