Thursday, May 16, 2013

Game 14: Super Hydlide (Genesis) - First Impressions

Game 14

TitleSuper Hydlide
Year1990 (1989 JP)
DeveloperT&E Soft
PublisherSeismic Software
Exploration - Top-down
Combat - Real-time

I'm going to spoil you guys... I just know it, three posts in a row. I have to tell you, I was not looking forward to this game. I heard from a couple of sources that it was just as bad a game as the first. It's been a pleasant surprise so far, although there are some quirks to it that I can see would rub some people the wrong way. I think I've been a little light on the details in the past, so I'll dig a little deeper with this one. Luckily I have the manual to help me out.
Oh boy, bring on the translation woes
The back story is a rather generic, but I don't expect much from these early games and my expectations of this one are already low. Deep in the heart of Fairyland they've known only peace for many generations. An old evil may have returned. How else would you explain the giant crack in the ground followed by a pillar of flame reaching the sky? Those living in the nearby city of Forest have selected a youth to be their champion and investigate. Following their choice they wonder if they made the right decision... that's comforting.
Yes, when fire erupts from the depths of the earth something is wrong
Character creation is simply selecting a name and class. I chose monk out of that, Fighter, Thief, and Priest. Fighters are generalists with average stats. Thieves are actually more physically capable, but start with low morals and very little magic power. Priests are physically weak and have low armor, but great magic power and morals. Monks excel in nearly all attributes except hit points. Stats are randomly generated and can be re-rolled before confirming.
The game starts in the city of Forest, where I suspect the townsfolk shoved money into this poor sap's pockets before leaving him to his own devices. I wondered into the weapon shop, and deftly avoided the first major pitfall, item weight. It's possible to buy all the basic gear with starting gold, but the weight of all that equipment will slow movement to a snails pace (actually slower).
If you buy this at the beginning, you're going to have a bad time
Weight capacity increases when the character levels up. Levels are gained by killing monsters for experience points that are exchanged for levels at the local temple. Experience points are also used to purchase spells, which introduces an interesting dynamic. Fighters and Thieves pay double for spells, and they can only learn the first six out of twelve.
Confirming my beginning stats
In addition to juggling weight, experience, and spells, the game is further complicated with the need to eat and sleep. Eating is automatic if the character has food rations (which are obscenely heavy), and sleep is only initially taken care of by the inn. Some camping gear is found later, or so I've read. Forgoing food results in hunger, which drains health, and without sleep the character's stats start to drain temporarily.
Challenge considered...
One last thing to note is a handle attribute, which limits the use of weapons. If the weight of a weapon is higher than the handle weight of the character, then the attack power is subtracted from the character's total attack ability. This means while I could afford and carry my new ax, it was weaker than my club until I leveled up.
At some point I realized I was carrying 7 clubs, 6 were dropped by enemies
Whew, that's a lot to take in all at the beginning of a new game. Without the manual I'm not sure I could have inferred all that; there are no warnings in game while purchasing equipment. I can guess many a would-be-adventurer bought the best gear they could afford before stepping outside and walking as if through molasses. (I actually did this while testing out the game... I wondered if my controller broke because I didn't move at all for a solid 10 seconds holding the d-pad).
You can change the speed of the game, to make it seem like you're walking normally again
Like Hydlide, combat is in real-time, but this game improves upon the charge-to-attack method of dealing with monsters with an actual attack button and weapons with range. Maneuvering around enemy fire is still a necessity, and it's best to sneak up behind or attack from the side, or if a frontal assault is imminent there is a crouch button. Normally, crouching is used for searching the ground, but it also increases evasion.

Let's finally get on to some of the game. I stocked up on some food rations and healing medicine for safety, and grabbed a club before heading into the field. I nearly died within the first minute due to underestimating the damage done by enemy projectiles. I popped open my first medicine to save myself, I'm sure it wouldn't be the last. I spent some time grinding on a few of the more docile enemies.
Take that slimes!
I was quickly weighed down with gold (yes, gold has weight too) and headed back into town to get my first level up. I also picked up the first spell, Illusion, which seems to spin enemies and myself around in place. I think it changed the music as well, so maybe it has a timed effect (manual says it just turns the enemies around). It's at this point, buying more supplies, that I noticed the cost had gone up a bit, and I then remembered something about a moral fiber attribute.

The way the morals work in this game is that enemies in the field are really broken up into two categories: good and evil. Good enemies are docile and won't attack unless provoked. Evil enemies launch into attack mode as soon as you're near. Well, I wasn't exactly waiting around to figure out the difference. I must of plowed through too many good enemies because my moral compass was lost (completely destroyed more like it). I had a 0, and somehow think it would be negative if the game allowed it. Ah well, I guess I'm evil.
My first 'quest'; I wonder what game will have the first quest journal
It was getting late (in-game time), so I headed over to the inn for a nap. Well, the inn is actually rather expensive, so I ended up needing to eat my last food ration to free up some weight in order to grind up some more gold. It seems like it's too easy to fall into a vicious cycle of killing enemies for gold just so you can sleep at night without losing your ability to fight. Sleeping is also how the game is saved.
You charge how much?
Feeling more comfortable and confident after a couple of levels, I started to branch off in straight lines from the starting town. I found some points of interest rather quickly:
I found the crevice!
There was a money changer here, which helps manage my weight by converting small coin denominations
Now were did I put my ID?
It looks like a small settlement, but it's actually a giant music box
This last place had a sound test for the music in one of the buildings. It's an odd addition to the main game, but a nice easter egg if you like the music. Personally, I'm not a fan of it, but it's not too grating. As far as I can tell it's all synthesized tracks. I think the title track is my favorite if I had to pick one, but I didn't sit long to enjoy them as we have a land to save, and probably a princess if we work our cards right.
This is the title of one of the music tracks... spoilers man!
At one point during my travels, after having gained a fair number of levels, I found my class had changed. I was no longer a monk, but a bishop. I would have thought that class more apt to follow priest, but who am I to argue.
Ah, not right now, I rather enjoy the title of monk

