Saturday, August 29, 2009


Hudson Soft
HuCard (SuperGrafx)

Here's a shooter that excels in lots of different ways. It taps into the mega-power and virility of the SuperGrafx to achieve extraordinary visuals: its bosses are phenomenal giants, and its backgrounds are incredible multilayer scenes flush with detail and alive with all sorts of mechanized activity. Yet, it makes an even greater impression with its audio: while the Aldynes soundtrack doesn't do anything technically abnormal with HuCard instrumentation, it demonstrates that remarkable compositions (such as Stage 2's relentless hard-rock number) can be performed effectively with vintage chip sound quality. And the gameplay follows the lead of the aesthetic elements, thriving on a unique options system that allows you to send your pods out to do their own thing, keep them in close to provide additional standard fire, or have them revolve around your vessel in a defensive posture. Careful, intelligent playing, along with a good bit of trial and error, is the way to survive Aldynes' no-nonsense challenges.

The game seems like a master of all trades, but... well, there are a few caveats that can be tacked on here (actually, the following items don't bother me, but I know there are folks out there who'll complain about them). While the graphics are very detailed and simply amazing in a technical sense, they're also quite dark, with cold steel environs the norm. If you're looking for beautiful sunsets and merry blue skies, find your fun elsewhere. And while you can power up your guns to incredible extremes, they don't scare many of your enemies in their initial forms, which means you'll be in a heck of a lot of trouble if you take a hit late in the game and have to rough out a tough stage from a strength-slashing checkpoint. Nonetheless, even those who demand cheery colors and have no stomach for the game's late-stage perils will likely concede that this is a package awesome in enough areas to warrant a try, if not an immediate purchase.

Most of the bosses are gigantic, but even the smaller ones are more than willing to face you head-on.

The Aldynes weapon set is quite varied and interesting, and each cannon type can be strengthened to a tremendous extreme. A typical spread gun evolves until it's unleashing giant green globes of destruction.

The option craft are even more useful than the mighty weapons. Here, I'm able to ignore an assault from behind and concentrate on clearing a path because my option pod has my back.

Not every piece of your arsenal is quite as essential to survival. You can charge up a frontal shield at the expense of rapid fire, but the barrier doesn't really help much except during a rather pointless sequence where missiles are launched from the background.

Most of the challenges Aldynes presents are anything but pointless, though, with the coolest strip of all being a hazard-laden stretch of magnetic cavern. Before you reach that harrowing area, you'll have to blast through webs of golden rings woven by small spider-like machines.

It's too bad that there aren't many mini-bosses. This particular fellow doesn't do a very good job of concealing himself, though you may be the one looking for cover when he starts chasing after you. The littler guys do their work well and keep the pressure on by firing lots of projectiles and leaping and dashing about like madmen.

One weapon in particular will really come in handy during the final fight.

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