hydlide

Let me begin this post by saying the following: I actually legitimately, unironically love Hydlide. To a lot of people, this sounds ludicrous; like my myriad of mental illnesses have finally taken over to the point where I will say with 100% sincerity that Hydlide is a good video game.

This sounds ludicrous because, outside of Japan, Hydlide has been a running joke for so many years now. Frequently torn apart in reviews, most notably with the Angry Video Game Nerd and, ugh, ProJared. Given that its two biggest detractors are a gimmick not meant to be taken seriously, and a guy who got caught showing his dick to children last year, I feel like the game deserves better in the English speaking critical world. Which is why I’m here.

I’ll try to avoid going too in-depth in Hydlide’s history, since you can just read up on that on Wikipedia, but maybe a bit of context is necessary. Hylide was released in 1984 on Japanese computers, and along with Falcom’s Dragon Slayer and Namco’s Tower of Druaga (all released within months of one another), it kicked off the whole Action-RPG subgenre. So like, The Legend of Zelda would have been a game influenced by Hydlide. And also, strangely enough, Metal Gear Solid 5.

It was a big hit in Japan. However, over here, we did not get Hydlide until 1989, five years later. So we’ve already played at least two Zeldas, Faxanadu, and several other action-RPGs that long since expanded upon Hydlide’s foundation. Hell, Hydlide 2 and 3 were already out in Japan, with the Sega Genesis port of Hydlide 3 coming out in the US later in the same year. As a result, and without any context regarding Hydlide’s influence, all people saw was this game that looked worse, sounded worse, and arguably played worse (“arguably” is an editorial insert) that games that had come out in the past half decade.

But with all that said, I still like it. Charm and personality go a long way for me. I mean, the main character is a knight named Jim. Hardly a heroic name, to be certain. Jim the Knight has to rescue Ann the Princess from a demon named Varalys, who uses his magic to turn her into three fairies, who have been displaced across the country. It’s a very simple, stupid story that I can’t help but like it. It’s a game made during a time when technology and experience wasn’t really there to put together a compelling narrative. You combine that with its very lo-fi art style that I find to be very cute, and it’s a good time.

Admittedly, a lot of my love for these old, obtuse games tends to be superficial. Lo-fi graphics, nonsensical progression that sometimes feels like you’re accidentally making progress, big fan of all that. And Hydlide is full of it. Having to find a cross out in a field, so you can fight the Vampire in the castle. Searching a grouping of trees to find the right tree that contains a fairy, the others containing a group of dangerous bees. Having to defeat the Wizard by hitting him and his magic duplicate with a single “Wave” spell, which only travels horizontally, and you have to fight in a small vertical space. Avoiding a massive dragon, burning down a tree that blocks entry to the castle it’s guarding, also the only time you have to use magic on something besides an enemy. Like, this all sounds like a game design nightmare, but I love it. I’m not sure what it is about this era of esoteric cartoon logic design, but it’s extremely appealing to me. Probably because I grew up in a time where you needed to crouch and wait for a tornado, or blow up random walls, or stand in front of a waterfall for five minutes in real time. Probably because I’ve fallen back in love with obtuse shit in a post-Demon’s Souls world. Although, quick side bar: Falcom’s Legacy of the Wizard goes way too fucking far with that shit. There is a limit to what people can take.

Here’s a secret thing for you here: in this section of the desert, you have to hit three worms with one wave spell.

And when you do, these dinosaur footprints appear in the sand, and you get a full magic meter and unlimited magic for a short time. Of course, outside of two specific instances I’ve already mentioned, magic is more or less completely useless (it was added to the Famicom version to give it some added appeal to an audience more than familiar with the PC original), but it’s cool that it’s there.

