Sunday, November 17, 2013

Arcade Weekend: Hyper Dyne Sidearms (1986)

I had a little coin-op style gaming time available this weekend, so once again we're taking a look at a classic-era Capcom arcade game: Hyper Dyne Sidearms, released in 1986.  I had played a few levels of the console port to the PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16, under the simpler and more natural title Sidearms, but never got any farther than that with the home version's limited continues. 

This game was actually part of a trilogy -- the earlier Section Z was ported to the Famicom/NES, and the later Forgotten Worlds turned up on the Mega Drive/Genesis and TG-16/PC Engine.  Sidearms also appeared on  a number of European home computers, and has been included in a couple of Capcom collections in emulated form.  I'm playing the emulated version included with Hanaho Games' 1999 Capcom Coin-Op Classics collection.

The plot here is nothing new -- we're piloting a flying mech, shooting at jumping and flying enemies, trying to save the universe from a massive threat.  Occasionally we get to power up with additional weaponry or speed increase/decrease tokens, though as our craft responds instantly to joystick input with no real sense of momentum, the speed changes tend to be more of a burden than a help.

Sidearms is one of those quarter-sucking old arcade games -- it's a bullet-hell-style shooter in some ways, but with a greater degree of chaos and speed that makes navigating through the hail of enemy fire more or less impossible without a good deal of practice and memorization.  Fortunately for this post, in the modern era of emulation we can simply insert another virtual quarter into the machine to see what lies ahead -- and, if the system's bookkeeping info on coin slot 1 is to be believed, it took me about 140 tokens to get through this game.

Unfortunately, the experience isn't particularly exciting -- the action is repetitive, with the same handful of mechanical bosses turning up again and again; only the first and final boss are unique.  And the basic mechanics never change up -- we move up and down and around, doing our best to fire left and right (with two separate fire buttons) at the never-ending onslaught of enemies and missiles. There's plenty of challenge, but it's not always a fair fight -- after death, we're thrown back into the maelstrom and it's easy to die a few times in a row.  These screenshots aren't capturing the chaos very well, as many of the multiple-bullet clusters are represented by a few sprites rapidly flickering from one position to another to fit the limitations of the hardware.

From an audiovisual perspective, this 1986 arcade game hasn't aged well -- there's a bit of an R-Type influence visible, with lots of 16-bit shading and depth, but the animation is limited and clunky.  Even the bosses don't do much but spit beams and missiles while moving around the screen; only the final, serpentine enemy looks very interesting, and like the other bosses it never changes its tactics, firing clusters of bullets from its head and tail and simply trying to consume as many of the player's quarters as possible before succumbing to accumulated damage.  The music is stirring but simply orchestrated, without the sampled waveforms and other nuances that would turn up in coin-op games a few years later.

Oh, and in the days before much attention was paid to localization, we get a bit of old-fashioned Janglish at the end of the game:

And also, from the days when Capcom's "credits" were pseudonyms in an attempt to prevent labor poaching by other videogame studios:

I was glad to finally get through Hyper Dyne Sidearms, but the journey wasn't particularly memorable.  Sometimes that's the best thing about these coin-op collections -- paying a few bucks per game to see what it was all about often beats spending the time to get genuinely good at it.  (Practice does help, though -- my second playthrough after I discovered I didn't have my screen capturing set up correctly only took 110 tokens!)

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