Virtual Hydlide


#1

I never had a console growing up until my uncle, while liquidating his failing game store, gifted me a Sega Saturn. I had three games: Virtua Fighter, Super Head-On GP, and Virtual Hydlide.

Can we talk about this game for a minute? Because it was terrible, but also, like, GOOD.

Third-person action RPG from a time before independent camera controls or even offsetting the player character to one side so you could see what was directly in front of you. A “3D” engine mostly populated by messy 2D sprites. It nonetheless had a really creepy atmosphere and genuinely scared me in some environments.

I think the game had a linear progression despite being ostensibly open-world (go to the graveyard, get the cross to kill dracula, dracula drops an item needed to open the next area, etc etc). The combat wasn’t anything special but it was PUNISHING. I can’t even remember if the game saved or anything. There were these treants in the overworld who would fuck up your shit if you stumbled into them.

There was a fair amount of procedural generation too, so while you were always going to the same areas in the same order, their layouts were different every time.

I dug out my Saturn recently hoping to replay the game and see if it holds up to my memory of it, but I couldn’t find the disc.


#2

I’ve seen like 2 or 3 videos on this by people making fun of it and saying how bad it is. Probably the AVGN and ProJared, if I remember correctly. The good parts you mention certainly didn’t shine through there. I haven’t played it, so I don’t know… But I’m interested to hear more! Because it certainly seems like it innovated a fair bit… and fell flat, ultimately. Those are the interesting games!


#3

i am very interested in this game and i have recently burned a copy of it for my (300 yen salaryman lung) saturn (shoutouts to @Rudie). i have not played it at all, though.

i recorded the title screen/attract mode as part of my project where i record lots of attract modes on real hardware (currently exclusive to saturn games):

virtual hydlide game club, maybe?


#4

I have not played Virtual Hydlide but I did play original regular Hydlide, and I remembered it being so incredibly bad that, years later, upon seeing a review of the entire Hydlide series on Youtube, I thought to myself “hah! that was so bad! I can’t believe they made more of them! I wonder if they were just as bad”

They were!


#5

I’ve always been interested in this but this framerate is so awful in 2018. I can’t even watch a video of this game for more than 5 minutes

Super Hydlide is one of my favourite games that I also hate. It’s not as goodbad as Drakkhen, but it’s up there

It is a very confusing early genesis RPG with weight system, a hunger system, day/night cycles, and a limited inventory. Money is stored in your inventory as separate bills and coins and you can throw away your small change if you need space.

It is incomparably ugly and starts off as a derivative medieval RPG until you get a space suit and go to space to fight aliens with a flaming sword?

Does Virtual Hydlide have any sci fi elements or was that ditched?


#6

This was weirdly common back then. Wizardry, Ultima, and Might and Magic all did it at one point, as have several older Final Fantasies (including 1!)


#7

The vampire mansion you get to explore later in Virtual Hydlide is both creepy and pedantic, a dozen room laid out realistically with identical dressing, waiting for something unique to pop out of the procedural wasteland. It rides that mood nicely.


#8

One of the later temples is a weird sort of high-tech maze. It was the only sci-fi reference I ever found.


#9

Oh, and personal hero @thecatamitesGoblet Grotto is partially built off Virtual Hydlide bones and lovely for it.


#11

low framerates are amazing, especially in 2018

i am extremely against the widely-thought-axiomatic notion that low framerate = bad

not saying that’s what tuxedo is implying but i think we all need a little bit more sub-20 FPS in our lives tbh


#12

If I could find my disc, I’d be down.

BTW what’s a game club?


#13

just an idea to have anyone interested try and play through the game (or some portion of it, more likely) in roughly the same timeframe so we can discuss our experiences in this thread

analogous to a book club, i suppose


#14

Can you expand on this? I definitely enjoy image softness and impressionism applied to digital art but I’m not ready to think of low temporal information, applied haphazardly in games as opposed to strategically for hand animation, as pleasing or anything other than a difficulty.

I like 24fps in films even as I curse its low temporal resolution in planning shots, but like with resolution, film is essentially perfectly sampled, with motion blur and proper pacing, where games, well, aren’t.

As well, games create a secondary muscles group: the hand-eye-game cursor/character input. Slaving my nervous system to something a half-step behind me can be adapted to but never feels ideal.

Do you have game examples that are better at low framerates?


#15

i’m very pleased you asked about this! this is a topic that is quite dear to me so i’ll need to calibrate how i want to present my case before i write too much, i think. it’s not something i’ve believed historically (that low framerates can be anything other than a flaw), actually. i think the dream for me growing up was always smoother, more fluid, etc. and that held for a long time. getting into PC gaming opened my eyes to the magic of higher framerates than what consoles could muster, and i leaned the opposite direction than what i’m presenting here for awhile. it’s only more recently, getting into speedrunning and retrogaming so much more, that’s caused me to reconsider.


#16

as for examples, i definitely think the original N64 banjo-tooie instantly loses its dreamlike cadence and, thus, part of its appeal, in its transition to xbox 360. wave race 64 is another fine example - locked 20 FPS and perfectly tuned to that refresh.

there’s something about higher FPS values which can have the effect of kind of dulling the imagination’s ability to fill in the gaps, to correct for the missing images. it often feels like robbing the game of mystery, in some gut way that is hard to quantify


#17

That gets really tough to separate from all the other elements of the visuals, doesn’t it? I wouldn’t want to run Banjo-Tooie or Waverace at anything higher than x2 resolution, and Waverace probably at native to preserve that imaginative space; like you, I find this valuable in the concrete but suggestive early 3D worlds. We can compare to Blue Storm but that’s such a different game in so many ways it’s not the same.

