Dynamite Duke (Genesis) review
"Not a single enemy or background object — not even a parking meter right in front of you — can be hit with a melee attack. Until you reach the end-of-level boss, your punches and kicks are futile, harmlessly poking through whatever onscreen sprite you're trying to bash."
After the generic presentation of Raiden, I never dreamed I'd see serpentine mutants bursting from cloning chambers or cybernetic soldiers fighting halftracks face-to-face... not from Seibu Kaihatsu, anyways. But they proved me wrong -- they delivered a fun, intense, creative, shooting-brawling hybrid that blew my steel-toed boots off. That game was called Dynamite Duke.
As The Double Dynamites (a two-player cooperative revision) hit arcades a year later, Sega released a neutered port of the original for their infant Genesis. They also reprogrammed much of the fun right out of the cartridge. Worse graphics, missing levels, fewer bosses, and jenkier controls -- "less" was the standard (but not the rule) for arcade-to-Genesis conversions in those earliest of days. I'm talking before gems like Strider hit the market.
Inferior port or not, the game's concept still brimmed with coolness. Dynamite Duke's setup resembles ye olde Hogan's Alley, but with two important differences. First: the screen slowly scrolls left to right (like Operation Wolf). Second: the buzz-cut blonde cyborg Duke Rippem -- a studly soldier who probably inspired Duke Nukem -- is visible onscreen at all times, so you can move around and even duck to avoid bullets while mowing down the evil Dr. Ashe's army. Since the developers planted Duke right in the middle of the action, they even gave him a few close-range moves: kicks, punches, pistol whips, and uppercuts.
This was a brilliant innovation, but sadly a wasted one. Not a single enemy or background object -- not even a parking meter right in front of you -- can be hit with a melee attack. Until you reach the end-of-level boss, your punches and kicks are futile, harmlessly poking through whatever onscreen sprite you're trying to bash.
Sega didn't even get the boss fights right. Now that's not to say they aren't fun -- they are, since in those you can actually choose between punching and shooting -- but the game only has six levels (as opposed to the arcade's eight), and you'll battle palette-swapped pigmen or flamethrowing firemen on multiple occasion. Why didn't Sega keep the arcade game's ninja-like boss or its crazy lab mutant? The world may never know.
It's fun to show off my experience by making obscure comparisons, but let's be honest here. Back when I first played Dynamite Duke in 1990, I hadn't heard of "The Double Dynamites". Hell, I didn't even know Dynamite Duke was originally an arcade game until 2004. It wasn't in my arcades. My arcades only had popular games. Good games. Games like Smash TV and Strider. Classics that you could really sink your quarters into. Hell, one arcade actually had the mega-awesome Captain Commando, but not even the slimiest dive hosted Dynamite Duke.
So for all my extensive research (translation: I looked at some arcade screenshots), the Genesis port remains my only experience with Dynamite Duke. And it would have remained a great experience forever if not for my friends who did their best to ruin my innocent fun. SNES-loving friends. Friends who pointed out that the sticks of dynamite strongly resemble ketchup bottles, and the big red bombs hurled by grenadiers look more like Christmas ornaments than any kind of incendiary device. I don't know about you, but I have a hard time taking a military action game seriously when enemy soldiers attack with ketchup and holiday decorations. Dynamite Duke is fun, but it's far from classic.
Staff review by Zigfried (November 16, 2005)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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