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Super Hydlide

Year released: 1991
Company: FCI
Genre: Adventure

Make no bones about it: Hydlide is the single worst NES game I've ever played. I could get into all of the things that made it such a horrible game, but that would probably be best reserved for a review of its own (as soon as I've done something bad enough to deserve playing it again). I bought this game in a moment of weakness some time ago, curious to see just how poorly the folks at FCI could pull off the translation. It took a while for me to get up the courage to play this thing1, but I eventually did plug Super Hydlide into my Genesis and awaited the suckiness that would no doubt follow.

But what's this? I was playing this game and... and... liked it! It wasn't just that I noticed improvements (Heck, how could you not improve on Hydlide?), but I was actually enjoying my playing experience. That never happened before with the original - not even in an masochistic, MST3K-like sense. And so, if you want me to harp on this game as badly as I did Hydlide, I'm afraid I'll have to disappoint you. Super Hydlide makes improvements on every facet of the game, in some instances turning what was once its weakest link to its strongest.2

We'll start with the storyline. It appears that not all is well in Fairyland anymore; a large column of fire rose up from the ground one night, and since then major catastrophes have been taking place. It's up to your character to put right what is wrong. Now, granted, it's not going to win any awards, but the fact that NPCs are around to fill out the story and provide some extra atmosphere and the fact that it's no longer the mere "slay the dragon/rescue the princess" premise used in the prequel makes the plot easier to stomach. Still, I could live without the large number of NPCs that say - and I'm quoting here - "!?" Yes, I know that it's necessary for some filler townspeople, but if they're not going to say anything at all, why have them?

The audiovisuals have also been made better. The graphics now look a little more crisp and colorful. Of course, they'd better, since we are moving up a rung on the console ladder. Those who've played Hydlide before will be familiar with the screen layout, and this time the status bars are a little more easily discernable. There isn't enough detail, though, and while I like how your character changes with different equipment being used, I'd much rather that he have a face. The music, though, is where this thing really shines, and where this game makes its biggest improvement. The original theme to Hydlide was a 15-second-long equivalent to Chinese Water Torture. It sounded like the theme to Indiana Jones (if Indiana Jones were 5 years old) and played everywhere. The soundtrack to Super Hydlide, however, is absolutely magnificent. It's some of the best Genesis music I've heard to date, with some really rocking tunes. And the fact that there's a sound test seals it: for the first time, the series makes the largest possible improvement in one category's score, from a 1 to a 6.

I wish I could continue singing praises about the Play Control, though. It is better than the original; that awful Attack/Defend junk was thrown out the window, and now the game plays pretty much like a Zelda clone. There are also some RPG-like menus thrown in for item use and player organization, too. But there's one glaring flaw in the whole thing: the whole concept of weight capacity. You see, there's only so much stuff the character can carry before he slows down considerably and becomes much more vulnerable to hits. Even money has weight. It's a neat idea in theory, but I really have problems with it. It can sometimes be frustrating to be low on food or poisoned, trying to amble your way to the next town.

The game isn't too terribly hard, although the actual learning curve may be backwards a bit. Since the overworld mainly consists of the same three enemies everywhere, starting out can be very difficult. You've lost the ability that you had to regain hit points by standing still, so all it takes in the early going is two or three hits and it's Game Over. As you go up in levels, though, the overworld becomes so much of a cakewalk that eventually you'll never lose energy from anyone. You do need to keep an eye on food and rest, though, since failing to do either at the required time causes a steady drain on your life force. Again, since everything weighs you down, I'm not particularly fond of having to give up some load capacity to carry food.

And now, the big question: Is the game fun? Perhaps it was because I overestimated how bad the game would be, but I've had a ball playing it. There are places where the enjoyment drops - largely because you're making several trips to the same place - but as a whole I'm having a much better time playing this game than I did with its older brother, and I'm much more interested in pursuing this game to the end than I was before. This is probably the most enjoyable Genesis game I have that doesn't use the word "Hedgehog" in its title. The music certainly helps; I always like playing games with a good soundtrack. It's also a relatively short game, so if youre looking for an adventure with quick but enjoyable campaigns, this is certainly where to look.

In short, Super Hydlide did everything it should have done in the first place. With nearly everything fixed from its NES version, it makes an unprecedented 48-point jump in the scoring scale, and it deserves every point.

1. Although not nearly as much time as I needed to play Uninvited - I had that one for months before trying it out.

2. Too bad I'll never get on that show - not only am I not heartless enough, they've already had a student from Ventura on there.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 13
Challenge: (Easy)
Thrill: (Boring)
Aesthetic Score: 19
Overall Score: 76%