So much like me, the game is cute and weird. And also like me, it has its problems. For one, something that will make itself readily apparent the moment you start the game is that fucking music. An irritating ten second loop that’s nearly a note-for-note ripoff of the Indiana Jones theme. It’s actually the title theme to Hydlide 2, but some rocket scientist at T&E Soft thought that a short loop originally meant for an opening “PRESS START TO CONTINUE” screen would be appropriate for the length of an entire game. My advice would be to turn down your emulator and listen to something a little more appropriate. Or at least something that doesn’t even last a full thirty seconds. That being said, it may as well be Yuzo Koshiro’s entire catalogue compared to the PC music, which is best described as a five second loop of noise.

Another complaint is that, because the game is so short, the grind for experience so bosses and higher-level enemies don’t immediately kill you can be long and tedious. I’ve alleviated this by using the Hydlide Rebalance ROM Hack, which reduces the grind by a significant amount.

You may have noticed that I’ve been talking about the Famicom port, and not the original computer game. This is because I skipped over it in favor of its 1999 remake. Yes, Hydlide has not one, but at least two remakes.

And the Hydlide remake is pretty much the same thing, but with new graphics and some new sound effects that sound as though they came from AOL Instant Messenger.

Main difference is that the magic system is not implemented here, so a couple of things are slightly different. For one, to defeat the Wizard, you just have to stab him and his clone after he’s shot you with his fire spell five times. And for the castle at the end, you just hit the space bar on the empty space in front of it.

The other difference is that rather than fixing the grind of the original game, the developers instead opted to include an “Overdrive!” mode. Press O on your keyboard, and you pretty much become completely overpowered, take almost no damage, and gain experience several times faster than you would normally. You can even one-shot the final boss while in Overdrive. So yeah, Hydlide Remake literally has a “win” button.

But it does have a neat feature of being able to switch back and forth between the new graphics, and the original PC look.

You can nab this version over at the Internet Archive. Keep in mind though that it does not include the arranged CD music, so you have to live with the shitty five second loop I mentioned earlier.

There was another remake on the Sega Saturn released a couple years earlier called Virtual Hydlide. It’s really good, but I feel like it’s deserving of its own write-up, due to how vastly different it is from the original (think along the lines of Resident Evil on Playstation compared to Resident Evil on Gamecube). I did do a stream of it last year, if you got a couple hours to kill and want to watch me play the game and make jokes the whole time.

Looking through the manual for Hydlide on the Famicom, there’s something towards the end that may catch your eye. Admittedly, this is actually the main reason I made this post in the first place.

It’s an advertisement for a cross-promotional single for Hydlide Special (the name of the Famicom port). The singer in question is Mayumi Chiwaki. Her heyday was in the 80s-early 90s, followed by short comeback from the the late 90s until 2001, where she settled into a radio gig.

I was a bit disappointed at first, if only because of my own brain immediately associating all 80s J-Pop with City Pop, and the dreamy synths it contains. But that’s just me being me. The song itself is fine, and it’s definitely a far cry from the Idol shit I posted in my piece on Heinkyo Alien.

Unfortunately, you can’t just search for “ANGEL BLUE” on YouTube and hope to find the track. This is thanks to Japanese music labels and their severe allergy to anyone actually being able to listen to their music. The most you’re going to get is a guy pointing a camcorder at his record player. It’s pretty fucking grim.

LUCKILY FOR YOU, I happen to have the song, which I’ve gone ahead and uploaded.

mayumi chiwaki- angel blue

That’s Hydlide. A weird game that deserves better, especially now that thanks to From Software, jank is back in style. Go into it understanding that thirty-something years of technology and design has since built off of it, but you should still have fun with it.

 

heiankyo alien

Meant to have a blog post done last week, but that had to wait. I ended up catching a really nasty cold, instead. Nasty to the point of losing my voice for several days, and spending all of Friday in bed, because I was so light-headed and dizzy that being off my feet for more than a few minutes didn’t end well for me.

But it all worked out. I’m feeling a bit better (my nose is still ungodly clogged, and I have a bit of a cough), and I managed to find a better subject to post about. This would have been its own special page on my site, but I got a new computer over the holidays, and as such, I’ve lost my completely legitimately purchased and honestly and ethically installed copy of Adobe Dreamweaver, so it’s a blog post. Besides, blog posts are the future. They were the past, but they’ll be the future again once people finally start listening to me. So let’s do a post about a video game!

