REVIEW: Virtual Hydlide

I’m America’s biggest Hydlide fan. Hydlide is old-school fun and Super Hydlide (Hydlide 3) is uniquely enjoyable. While Virtual Hydlide is rough, it’s not like the haters would have you believe. As an approximate remake of Hydlide, Virtual Hydlide was dated even in 1995 and there’s no excuse for the (much discussed) sluggish framerate. Still, it’s not the 1/10 game many claim—I say at least a 4.

Virtual Hydlide has cool features. The world map is procedurally (randomly) generated. Sure it’s small and empty, but the idea is novel and each world has its own code so it can be recreated. Adjustable difficulties offer varying player aids—the lowest level providing full maps of every dungeon. The 3D graphics use motion captured characters, which is ambitious. Some locations are even sort of atmospheric with their mottled textures and muted colors. Different weapon types behave differently and there are 3 attacks (strong, weak, and ranged). And the usual Hydlide grind is gone—no more experience. If you (like me) enjoy grinding, all isn’t lost—there’s a shop with stat boosting items so you can still grind money.

Some of Virtual Hydlide’s faults are inherited from its ancestor (short length, few monster types). Other problems arise from the 3D engine (awful framerate, controls, and hit detection). The second area (Vampire’s Mansion) is the worst offender, so most won’t get far enough to learn that Virtual Hydlide isn’t so bad.

But Virtual Hydlide should never be mistaken for a good game. Technical flaws aside, it’s simplistic (true to its source) and original Hydlide offers the same thrills in a more palatable form. Regardless, Virtual Hydlide’s few unique ideas are charming, I kind of like the music, and I totally dig the FMV cut scenes. And the last dungeon (a 3 story teleporter/moving platform maze) is great!

Virtual Hydlide is playable (despite claims otherwise), but for no longer than its 5 hour length. Ultimately, it’s for Hydlide freaks only. The uninitiated should start with Super Hydlide (Genesis), which is genuinely good.


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