Written by  :  ETJB (450)
Written on  :  Jan 08, 2014
Platform  :  SEGA CD
Rating  :  4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars4.83 Stars

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A masterpiece! A diamond in the rough!

The Good

“Dune” is one of the few “most own” games for the Sega CD (or “Mega CD” if you grew up outside of America) library.

While the early 1990s, CD-ROM peripheral device was hyped up as the “Next Level” in gaming, many loyal Sega customers, myself included, were bitterly disappointed with the results. Admist such gamer despair, came a handful of bright lights, such as “Dune”.

These bright lights, were a handful of Sega CD games that served as the proverbial “diamonds in the rough” to a Sega CD library filled with shovleware and B-minus, full motion video games on a system not really designed to do full motion video.

First, a little bit of background is in order. “Dune” is the first in a series of science-fiction novels written by Frank Herbert. In 1984, the novel was adapted, with mixed results, into a big budget, Hollywood film.

While Hollywood has largely avoided the franchise since 1984, several computer games set in the Dune film/novel universe were been released, with this particular “Dune” game being the first (and in this author's humble opinion the best) in a series of real time, strategy based computer games.

“Dune” clearly takes its visual cues from the 1984 film and while the Sega CD edition of the game cannot match the then standard 256-on screen colors PC capabilities, the game's animation and graphics are still some of the best seen on the Sega CD system.

The storyline is helped through periodic full motion video clips from the film, another benefit of the CD technology. While the Sega CD's hardware only allowed for a much more limited color capabilities, in comparison to the PC, it is worth noting that this is probably some of the best full motion video seen in a Sega CD game.

Credit has to be given to people at Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive for getting some great graphics and full motion visuals out of the Sega CD. Adapting a PC CD-ROM game for the Sega CD, couldn't have been an easy task, but this video game adaption has all the earmarkings of a true labor of love.

This game is not shovelwere. This game is not a rushed job. This is the sort of game that shows not just the potential of the Sega CD, but why video games should be respected as an art form. So, “bravo” to the folks at Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive.

Many of the “little” touches in the game also highlight just how much talent was behind this game. The real time elements are shown through night and day-inspired changes to the environment, cool texture maping of sane dunes is seen when you travel through the desert, and if you bring green vegetation to the desert planet, that will also change the in-game visuals.

The graphic capabilities of the Sega CD were weak, but it could pump out some great music and here, again, this game shines. While the voice talent is certainly great, it is the musical score in the game that really makes it stand out.

Words simply cannot do justice to how good the music in this game is at setting the mood and bringing the player into the Dune universe, including young love (a very well done desert, love scene) and the human rights and political struggle of the native inhabitants of the planet.

The music was given its own album release, but getting a hold of this game may be eaiser to do them locating the album. Sufficence to say, the music itself is well worth the price of the game. What about the game play mechanics? Well, I am pleased to say that the game play mechanics are smooth and responsive.

Even as you gain new abilities, vehicles and quests, it does not take long to figure out how to do what you want to do in the game, and it is simply amazing how the game is able to mix real-time military-diplomatic strategy with traditional graphic adventure gaming.

Many games have tried to offer a mixture of real-time strategy and graphic adventure gaming and, with few exceptions, they have failed miserably. However, this combination works superbly in “Dune” and this is another “Bravo!” moment for the folks at Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive.

Heck, even the loading time in this game is amazingly fast for the Sega CD. Lots of different things are happening in the game, especially as you develop your military, and I experienced very little in the way of slow down.

The Bad

My few serious complaints about the game fall into two categories; hardware and -- to be honest -- a bit of nitpicking.

Again, in terms of hardware, if you were familiar with the PC version, then it becomes impossible not to notice what happens when you go from having 256+ on-screen colors in a 16-bit game, to having to work with only 64.

The Sega CD's graphic capabilities were less then what was capable on the Super Nintendo, let alone standard PC computers or even the NEC Turbografx CD-ROM system.

This was a fatal design flaw in the Sega CD, which probably marked the beginning of the end for Sega's involvement in the hardware side of the industry.

So, while the Cryo Interactive/Virgin Interactive did the best that could be done -- given the hardware limitations -- it is still difficult not to look at a game as great as this one, and be reminded at just how "Next Level" the Sega CD really turned out to be.

In terms of petty nitpicking, the game can be a tad cruel (later in the story) when it comes to meeting the Emperor's spice demands and also trying to promote vegetation.

Yes, the cruelty is certainly realistic, especially if you are a fan of the franchise, but as the good spice mining territories dry up (often as the Emperor's spice demands increase) their were times when their was not much left for me to do, but quit and restore an earlier save point.

The Bottom Line

"Dune" for the Sega CD is a most-have for any Sega CD owner. It is a true diamond in the rough. Despite its hardware flaws and library of shovelwere, the Sega CD had potential for greatness. "Dune" is evidence of this.