Heiankyo Alien was a computer game, according to legend, hastily developed in 1979 by a group of college students at the University of Tokyo after a news reporter was disappointed to find out that they didn’t develop video games. But then a couple days later, the team came up with a game concept, which was apparently enough back in those days to get arcade manufacturers lined up to try and get a deal with you. Long story short, it became something of a success, and got a bunch of ports and remakes, which I’m going to be talking about here.

Now, I don’t have the original computer game, but that’s okay, because it runs like shit anyway. Instead, I have the arcade port that came out a year later.

And…it’s fine. It holds up fairly well for a game of its age, maybe not on the level of say, Space Invaders, but still good nonetheless. The object of this game is that you’re a cop running around the streets of an alien infested Heian-era Kyoto, digging holes, waiting for the aliens to fall into them, then burying them alive, joining Dig-Dug in the sub-genre of “gruesome ways to die presented as a cutesy fun arcade game.” Like I said, it’s still really fun, and totally playable today. A couple of complaints: aliens move really fast and erratically, while you move slowly and dig even slower. And unlike something like Pac-Man, there’s no set A.I for the aliens, either. They’re content to run around in any random direction they choose, which can be a problem when you have your pit defenses all set, only for the last couple aliens to fuck off to the other side of the level.

like so

Later on, we got to the real shit. A company called Meldac, which are responsible for Abarenbou Tengu/Zombie Nation on NES, which was…okay, I guess, and the fucking awesome Mercenary Force on Game Boy, did their own remake of Heiankyo Alien.

Now here’s something I don’t really talk about much, for whatever reason: I fucking love the original Game Boy library. There’s a whole list of stone cold classics that little brick had, and I would consider the GB port of Heiankyo Alien to be right up there. Ain’t even kidding; you got your Super Mario Land, your Link’s Awakening, your Batman, your Avenging Spirit, your Final Fantasy Legend 2, and then you got your Heiankyo Alien.

Fuck Tetris, this is the addicting puzzle game you need on your Game Boy/Game Boy emulator. Everything is faster now. Moving and digging is so much easier to pull off, leaving you more time to prepare your routing strategies and avoiding wandering aliens. Yes, the A.I is still entirely random, but the smaller screen size means it’s easier for them to get you. It also means it’s easier for them to fall into holes you dig. It’s a fast-paced, fun as hell game that you’ll find yourself playing for way longer than you expected. Plus there’s all these neat new gimmicks, like steel floors that prevent you from digging through them, walls that rise and fall to prevent/allow movement through them, and a boat that can take you to the opposite end of a map, but you need to wait for it to dock before you can hop on-board. It also comes with a slightly compromised port of the original arcade game, if you’re into that.

I cannot recommend Heiankyo Alien on Game Boy highly enough. Play it late at night, turn the sound down a little bit, turn up something a little heavy, and have a good time burying those aliens.

There was also an ad campaign in several magazines at the time. These ads were actually really good, especially given the time period, with all its in-your-face, my console’s dick is bigger than your console’s dick bullshit.

Really classy shit. It should be noted that these ads gave us the greatest line in copywriting history:

HEIANKYO ALIEN IS A GAME EVERYONE CAN ENJOY

There’s also a Super Famicom version of the game. It’s…there. I’m not a big fan. It looks nice, but it controls terribly, and the power-up system feels completely tacked on. Feels like it’s trying to be more like Bomberman than Heiankyo. Maybe try it out for five minutes, I don’t know.

That was how I knew Heiankyo Alien, as this really sick Game Boy game. Then, during this past week, I was informed that a new HA was released back in 2017, giving it a scoring system and aesthetic in the vein of Pac-Man Championship Edition. I threw the $13 the game cost right at my computer screen, hoping it would make the transaction go faster.