Here’s a direct comparison – Star Fox or other SuperFX chip games running stock vs. overclocked. I didn’t have a direct history with them so Star Fox doesn’t really work on me but the mood feels stronger to me running as fast as possible through emulation. Though we’re really talking about 12 fps vs 20 here.

Another approach: comparing Star Fox to Virtua Racer, or maybe Virtua Racer arcade to the home ports. I find the solid 30fps arcade version to be much more suggestive of its VR music video popscape than the home versions.


#18

nah


#19

the blue storm example is actually instructive, though obviously it only covers some facets of the argument.

WR64’s mechanics were wisely retuned in the update from WR64’s 20 -> WRBS’ 30 FPS. they went a bit overboard, actually, in filling in the mechanical gaps such that the game still makes sense at the new refresh (there are now turbo boosts and stunts give you ticks of power). if WR64 ran at WRBS refresh (let alone 60 FPS) with no other changes, it would feel a little bit too easy and predictable, honestly.

part of the fun of wave race 64 optimization is the inability to ever be perfect - the need to “go with the flow” a bit, and to… idk… “use the force” a bit, to predict the in-betweens. it’s amorphous and messy (just like (our human conception of) water!), but it’s totally vital to the game. it’s thematic. WR64 is a spectacularly holistic game, probably one of the most coherent and complete i’ve ever played.

WRBS is a messier game, and the changes were extremely unfriendly to casual players. i believe the game is actually based on a very heavily modified version of 64, though i don’t know if i can ever determine this definitively. there are just so many tiny quirks in WR64 which are carried over in WRBS, especially when the central mechanics have been altered so heavily. this is more of an aside, though.

star fox is a good example, but i think stunt race fx is an even better one. here’s an excerpt from a eurogamer interview with giles goddard

Just before all that - you also made Stunt Race FX [a SNES game that, like Star Fox, made use of the Super FX chip. It was known as Wild Trax in Japan]. I imported it back in the day. I paid 20 quid for an adapter and 80 quid for the game.

I think you were ripped off. I don’t like it!

I liked it! What was the framerate exactly on it?

That’s why I don’t like it. It has such terrible framerate. When I was making it, it was like 30hz, which was better than Star Fox - that was like 14, 20, something like that - and I wanted a 30hz racing game. Coming from Mario Kart, which was 60hz, it had to be as close to that as possible. That was our nearest comparison. And the thing I got working at 30hz was great - it felt really good, everything was really smooth, but then we ended up putting so much shit in there it went from 30 to 20 to 14 to 12. The slower it got, the worse the dynamics got. And the final dynamics weren’t as smooth as they used to be.

I remember it for having these brilliant suspension behaviours.

Yeah, but that’s not entirely intentional. The intention was, the suspension was supposed to act like real suspension, not this spongy gloopy thing.

But they were big cartoon cars! It made sense!

That’s why I’m not a game designer. Nintendo saw the fact that it was becoming gloopy, so they played with that and they put that into the game design itself.

Put some eyes on the cars. Job done.

stunt

That’s pure Nintendo, that is. Realising your limitations and working it into the game design is what Nintendo does best.

Maybe there’s room for a remaster sometime soon.

I hope not.

You really dislike it that much?

It’s not groundbreaking, it’s just…

Well, I liked it. At the time it was exotic - I hadn’t really experienced many 3D games.

I’m working with a very famous producer at the moment - I can’t say their name - and he’s a massive Wild Trax fan, and I don’t know why. The games he’s made are so much better than anything I’ve ever made, and he’s adamant that Wild Trax is great. But everyone’s like that. Everything you make is never perfect - I only ever see the flaws. Even with 1080, all I see is the things I should have fixed.

so overclocking this game is probably the only way the lead programmer himself would ever want to even be associated with it! in this case, i’m not sure. the problem with SRFX is that the framerates are more or less unplayable. there’s a definite limit to how far you can stretch it. you can also note that the game was intended to be run at a much smoother FPS, whereas something like 20 FPS fits WR64 like a glove - i think that distinction matters. further, the soupy input and delayed reactions to everything just make driving way harder than it should be.

it just depends on context.


#20

I want to believe this is Kojima.

It doesn’t make any sense but that’s part of why.

Picturing Kojima’s bedroom just plastered wall-to-ceiling in Stunt Race/Wild Trax posters and him wearing Wild Trax pajamas.


#21

I am 100% in agreement that Blue Storm is both Quite Good and not the equal of Wave Race 64, by a large margin. I don’t chalk it up to frame rate, though, but to the mechanics of control and the course design. Improper control is punished much harsher, and the 'skis can get much faster if properly controlled, and the world is, in general, and like you said, the boost only emphasizes control in a way the looser 64 doesn’t, but in its looseness, 64 gets a deeper relationship with water.

Maybe we ought to talk about this in buckets – very low framerate (Stunt Race FX and other 16-bit 3D games), low but consistent framerates: Wave Race 64 and the good-performing PSX, N64 games, mid-framerates, the 30FPS target we see for mainstream console games, and high framerates, in action games and high-end PC rigs.

And then we can say, you think there’s something special in the bucket of ‘low but consistent’, 20-25 fps or so, hovering right around that filmic framerate.

I feel like I’ve seen disparate framerate elements used in horror games to create an uncanny feeling on enemies, but that should probably be considered a different technique, used to unsettle rather than make soupy.