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Hydlide (NES) artwork

Hydlide (NES) review

"While this place is guarded by a seemingly immortal dragon, that’s of little concern to Jim, as all this beast does is go back and forth aimlessly. If Jim’s not directly in its never-changing path, it ignores him. Apparently Varalys doesn’t 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 Nintendo’s Famicom, they weren’t ported to the United States for us NES-owning Americans to enjoy. Don’t ask me why -- I have no idea why they weren’t considered worthy to reach our shores while a horribly-designed knock-off like Hydlide got the red carpet treatment.

It’s 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 you’re able to get behind them.

Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities end, as Hydlide wastes no time in showing it’s in a league of its own. Really, the only positive thing I could possibly say about the game is that it’s pitifully short, so the pain of playing it won’t last TOO long. I’d guess it’s 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 isn’t much substance to this amateurish effort. The “plot” 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 he’s 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 doesn’t take much to prematurely end Jimbo’s 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, you’ll notice those slimes and kobalds no longer give ANY experience. Sadly, Jim now must leave the relative safety of the game’s first screen.

Hopefully, you’ll 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 that’s 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 dungeon’s vampiric inhabitant. Also needed to win this fight is one hell of a lot of tolerance, as this is the point you’ll likely realize Hydlide’s not just bad, but actually a sick joke wrapped up in a nice plastic cartridge.

In an attempt to enhance Ys’ battle system, FCI allows you to fight in either “defense” or “attack” mode. Using the default “defense” option is safer, but takes longer to kill monsters. Running into an enemy from behind in “attack” mode is far more lethal, but if they’re facing you, poor Jim’s in a lot of trouble. To fight this vampire effectively, you’ll have to get behind it and run into it while hitting the “A” button to switch to “attack”. If the monster turns around and faces you at this time, it’s GAME OVER. Oh, and the vampire doesn’t move in any real pattern. All it does is aimlessly move around the narrow corridors of its screen. It doesn’t try to attack Jim. It doesn’t 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 game’s other dungeons! Well, “dungeon” probably isn’t 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 won’t find any of them in treasure chests or dungeons -- however, when you’re 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 Varalys’ castle. While this place is guarded by a seemingly immortal dragon, that’s of little concern, as all this beast does is go back and forth aimlessly. If Jim’s not directly in its never-changing path, it ignores him. Apparently Varalys doesn’t 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 demon’s domain. Varalys isn’t 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 game’s world, but let’s allow Jim to revel in this moment of triumph, shall we?

Jim’s battle with the dragon makes his tussle with the vampire seem fun. Basically all you have to do is run into the beast (in “defense” 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 that’s left is to get another item or two from what used to be the kingdom’s river and head back to Varalys’ castle, where the demon has finally deigned to fight Jim in a battle that’ll be right up there with those memorable clashes with the vampire and dragon. Follow that up with a short, unfulfilling ending and, well, that’s 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 you’ll spend at least two-thirds of your playing time mindlessly building levels. This is the sort of game you’d expect to see on a friend’s 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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