This is Heiankyo Alien 3671.

it’s a lot less confusing than it looks

You get five minutes to bury as many aliens as you can. You get score multipliers for walking around blocks, digging up hidden items, and burying aliens of the same color. It also includes the ability to distract aliens with a piece of candy, something planned, then cut, for the original computer game. The different songs included are all really good at getting into that “high-score zen” state of mind, including a hidden track you can find that’s done with the Yamaha 2612 chip, which is the same sound chip the Sega Mega Drive used. Again, it’s a very fun and addicting game that’s well worth your time, even if I think that the Game Boy game is superior due to its level design.

There’s some remade graphics, but I don’t like them as much as the old ones.

There’s not really much else to say about it other than it’s Heiankyo Alien, but with more stuff. Speaking of, there’s a greyed-out option on the main menu that caught my eye.

There was supposed to be an “idol version” of the game. I looked into it, and apparently, the Heian police officer would be replaced with one of the members of the idol group GUILDOLL. But since it’s now unplayable, with the only trance of its existence being a short WAV file of a GUILDOLL song, it’s clear that the deal ended up falling through.

This led to me actually looking up GUILDOLL, to see what they were all about. It looks like they’re not a particularly big or notable group, seeing as their shows all take place in these small venues.

Now, as someone who has been to many a small venue to check out local acts, there’s nothing really wrong with that, but you combine that tiny, intimate setting with the crowd, and there’s a problem. Watching these videos, you start to notice that there are a lot of male voices in that crowd. Older male voices. A lot of older men really excited to watch a group of young girls dance and lip-synch to a backing track. Now, I know about the grossness of “idol” culture, but it seems so much sadder and sinister when it’s happening in the kind of smoke-filled shithole I would have some drinks and listen to Ivory Circle or Danielle Ate The Sandwich in. Kind of fucked up.

But yeah, Heiankyo Alien. It rules, regardless of its format (Super Famicom not included), and you should play it.

retail memorabilia gaiden: that time i was at a kotaku event

I should open this with a disclaimer here: the events that I’ll be recounting happened all the way back in 2011. I was also very, very drunk at the time. As a result, I would pre-emptively ask any forgiveness if my memory tends to be hazy or incoherent at times during this post.

Anyways. Back in 2011, things were a little weird for me. I was at home, sitting at my computer, drinking my morning coffee, and checking my messages. While I was doing this, I heard a very loud hissing sound. There was a lot of construction going on outside my apartment at the time, so I ignored it. But I could no longer ignore it when I stepped into my bathroom, and noticed that the floor was extremely wet. That wasn’t construction work outside, the pipes in my bathroom burst, and now my floor was rapidly starting to flood. Long story short, my carpet had to be torn out and completely replaced. Twice, actually, because the first time was an incompetent rush job. And because the plumber took his sweet ass time showing up and shutting the water off (the complex’s water supply is locked, you see), I ended up with black mold on and in the walls, which meant I couldn’t stay there until everything had been fixed and cleaned up. So for the next month, I lived in a motel. Luckily, this stay was paid for by my landlord, so it cost me nothing but the headache of having to be here in the first place. I ate a lot of pizza and brownies, played a lot of Pokemon White, which had just come out (I got White because I accurately predicted everyone I knew would get Black), and got some really good sleep on a surprisingly comfortable bed.

I didn’t really have much else to do at the time, other than wait for my home to be fixed. This was also around the time that Japan had been rocked by that horrible earthquake and tsunami. In response to that, Brian Crecente decided to host a charity event. Because he used to run Kotaku, and Japan=video games, apparently. Not because it was the right thing to do or anything. This was still back when Kotaku was a garbage website with no real quality, before it had its renaissance of having a couple good pieces, mixed with “Why Agent 47 Is The Queer Representation We Need” and “Why Masturbating To Child Pornography Is Good, Actually.” Side note: that fucking child porn article caused me to have a CSA-induced flashback/breakdown combo. So thanks for that, assholes.

Crecente and I both live in Colorado, and the event was held within walking distance of the motel I was staying at. It was at Cervantes Ballroom, a place I hadn’t been to since 2005, when my old roommate and I went to see Chiodos and Portugal The Man in concert. I’m hoping the venue was chosen because its relatively large size, and not because Cervantes also happens to be the name of a Soul Calibur character.

