Good thing you got a fairy to watch your back there, hero.
“Where’s the dragon?! CENSORSHIP! BAN SEISMIC!”
PUBLISHER: Asmik (JP), Seismic (US)
DEVELOPER: T&E Soft (port by Asmik)
RELEASE DATE: 10/06/89 – (JP), 1990 – (US), 1991 – (EU)
Your main character in Super Hydlide is a petulant child that requires constant attention and care. He needs to sleep at night or his stats will go down, eat three square meals a day or his health will decrease, avoid attacking “good” monsters or his morality will decline, and watch his weight lest he become over encumbered. What kind of hero is this shlub? A realistic hero one might say, but most of us don’t play RPGs to engage with reality. And anyway, the rest of Super Hydlide is as fantastical as any other RPG from the late 80s, full of man-eating plants, multi-story dungeons, and underground cities. The juxtaposition of real world necessities with a fantasy world is interesting, but Super Hydlide never really ventures past “interesting.” Unless you have considerable patience, the belabored micro management can weigh the game down to unplayability.
Don’t tell me what to do, peasant.
Super Hydlide only has one main character, which is for the best. Imagine taking care of a four-person party with the game’s guidelines! There are, however, four classes to choose from: Warrior, Thief, Priest, and Monk. The Priest and the Monk have high morality and intelligence, but average fighting skills. The Monk in particular has the lowest amount of hit points, but at least he and the Priest can learn all twelve spells in the game, whereas the Warrior and Thief can only learn six. The Warrior is the most balanced of the four classes with solid Attack Power and hit points, while the Thief is supremely unbalanced with considerable strength and questionable morality/intelligence.
You’ll be fighting around here for awhile, regardless of your class.
Regardless of each class’ strengths and weaknesses, none of the characters are easy to start with, thanks to the weights and balances system. Your Load Capacity is the maximum amount of weight the character can have without slowing down; it increases alongside your strength when you level up. Think Elder Scrolls, but worse. The weight your character has on their person is the Carried Weight, while the Handle attribute is the maximum weight of a weapon that your character can use. For example, at level 5, my Monk has a handle of 4,238. This means I can handle a Broad Sword, which has a handle of 4,000, but I still have to watch out for my overall weight. You shouldn’t just choose a weapon your character can wield, but also one that’s light on the ol’ backpack.
Not pictured: good graphics.
Everything weighs you down: food, gold, weapons, shields, items that you need to progress the game. Thank God there’s a bank that allows you to deposit and withdraw funds, but it’s a shame there’s not a chest you can put items in when you’re not using them. This forces you to think sensibly: the second you buy a better weapon or piece of armor, sell the old stuff. Find the Money Changer that converts your smaller coins into larger coins (10 $100 coins into 1 $1,000 coin, etc.). And for the love of everything, don’t overstock on medicine and food, even if you think you’ll need it. Better to walk cautiously around enemies, then to be weighed down and die mercilessly at their hands.
Better run home before you get all sleepy and worthless.
There’s also sleeping and eating – necessary, sure, but still a pain. Your character must eat four times a day, every six hours starting at 1:00 am. In order to eat, you buy rations of food at the general store. They’re not too expensive, but each ration adds about 500W to your backpack. If you’re planning to be out all day fighting, you’ll need three rations which adds up to 1500W and a crooked spine. Choose not to buy rations and your health will slowly decrease around your feeding time. You also need to get to an inn prior to 23:00 (11:00pm) or your Attack Power and hit points will decrease as well. Inns cost a cool $1,000 per night, which is an insane amount, particularly in the beginning. On the plus side, unless you stay out super late, inns will cover your 1:00 am and 7:00 am meal, which means you’ll only need to buy two meals per day. All told, you need about $1,500 a day to survive in Super Hydlide, let alone the money you’ll need for better weapons and armor. Get on that grind, son.
RPG Rule #37: Slimes are always up to no good.
When you leave the sleepy confines of the City of Forest, you’ll see three different types of enemies: the Minor Slime, a Tree Spirit, and a Cannibal. The Minor Slime and Cannibals are “evil” enemies and can be killed without fear of reprisal. The Tree Spirits are “good” enemies and will not hurt you unless provoked. This sort of evil/good balance continues throughout every environment in Super Hydlide, but unless you’re using an FAQ or following a video walkthrough, you won’t know which enemies you should or shouldn’t kill.
The morality system doesn’t affect the game until the end. If you have a full morality meter when you encounter Varalys, the final boss, you’ll be able to slay him quicker. In theory, the morality should be another way for developers T&E Soft to insure the player doesn’t go beyond their specified boundaries. This was the purpose for the system in Hydlide II, but that doesn’t explain its presence in Super Hydlide. If the morality only affects a lone encounter, why bother putting it in the game?
Sting plays softly in the background…
The real-time combat is straightforward enough: clobber the side or back of an enemy until they’re dead. Each enemy will provide HP and usually gold as well. Avoid the front as the “evil” enemies spew projectiles at you that will quickly cut your HP down. You have a crouch maneuver, but I never used it; it was easier to maneuver around projectiles. Enemies are either crazy difficult or really easy. When you first step outside the City of Forest, a couple hits from a Cannibal will kill you. Level up a couple times, however, and you’ll be able to take them head-on without a scratch. This easy/hard teeter-totter motion continues throughout the game.
You all look evil to me.
The Hydlide series has always treated the player as an enemy. In the original Hydlide for NES, you switched between ‘Attack’ and ‘Defend’ in battle; doing both at the same time was forbidden. It took ages to level up your character, and if you didn’t save as frequently as possible, your lengthy time in battle would be for naught. Super Hydlide at least streamlines the original’s battle system, but complicates the rest of the game with overbearing attention to detail. While the weights and balances, eat/sleep system, and morality fighting are certainly distinct from any RPG I’ve ever played, there’s a reason these features didn’t catch on with the genre at large. They distract from the game at hand. I don’t want to have to leave a dungeon because I need to sleep or because I accidentally got an item from a treasure chest that weighed me down. In Super Hydlide, you’ll need to do this on a regular basis.
Maybe it’s for the best.
Super Hydlide‘s restrictions are both its selling point and its downfall. Without them, the game would be just an outdated, uninspired JRPG. With them, a laborious adventure that’s only occasionally worth the effort.