Oh, so by 'may' you meant 'must'
Rumors of the tower Habel drove me north. There I found what looked more like a cave than a tower. Inside offered more difficult monsters the deeper in I ventured. Further rumors suggested there was an elevator that needed power restored to operate. I found a magic talisman that does... something. According to the manual, it increases magic time.
That's one way to learn chests might be trapped
I made my way around the level and found the inoperable elevator. The enemies continued to increase in difficulty and soon I encountered vampires, which nearly killed me in a single hit.
Wow you're strong... I was at full health
On the fourth floor I found the power source for the elevator. Seems simple enough. I headed to the elevator to see just how many floors this tower has. Since there weren't any more stairs up, the elevator was really the only option. Well, let's see, 2nd, 3rd, 4th... what this?
I can count to one hundred: 1, 2... 100!
So, we basically skip to the end of the tower and have available floors 198 and 199. The top is said to have a giant beast. I don't think I'm quite ready to take it on, and I may purchase a bow and arrow to compliment my melee attacks.
I bought the arrow earlier, but found it lacking for normal enemies and I needed to travel lighter
There's also the mysterious castle that requires an ID card. The world on the whole seems small, and also wraps around, so I haven't gotten a good sense of exactly how small. I have the bankbook to find if I ever want to invest my money.

I've bought spells to cure poison, heal, advance time (haven't had a use for this yet, although I've used it twice), and I just learned 'Learn', which oddly just disarms trapped chests. I've bought some armor since I need the added protection. I noticed when I equipped it that the character sprite reflected the change. If didn't know Faxanadu did it first, then I'd be mighty impressed, even if it is a simple sprite overlay.
My current ax wielding fully armored... Bishop
Well, I wasn't expecting it, but I'm having a blast with this game. Maybe it's from coming into it after Wizardry, but so far the game has impressed me overall and done very little to irritate. I have high hopes for this one, although the world either needs to open up, or I'm going to be horribly lost for what to do next. There's always the chance it's just a really short game.

Session Time: 2h00m (Total Time: 2h00m)


  1. I'd have to say the opening track is one of my favorites too. Love those synth guitars. But this track is one of of my favorites, Dragon!!

    And here is the opening.

    The ending track is pretty decent too.

    I think this game got flack because for a 16 bit game the graphics were subpar. Barely superior to NES graphics. Although the sounds are good. Plus the weight and time management. But once you wrap your head around it its pretty decent. By far the best Hydlide game up to that point. This was Hydlide 3 in Japan. Being this was released about the same time as Phantasy Star 2, you could see how people would be underwhelmed. But the ending is pretty trippy when you get there and noteworthy. But seriously I would go to that fairy sound test room and play it in stereo on my friends stereo. At the time was pretty amazing.

    1. The graphics are poor compared to other Genesis games, but it's playable. I learned the sound test room is referenced by an NPC as the old concert hall. Who's playing the music though?

  2. Oh and I don't think the game is that long.

  3. Huh - glad you're enjoy it. To be honest, considering how much I hated Hydlide on NES, I'm also surprised you're enjoying it so much. Amusingly, I didn't even know they had made a Hydlide on the Genesis until years later - but I never really had an urge to go back and play it based on my sour NES experience with the first.

    1. I would guess this is true of a lot of gamers, but I don't know how much overlap there was between NES and Genesis gamers. Somehow the Saturn received a remake of the first Hydlide, Virutal Hydlide. We'll get to that one in a few years. Once again, I hear it's just as bad as the original, but who knows now.

  4. I'm glad you're enjoying this game. It's definitely an acquired taste with a significant learning curve, but given how many utterly interchangeable console RPGs are out there, I found that it was a pleasure to play something so distinctive and offbeat.

    BTW the world is pretty small, though some of the locations get a little more complicated. I found it worthwhile to map out the overworld, especially since the edges of the map connect in a slightly weird way (sort of like a Moebius strip or an offset sphere).

    Also, don't forget to duck (with B)! In the early stages of any new area (i.e. before I'd leveled up into near-invincibility), I found that combat was easiest if I slowed the game way down, ducked enemy projectiles, and got 2-3 hits in between each of their attacks.

    1. I'm still having fun. I'm keeping the speed on Normal (unless I get encumbered), and I've yet to use duck for projectiles (I keep forgetting). The game world seems small enough that I haven't bothered to map it even though I get lost sometimes. A lot of old RPGs used the wrap around square world: Ultima, Final Fantasy, Hydlide.

      I haven't reached near-invincibility yet, but I haven't spent too much time grinding levels. I have the invincibility spell now though, does that count? :)