Monday, November 22, 2010

Dynastic Hero

Westone / Hudson Soft
Super CD-ROM

Mechanically, Dynastic Hero is quite reminiscent of its excellent predecessor, Dragon's Curse. But while DC has players scale walls as Mouse Man, soar about as Hawk Man, and do all sorts of other crazy things as other sorts of beast men, all throughout a well-designed realm, DH limits them to the form of sword-swinging goofball for the duration of its quest. Not that every sidescrolling adventure game needs a protagonist capable of shape shifting, but so much of what players do in DH--from trekking through uncomplicated tunnel networks to swimming through underground waterways and slipping around ice worlds--feels all too routine, and plenty of strips are not only dull but also drab.

In lieu of DC's Altered Beast type of twist, DH features munchkin-sized NPCs who follow you around and help out in their own distinct ways: a fairy restores life, a Bamm-Bamm sort smashes through walls, and a bee kid spears your foes. This is all right for what it's worth, though if you ask me, transforming into a fire-breathing lizard man is undeniably cooler than having a small snot-nosed sidekick. DH's sole "transformation" element is incorporated late in the game; the hero shrinks down to a micronized variant of the goofball he already was--meaning his already-unimpressive attack range becomes even more limited.

Despite the frivolousness of the late-stage transformation, the second half of the game is generally superior to the first, as the action heats up a bit, the visuals brighten up for stretches, and the stages become more intricate (of particular note is a pyramid hosting ropes, switches, spikes, conveyor belts, and lots of clever enemies).

Those visuals never really seem to reach their potential, though. Parallax would've worked wonders for a snowy scene that could've come off as a beautiful winter wonderland had it some depth and additional detail to it. As it is, it's pretty, but flat.

The bosses do look cool for the most part, and battles with them are usually interesting thanks to their attack types and lair layouts, though not a single one is stout enough to be memorable.

While consistency eludes the visuals, DH's audio manages to hold up pretty well from start to finish, though those who are planning to spend a fortune to obtain the US release should be made aware that the JPN disc features a much nicer opening song.

And if you're wondering if being proficient in Japanese is essential for getting through the JPN version, well, you shouldn't have much to worry about. Find a decent Wonder Boy in Monster World FAQ and you'll be set--save for a round of quiz questions with a giant sphinx. But even then, a little trial and error will get you through the day, and the merciful beast does grant you a little leeway.

DH is a decent action-quest game worth the low cost the JPN version can be acquired for. Don't expect a product that matches the all-around quality of DC, however.

They must be talking about Dragon's Curse.

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