Monday, February 18, 2008

The Dynastic Hero

The Dynastic Hero is a game that, for me at least, never appeared on the radar until (very) recently. Thanks again to the Wii’s VC for bringing this game into the spotlight once more.

It was released on the TG-16 CD, making it a 16-Bit game with the benefit of CD storage. The results are incredible. Awesome Redbook audio tracks, anime intro and ending movies, and other details I’ll get into shortly.

But damn, allow me a minute to freak out about how awesome this game is (before more objective-ish opinions). It’s just so fucking cool. It’s the type of game that you can play for 6 hours forget to eat, pass out from low blood-sugar, wake up, and keep playing without moving or thinking twice. It’s the kind of game that might make you say “Fuck! This game is cool… Fuck!” It’s the type of game you might obsesses about all day at work, because you can’t play it. It certainly inspired me to write up a 1000 word article on it for no good reason other than the game kicks ass. It kicks so much ass that the ass it kicks takes names and then kicks ass. Alright, I think it’s mostly out of my system… we can continue. I fucking love this game.

As far as the gameplay goes, it’s very similar to Dragon’s Curse, Super Metroid, or other Metroidvanias. You play as Dyna, The Dynastic Hero (named after the Hercules beetle’s scientific name, and dressed in armor resembling said beetle), trying to restore peace to a quiet little kingdom. Collect items, save towns, access new areas, learn spells and wield them in battle, recruit townspeople (and townsbugs) to help you on your quest, and have a great time doing it all. You’ll need to collect lots of gold to buy all the items, which requires a very small amount of grinding once or twice (which is good, as it adds a slight RPG feel). There are secrets abound, and good luck finding them all. Eventually, you will access an ancient portal, and journey to a castle in the sky where a prehistoric evil awaits your righteous wrath.

The Dynastic Hero is another clear example of a game that does everything right. Controls, music, graphics. The game is eye-and-ear candy, which is the ideal synestetic experience, and part of the reason video games are such an amazing medium. The game is simple to control, addictive, and combat is well-balanced, but challenging. Your sword has a very short reach, which requires you to actively participate in battle, rather than just mindlessly swiping your sword and running along. Finally, the game does something I love, which is kick your ass at times. I definitely met my death quota in this game, without becoming frustrated. You learn not to rush around, take your time, and fight each enemy with as much skill as you can muster.

The game wasn’t always about a little beetle-boy trying to save a princess; it was Wonder Boy in Monster World (for the Genesis/Megadrive), the 5th game in the Wonder Boy series, and probably the best. The Wonder Boy games have a convoluted history, resulting from Hudson owning the Wonder Boy code, and Sega owning the characters.

The differences include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  1. The Music. WB5 uses Genesis midi sound, whereas Dynastic Hero uses redbook audio. In addition, the songs are completely different (not just remixes), and much, much better in The Dynastic Hero. If you are an audiophile, The Dynastic Hero is obviously the way to go.
  2. The Graphics. WB5 has a parallax-scrolling background, and The Dynastic Hero does not. I suspect this was done for stylistic reasons, to make the game appear more like a painting, but there is no way to know for sure. In addition, the colors are much richer and brighter in The Dynastic Hero, thanks to the improved TG-16 palette. I wish The Dynastic hero had that parallax background, but alas.
  3. The Characters and Names. WB5 has a generic fantasy-themed world. The Dynastic Hero has a generic fantasy-themed world with insect characters. I do find the insects charming: a praying mantis throwing scythes? Wicked.
  4. The Text Boxes. The Dynastic Hero is capable of displaying 5 lines of text, while WB5 can only display 3. A minor difference, to be sure, however, I find the 5 lines of text to look much classier, and read easier.
  5. Intro, Ending, and Story. As previously mentioned, The Dynastic Hero has an anime intro with a cheesy J-pop song, the stories are different as a result, which is pretty expected.

Overall, I think The Dynastic Hero is a much better option, given that both games cost 800 Wii points in America. If you are in Japan, defiantly go with The Dynastic Hero, because it’s only 600 points in the land of the rising sun. It does take up quite a bit of space (around 200 blocks) because of the CD Audio… so it’s your call.

I had a really great time with this game, and I played it on my lunch break for about 2 weeks before finishing it one Saturday with my girlfriend. We sat on the couch and insisted we would only play for “15 more minutes…” But, one dungeon turned into 4 dungeons and before I knew it I was at the sky castle. And with the entire Kingdom depending upon me, I just couldn’t quit. So, if you like action adventure rpgs The Dynastic Hero is a great choice. Just be thankful you don’t have to shell out the 350 bucks for the hardcopy anymore… The Dynastic Hero is one of the rarest and most valuable video games of all time, and 8 dollars is a steal.


db said...

good review. i haven't played this game or even heard of it, but now i want to. one question: you mention that the sword is short and the battles are (sometimes) tough. how would you compare the difficulty to zelda 2?

8bitcity said...

It's definitely easier than Zelda 2. Monsters aren't as smart as the Iron Knuckles (most of the time). It also doesn't have a lot of the "artificial" difficulty that Zelda 2 does. You start in the closest town, rather than the beginning of the game. There are no "lives then gameover" thing. You have healing potions and spells, similar to Zelda 2. The games actually have quite a bit in common.

The biggest difference between the games, in terms of difficulty, is that monsters drop life often in Dynastic Hero.

Also, if you want to play the game, download the Genesis rom, it should be really easy to find.

Sluggsworth said...

Nice review.

Sluggsworth said...

Nice review.