At risk of sounding like I’m too cool for the room, because after all, I was attending an event hosted by a video game website, this was exactly what you would expect. Lots of stereotypical nerds with no real social experience huddled around game merch and a couple of consoles hooked up on the ground floor. There was a small LAN center on the balcony, so if you wanted to play Counter-Strike or Starcraft (AND NOTHING ELSE), you could do that. And on the stage? You think maybe because this a music hall, there would be a band performing? Of course not. It was only a projector, and XBox 360, and a copy of Rock Band. For anyone who is unaware, Denver has a great music scene. A lot of amazing bands would certainly be available. Or, you could watch a bunch of random weirdos play plastic instruments. That works, right?

I realized pretty quickly that I was out of place. Sure, I love me some games, maybe even too much. But I’m not, and never will be, a “gamer.” I came in wearing a nice shirt, nice pants, a sweet jacket (it was cold this time of year), things you would wear if you were out at a nice club for an event. Everyone else was wearing shitty jeans and shirts with mystery stains. Not exactly “club” material.

pictured: me in formal attire (at the time, anyway). my scarf makes it look like i don’t have a chin, sorry about that. not sure why i put my hair behind my glasses frame, i’ll chalk it down to being drunk.

So as you do when you’re out at club and things are weird: you go and get drunk. And drunk I got. Apparently, as the bartenders had informed me, I was literally the only person there who ordered anything besides a glass of water. As a result, they gave me my “usual” a vodka/Red Bull combo in the Long Island Iced Tea glasses. If you’ve never seen one of those, understand that that level of alcohol, in that glass, got me fucked the fuck up in a hurry. This is where things start to become a bit of a blur.

One thing that sticks out to me is when I needed to use the bathroom. There was a line outside the men’s room. The first thing that comes to mind is, what the fuck? Why would there be a line to the bathroom at a club? They are designed to hold a large number of people. So I ask the guy at the front of the line what the deal is. His answer?

“Oh…there’s someone in there already.”

Now this is the part where I’m too cool for the room. I open the door, to show everyone that in public venues such as this, there’s more than one stall! And guess what? There was nobody in that bathroom! These people, who were all apparently adults, did not realize that there’s no line to a club bathroom. I took a piss, and walked out laughing.

Because this was an event for charity, here’s where the money raising things started to happen. Aside from the $10 cover charge, there was also an auction for various game memorabilia happening. If I had the money for it, I could’ve gone home with a physical copy of the Mega Man 9 box art, eternally tying me to that cursed game.

POINT OF THIS BLOG POST NOW

At some point during the night, I somehow managed to actually socialize with a small group of people. One of them was a cute girl in a Symphony of the Night t-shirt. That’s about all I remember about any of them. But while this was happening, and I was shaking my head at Brian Crecente’s incredibly cringe-worthy stage presence (complete with wearing a Denver Nuggets jersey and trying to speak “jive”), someone had approached us holding a small cardboard box. He informed us that it was a Lego model for some Lego game that was meant to be put up for auction, but the guy dropped it, causing the pieces to break off and leave the model unfinished. In his embarrassment, he asked us if any of us wanted it. Me, hella wasted, said yeah. I didn’t have to pay for it, and plus I got a free box to put my motel shit in. Things get really hazy after that. The cute girl talked me into going up on stage with her and her friends to play Rock Band. I think we did a Muse song. Was Muse ever actually in Rock Band? I don’t remember, and neither do you. Thankfully, for all the official Kotaku pictures taken that night, none of them feature me. Simply admitting this is embarrassing enough.

The next morning, it was dark, it was cold, and I was hung over. I spent the day opening up that box, and putting the model together.

And here it is, pictured taken literally the moment I finished it.

My apartment was eventually fixed up. I still live there now, actually. And Wall-E still sits on my desk, next to my other collectible toys.

I end this post by doing something Brian Crecente didn’t have the wherewithal to do: actually showcase a local Denver musician.

ivory circle- insomnia