Saturday, July 11, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Dynamite Dux

Dynamite Dux is a weird little beat'em up released by Sega to arcades in 1988 (a year later ported to their Master System). Basically, in a nutshell this is another game where you walk to the right in a semi-isometric view, kill groups of guys to advance to the next sequence, kill the boss, go the the next themed "world" (jungle, Texas, city streets, etc)

Now what makes this game any kind of noteworthy is that, well, this is a freakin' bizarro-world little game. In a manner similar to a game like Fantasy Zone, you look at a title like this and one must wonder - what exactly can a video game BE? So often, they are somewhat cartoony representations of the world - but then, sometimes they are just otherworldy f'd up leaps that are quite divorced from any kind of normal logic, not so out-there that they defy convention, but truly quite deviant in their portrayal of "a world."

I say all of this in consideration of the aesthetic a game like this promotes - while it's brethren focused on themes like "you're in control of a space fighter trying to destroy intergalactic battleships," or "you're a super-stealthy ninja bouncing over rooftops and killing feudal monsters with your shuriken," Dynamite Dux instead adopts the angle that "you're a blue cartoon duck who wears a bowtie and kill bouncing dog heads, bouncing.. moose heads, and crocodiles with boxing gloves - also, samurai pigs." Bosses are cartoon versions of Fire, or Stars. It seems like a bunch of Japanese man-children got really wasted at the bar one night and said "let's just make a game that's not about anything at all, really. What the hell should we put in.." And it shows. It's pretty much all-over-the-place.

Mid-80s Sega games had a lot of this kind of feeling to their atmosphere, quite often - though usually it was just a touch, rather than smeared all over the entire product. In spite of the weirdness, it's a fun little romp that's just limited enough to get boring after a few minutes in - that's too bad, because personally I love it when an experience goes out of it's way to defy convention and say "this is what the game is, we don't CARE - this is what we made and you are going to just play it!" I'd say that's noble, even, in this world of The Same Game Times A Thousand, except for the notable fact that the one-note joke wears a bit thin after you've mashed the action button a few times.

In the end, I'll label Dynamite Dux a forgettable experience, a philosophy which I would love to extrapolate on but only if there were a little more follow-through with some more depth of gameplay. Can you imagine if something half as inspired, design-wise, as a Zelda game was done with such a motif as this? Economically it might have wound up being a money sink, but personally, I think it could have made some pretty big waves..

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