Dual HeroesHudson's N64 fighter needs a few heroes to save it.
Publisher: Hudson Soft|
Developer: Hudson Soft
The following review is based on the Japanese import version of the game. I will re-review the game if it is ever released in the West. Let's hope that will never happen.
Even though most N64 fighting games are only average when compared to those available in arcades or on other consoles, Western N64 owners should consider themselves lucky. Imagine you lived in Japan. Although fighting is one of the most popular genres in that country, it took 18 months to bring a fighter to the N64. December 1997 marks the release of Dual Heroes, Hudson's third N64 title after the enjoyable Bomberman 64. Time to rejoice for Japanese fighting fans? Ummm, no. Dual Heroes makes the N64 look so bad, it could easily be a system seller -- meaning N64 owners selling their systems to get a PSX or a Saturn.
Gameplay: When Hudson first showed renders for Dual Heroes, everyone was excited. Futuristic super-heroes fighting in precarious environments, on top of a moving train, knee-deep in water, threatened by collapsing walls -- not bad... If only those things were in the final game, too.
Dual Heroes enables you to select from eight Power-Ranger-like characters, two girls, five guys, and one alien with a tail. As with other fighting games, each character comes complete with unique special moves and slightly different attributes. So, how does it play? One word: Argh.
You control your character with the analog stick, the D-Pad cannot be used. Z allows for 3D movement (sidestep), A is punch, B is block, C-Down is kick. Considering that the selection of moves is dreadfully limited, their implementation in 3D space is even worse. Often you re facing the wrong way and miss your opponent, or gameplay turns into a simple button mashing contest. As a matter of fact, when we first picked up the game, we beat it on the normal setting in shortest time, mostly using a low kick (OK, so we threw in three punches for the final boss).
Luckily, it's not all THAT bad. For example, there is an innovative Robot Mode, in which you teach another character how to fight. This translates into you hitting your opponent, for example with a punch kick combination, and your robot will copy your moves and remember the combo for later use. The other cool feature is what Hudson calls the Virtual Gamer. Select one of five characters labeled as "gamers" (they are only represented by drawings and don t actually appear in the game), who will then randomly pick one of the eight fighters. Each gamer has his/her own speed settings and uses slightly different tactics, e.g. Reiko is fast, Alan & Milan (Siamese twins) are better in the defense department, while Zara likes to attack and not worry about defense. The virtual gamer is an awesome idea and if the game itself wasn t so bad, this would definitely lengthen its replay value. Finally, there is a two-player mode and a practice mode.
Graphics: Awesome! Vibrant colors, fantastic reflection-mapping and dynamic composition. But let s put aside the box art and look at the actual game. Decent, if unoriginal polygon models are texture-mapped with some of the ugliest textures yet. The N64 s hardware tries to smoothen out what s there, but in the end, even bi-linear filtering and anti-aliasing can t correct bad design. The battle arenas (select from barrier, no barrier, or wall) are simple squares with low-res ground textures (often made up of a vomit-inducing primary color pattern). The backgrounds are equally shoddy, with dithered color schemes -- as flat and uninteresting as they can be. Don t misunderstand me, I have nothing against bitmap backgrounds, but it looks like Hudson compressed the hell out of these and they weren t very well drawn to begin with. The motion-captured animation is definitely one of the high-points of Dual Heroes -- too bad that the camera angles screw up your view when pulling off a special move.
Yes, there's a lot to dislike here. Whether it's the fighters' gray shadows, the atrocious load-time (can you believe it?) before some of the fights, or the fact that the display is letter-boxed at all times. Dual Heroes is definitely the Boris Karloff of fighting games.
Sound: It s happy, it s Japanesey, it s pure Super NES goodness. While not the worst music on the N64 yet, it s utterly forgettable. If only you could switch it off -- it boggles my mind that always the games with the worst music don t include an option to give your ears a break.
Overall: Let s not waste any more time on this game: Dual Heroes would be the worst fighter for the N64 if it came out over here. Despite some innovative ideas, the final project is a shoddy first attempt at 3D fighting for the Japanese market. Hudson was smart enough to base the game s characters on artwork by a renowned Japanese manga artist, which will probably be Dual Heroes main selling point as well. At the moment, it s only available in Japan -- and if you re smart, that s where it should stay. Buy only if it ships with a free N64 packed in.