5 out of 5 people found this review helpfulwrite a review of this game
read more reviews by AkibaTechno
SummaryOh Virtual Hydlide, how I wanted to love you.
The GoodI picked up my copy of Virtual Hydlide in near mint condition for 14 dollars Australian, so I wasn't particularly complaining. There aren't a lot of RPG's on the Saturn that are as common as Virtual Hydlide and I always wondered why this was, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to play the game. When I originally bought the game, brought it home and started playing it I turned it off in disgust after a few minutes. Recently I decided to give Virtual Hydlide another chance deciding that it wasn't fair to judge a game based on a few minutes worth of play.
I still couldn't finish the game, however I did last longer this time, long enough to understand the fundamentals of Virtual Hydlide.
Virtual Hydlide takes place in the same universe as the original Hydlide first featured on the MSX. A princess has been turned into fairies and our hilariously out of proportion hero must rescue her. The biggest draw of Virtual Hydlide is the fact that every new game takes place in a randomly generated world, you can also enter your own password to re-generate a world you were particularly fond of. The general flow of the game is the same every time you play and depending on what difficulty you're playing on you'll get more or less direction to your next destination.
On your adventures you do the typical enemy fighting, loot finding and adventuring through a more or less attractive world. All structural detail in Virtual Hydlide is rendered using polygons and buildings, bridges and mountains all look quite attractive, if not totally flat. All incidental details like trees, chairs, enemies...look, almost everything is a sprite. The difference between a lot of games that use sprites and Virtual Hydlide is that each sprite has its own animation for each compass direction. This means that despite looking totally out of place in a rendered 3D environment everything but enemies looks well rendered and conveys the illusion of depth quite effectively.
The RPG mechanics of Virtual Hydlide are both solid and superficial. There are many items to obtain, with almost everything having some sort of status altering property. You have a weight limit to adhere to and you must mediate what you carry to make sure you don't overburden yourself. The combat is straight forward and uncomplicated, incorporating a simple real time methodology however due to the nature of the control system the combat comes across as almost turn based.
The soundtrack and general effects used in Virtual Hydlide are all quite solid. The music is good and the sound effects are both high quality and somewhat curious.
Overall Virtual Hydlide feels pretty solid, the game plays well and the concept of randomly generated overworlds appeals to me as a way of increasing replay value. There isn't anything necessarily wrong with the way Virtual Hydlide plays, despite being nothing more than a sprite your character controls quite well and the simplified RPG mechanics lend to the game being quite an accessible experience.
The BadThe issues with Virtual Hydlide are mostly technical and how these issues flow into the combat system and make the game a frustrating chore to play.
The front end is pleasing and from the fairly well produced opening FMV you expect a high quality game. The issue is when you begin to play you notice the abominable frame rate that rarely tops 10 fps. When the frame rate does rise, albeit infrequently, your character is difficult to control due to the awkward, sprite based control scheme. Your character turns in an awkward circle and although you can speed up your turning by holding the run button the plodding, methodical movement begins to grate after a while.
The combat system consists of a single button, you stand near an enemy and hack away at them until their health dwindles to nothing. It's a little too simple, there is nothing more than that. You have virtually no control over the development of your character and RPG veterans will find the lack of detail a major detriment to your enjoyment of Virtual Hydlide. Flowing into the frame rate problems the game slows to a crawl when enemies are nearby and being ugly, badly scaled sprites it is difficult to actually tell where they are. This complicates combat and makes it difficult to know which direction to face in order to fight.
The biggest issue facing Virtual Hydlide however is the fact that the setup is so vague and the story elements and objectives so badly conveyed that without any direction it is virtually impossible to figure out where to go next. The world is quite large and your objectives, which are virtually not explained at all are quite spread apart. In fact I stopped playing because I just couldn't figure out what I was supposed to be doing, after sitting for 15 minutes running around in awkward circles cursing the abominable frame rate, terribly rendered enemies and generally ill conceived systems Virtual Hydlide relies on I decided my time was better spent elsewhere and turned the game off.
The Bottom LineAs accessible as Virtual Hydlide is, as good as the rendering of environments is and as potentially satisfying the gameplay is this game is a total dog.
Your character walks and runs like he's stuck in gelatin, enemies lack detail and are difficult to fight due to the spastic way they scale and the ultra simplified RPG mechanics will appeal to only the most virginal of RPG players. The game just isn't very fun and the lack of direction is the final nail in the coffin.
I wouldn't necessarily say you should avoid Virtual Hydlide, just be aware that it isn't very good.