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Hydlide (NES) artwork

Hydlide (NES) review

"While this place is guarded by a seemingly immortal dragon, thatís of little concern to Jim, as all this beast does is go back and forth aimlessly. If Jimís not directly in its never-changing path, it ignores him. Apparently Varalys doesnít pay his employees enough for them to give a damn. I (typing this at work) can relate."

Even though versions of the first two Ys games were on Nintendoís Famicom, they werenít ported to the United States for us NES-owning Americans to enjoy. Donít ask me why -- I have no idea why they werenít considered worthy to reach our shores while a horribly-designed knock-off like Hydlide got the red carpet treatment.

Itís obvious that Hydlide attempts to emulate Ys. Both games handle combat the same way. Instead of tapping a controller button to swing a sword, battling is done by running into monsters. While careening into enemies from the front can be quite damaging to your hero, even tough monsters can be easily bested if youíre able to get behind them.

Unfortunately, thatís where the similarities end, as Hydlide wastes no time in showing itís in a league of its own. Really, the only positive thing I could possibly say about the game is that itís pitifully short, so the pain of playing it wonít last TOO long. Iíd guess itís possible to beat Hydlide in about an hour -- with most of that time being used to build levels by killing the same dull enemies over and over again.

There simply isnít much substance to this amateurish effort. The ďplotĒ is that the demonic Varalys fired some sort of magic spell at a princess and split her into three fairies, which he hid throughout a really tiny kingdom. Fortunately, a knight named Jim plans to save the day, even though heís utterly inept at fighting. As the game begins, his life meter is so small it barely can be seen with the naked eye. While the slimes and kobalds that aimlessly wander across the overworld are pathetically weak, it doesnít take much to prematurely end Jimboís mission.

But after beating an ungodly amount of weak foes (all the while listening to the same constantly looping 10-15 seconds of music), he gains a level and now has a little margin for error. Then he gains another. At this point, youíll notice those slimes and kobalds no longer give ANY experience. Sadly, Jim now must leave the relative safety of the gameís first screen.

Hopefully, youíll do a wee bit of exploring before heading off to the first real storyline objective -- the one hole in the ground leading to a dungeon thatís not pitch black (found by trial-and-error). One treasure chest found a few screens west of the starting location contains a cross, which is needed to kill that dungeonís vampiric inhabitant. Also needed to win this fight is one hell of a lot of tolerance, as this is the point youíll likely realize Hydlideís not just bad, but actually a sick joke wrapped up in a nice plastic cartridge.

In an attempt to enhance Ysí battle system, FCI allows you to fight in either ďdefenseĒ or ďattackĒ mode. Using the default ďdefenseĒ option is safer, but takes longer to kill monsters. Running into an enemy from behind in ďattackĒ mode is far more lethal, but if theyíre facing you, poor Jimís in a lot of trouble. To fight this vampire effectively, youíll have to get behind it and run into it while hitting the ďAĒ button to switch to ďattackĒ. If the monster turns around and faces you at this time, itís GAME OVER. Oh, and the vampire doesnít move in any real pattern. All it does is aimlessly move around the narrow corridors of its screen. It doesnít try to attack Jim. It doesnít try to get away from him. All it does is run around mindlessly, confident that the stupid knight blundering around its lair will either screw up and get killed or get bored with this high-stakes game of tag and leave.

What happens if you win this fight? Jim gets an item that allows him to see in the gameís other dungeons! Well, ďdungeonĒ probably isnít the best word for these places, as the largest one encompasses a whopping three screens. Anyway, you now can access virtually the entire kingdom, which allows you to move on from playing tag with a vampire to playing hide-and-seek with the three princess-fairies. Oh! And also killing a few million graveyard zombies to build a few more levels. After all, nothing makes a really short, poorly designed game better than adding a few stretches of tedious monster-killing.

At this point, you might be wondering exactly where Varalys would hide three fairies in this kingdom. The answer: the least logical places to stash anything valuable. You wonít find any of them in treasure chests or dungeons -- however, when youíre on a screen loaded with trees containing easily-angered wasps....well, you can be sure Varalys just found the perfect hiding spot! Even if it is a mere one screen south of where Jim starts his mission!

And the fun continues! After getting all three fairies, Jim gets teleported to right outside Varalysí castle. While this place is guarded by a seemingly immortal dragon, thatís of little concern, as all this beast does is go back and forth aimlessly. If Jimís not directly in its never-changing path, it ignores him. Apparently Varalys doesnít pay his employees enough for them to give a damn. I (typing this at work) can relate. With a previously useless fire spell, you can burn down a tree in front of the castle to infiltrate the demonís domain. Varalys isnít here, but a tombstone is! Touching it causes all the water in the kingdom to disappear, which somehow makes the lazy guardian dragon vulnerable to damage. It also probably eventually destroys the entire ecosystem of the gameís world, but letís allow Jim to revel in this moment of triumph, shall we?

Jimís battle with the dragon makes his tussle with the vampire seem fun. Basically all you have to do is run into the beast (in ďdefenseĒ mode, unless you want to die really quickly) until you get low on life. Then, step away from the beast and wait for your health to recharge. Repeat those steps until the monster is dead. Obviously, a very strategic use of complex tactics is necessary here.....

And from there, all thatís left is to get another item or two from what used to be the kingdomís river and head back to Varalysí castle, where the demon has finally deigned to fight Jim in a battle thatíll be right up there with those memorable clashes with the vampire and dragon. Follow that up with a short, unfulfilling ending and, well, thatís another game beaten!

Many people consider Hydlide to be right up there in any discussion concerning the worst NES games ever created. They are right. The entire world of this game probably would fit in the final dungeon of The Legend of Zelda and youíll spend at least two-thirds of your playing time mindlessly building levels. This is the sort of game youíd expect to see on a friendís computer as some incomplete project they were ineptly designing with one of those game-creating programs -- not something that actually sold for real money in real stores.

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 22, 2007)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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