Posted by: Ben | June 2, 2010

Man vs Genre: Hydlide

The Facts

And now for something completely different – my first ever JRPG. What with my previously discussed lack of role-playing experience, I’m not wholly familiar with what distinguishes the Japanese version of the role-playing game from the Western equivalent, and Wikipedia is no help. This is a Good Thing because it means I can make my own mind up about it. Hydlide was developed and published by T&E Soft for NEC computers in 1984, but this is the 1989 US version of the 1986 NES port, running on NEStopia.

The Cover

If you bought this in Japan you got a glowy fairy, but in America you got an armoured warrior fighting a dragon. Go figure. Of course if you’re in Europe you don’t get anything at all, because it was never released in Europe, which is just inviting piracy if you ask me. (Screw you, T&E Soft). Maybe we would have got a picture of something we like in Europe, like beer, or a German pop singer.

The Lore

In the kingdom of Fairyland, three magic jewels were enshrined in the palace to maintain peace in the kingdom. One day, an evil man broke into the palace and stole one of the three magic jewels. Without the third jewel, the two remaining jewels lost their magic sparkle. The magic spell that sealed the power of Boralis, the most vicious demon in the kingdom, was broken. During the turmoil which followed, the last two jewels were stolen. Boralis cast a special magic on Princess Ann, turning her into three fairies, and hid her somewhere in the kingdom. He then let loose a horde of monsters across the land and became the ruler of the kingdom.

A peace that relies on three magic jewels and a magic princess is no peace at all. They should have tried talking to the demon. Oh, and I don’t actually have access to a copy of the manual, but I bet that doesn’t explain what a Hydlide is either.

Character Building

The only thing we know about our hero is that he’s called Jim, he’s young, he’s a knight and he’s going to save the kingdom or die trying. Of course the plot of the Japanese language version could be entirely different. I just don’t know. Anyway, in Fairyland, knights don’t recieve the honorific “sir”. There’s worldbuilding for you.

The Game

Here we are in the forest. It looks a lot like Ultima only everything is bigger and looks a lot more fast-moving and exciting.

Woah, that actually looks more like an Ultima game than I thought. Although note neurotic double Hydlide branding.

The combat system is interesting. Your character has two modes, Attack and Defend. He stays in Defend mode until you press the A button which flips him into Attack. So you have to hold down A when you walk into the monsters, but make sure you’re not holding it down when they walk into you.

I’ve got my handy walkthrough and I know that the first thing I need to do is defeat Slimes until I reach Level 3. That’s because the design principles underpinning this game are BORING. And every slime you kill makes your progress bar lengthen by a pixel, which even on the NES is far too small.

Ah, crap, I got a third of the way up the first level and got killed. Never mind. It’s no loss really.

Total play time: 5 minutes

Verdict

Brings to mind two turgid hours I spent playing Maple Story. When you put a character in an explorable world, the basic human instinct is to go off and explore it. This game is the enemy of human nature.

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