Year released: 1989
I think we've all played our fair share of bad video games. In fact, if you haven't, you're likely to be harrassed by other gamers for managing to live a fairly sheltered life. But as bad as these games are, we know that for the most part, the ones making these games were still doing their best. Sure, playing Battletoads is like getting two chances to catch an elephant in a Dixie cup, but the graphics were pretty cool and you could tell there was at least some thought put into the level design. Golgo 13 probably wins the award for the Most Depressed Game Ever Made given its drab scenery and lethargic music, but they did give it some semblance of a plotline to encourage you onward, even though you'd probably run out of patience before you ran out of continues. Hell, even Adventure Island, an absolute pinnacle of mediocrity, managed to keep the game at least somewhat engaging before players realized that they were in essence playing the same four levels in a loop.
But Hydlide... it's like they didn't even bother. It's as if they left an incomplete prototype of a game they had started working on a week ago in a box with the games they actually meant to publish, only to realize too late that they were releasing a game that was about 20% complete. I mean, it has play mechanics, it has music, it has enough elements to make the game playable from start to finish without getting an error message, but to this day I find it hard to believe that the folks at FCI actually meant to sell this when they did.
The plot? Slay the dragon and rescue the princess. Again, maybe if they had had a little more time to give this game some more polish, they may have graduated beyond the most rudimentary of conflicts. Maybe the game would've been about slaying a wizard to rescue a princess. That would at least be slightly less predictable. Of course, it's only marginally more complicated than that: the aforementioned princess has been turned into three fairies, who must all be found before the face-off against the dragon can take place. And they decided to make you look for three jewels as well, so as to make the game twice as long, although by all accounts the game likely would've been long enough without this extra subquest. And it's in the plot that we see the first clue that perhaps this game was put out prematurely: the name of our protagonist is Jim. That's right. Jim. Not Kuros, not a descendant of Erdrick or Roas or some other name that has even a hint of knighthood to it. He's just Jim. And the name of the setting is Fairyland. I can't even come up with anything snooty to say about that.
The only element of the game that I can say anything that may be construed as praise about is the game's graphics. Jim is passably drawn, and admittedly more colorful that that descendant of Erdrick I mentioned. The castles in this game have some nice detail to them as well. But even this is dragged down by the animation, is comes off as being extremely jerky. None of enemies seem to travel across the screen; they just kinda pop from one square to the next, displaying their two frames of animation on each tile of the screen before instantly jumping to the next tile. Considering the battle design of this game, it makes lining up enemies that much harder.
Now then. time for clue #2 that Hydlide was released about 6 months too soon. If ever you should be unlucky enough to own this game, and if ever you should be placed under a compromising mental state which would compel you to place this game into your NES and turn the power on, then I ask that you heed this warning. Do not - I repeat, DO NOT - attempt to play this game with the volume on your television at any level other than 0. If you do, then you will become victim to the single most repetitive an inane string of 8 measures that have ever been composed. Many have likened it to the Indiana Jones theme, and it certainly derives its opening phrase from the John Williams favorite, but only if this movie is Indiana Jones and the Missing Box of Crayons. And it lasts an entire 15 seconds long, meaning you'll hear it 4 times a minute, which means you'll hear it several hundred times in the course of a game, which means you'll be hearing it for the rest of your life. I'm warning you. Don't listen to the music if you value your sanity.
As if watching and listening to the game for 5 seconds wasn't enough to drive you away screaming in terror and psychopathy, the control schematics for this game are equally bad. Of course, pushing on the control pad will prompt Jim to move in the appropriate direction, but that's just about all they get right. Most commonly addressed - and most egregious - is the fact that in order to attack enemies, your method of fighting involves little more than approaching your target from a direction that the enemy isn't traveling in, pushing the B button to activate "Attack" mode, and running into said enemy. With any luck, the slime you went after will kill you in two hits. Or, after a full second of humping this creature from the side, it will disappear and you'll gain one little line of experience. You can play the game at regular speed or in fast mode, but that doesn't really affect the controls at all. This is clue #3 that this title was prematurely released: maybe they were going to implement a battle design that actually involved using a weapon on an enemy, and inflicting and taking damage based on the strength of said weapon and said enemy, but they not got around to it. So instead, you're playing tag. Only sometimes when you tag something, you die.
Now if you know me, you know that I have a few pet peeves when it comes to video games. The biggest one is when action games star heroes that are supposed to be our last hope against the foe du jour, but die if an enemy flicks a booger onto him. My second biggest pet peeve is when adventure games have no mechanism to continue playing if you die. Granted, Hydlide has a password - albeit a very long-winded one - but you can only collect them in the middle of the game. If you forget to pick up a password and you die, sucks to be you. Also, Hydlide does have a save system, but it doesn't have a battery. Meaning the save only works if you reload without turning the system off. Once you do that, your progress goes poof. And again, if you die before you get around to saving, you're sent back to the beginning. Yet another clue that this game was in its developmental stages, because they likely would've gotten around to making this a battery-save if they could have.
To be honest, I've played this game more than I've played some other games. Some games I had in my collection that I never once slipped into the console. But every time I've played this game, I can't remember one moment where I was actually having fun. I don't even remember enjoying the times I intentionally sent Jim to his watery death by making him drown in the water. (I forgot to mention - Jim can swim. For a finite period of time.) There are some games that you can't not enjoy yourself with. This is a game that I have never enjoyed playing. There are some games of the ones that I'm selling that I may miss down the road, but this is certainly not one of them.
In order to be labeled as one of the worst games on the NES, you not only have to be lacking in quality, because a lot of NES games do that. Hydlide is the lowest-scoring game I've ever rated not just because it's bad, but because the faults indicate that the game wasn't even finished yet.
|Play Control: ||
|Technical Score: 5
|Aesthetic Score: 5
|Overall Score: 24%|