First things first, I'm gonna go on record and say that the japanese version of this game is the way to go. Not only did the western version double the difficulty of everything, it also... neglected to translate any of the dialogue and cutscenes from the japanese version, so it just chucks them out altogether. There's a fan translation of this version of the game, and I wholeheartedly recommend it over what the west half-heartedly gave us.
With that said, Dynamite Headdy is the type of game where even through several completed playthroughs, I'm still kinda struggling to wrap my thoughts around it. It's like a platformer, with the pacing of a run 'n gun. That is to say, it almost feels like I'm supposed to play more methodically, but the game is just blasting through its mechanics and setpieces at such a rapid-fire pace that I feel like I'm not being given time to digest any of it.
Despite this, I can't help but admire the creativity on display. Headdy leans headdily into its stage play aesthetic, far more than Mario 3 ever did. Every stage is an act of a play, filled with blatant props substituting the sky, spotlights, behind the scenes background elements, and - on a side note - the occasional ridiculously high-quality voice clip that made me double take my prior understanding of what the Genesis sound chip could handle.
This is a Treasure title, through and through. Their technical prowess, penchant for weirdness, and thrilling setpieces are all present here, and are all worth experiencing. It's just... it feels like there's a difference between me thinking "This game is really cool," versus "This game is fun to play," the latter of which I don't find myself thinking as much. It's not bad to play either, nor is it clunky. Maybe the problem is that whereas the aesthetic is very focused, the gameplay is not. There's tons of powerups, but few of them contribute towards a fun flow of movement that I normally expect out of platformers. Headdy carries no momentum, no running button, he isn't much more other than servicable to play as.
It's the kind of situation where the style of the game carries everything else. And man, if there's anything that'll win you over, it's the style. The amount of scenarios present here are all wild and crazy beyond all imagination. And yet, for all it does, there's just that one tiny thing missing that makes me wonder if the simplicity of the controls not matching up to the complexity of the level variety creates an awkward balance of design priority. In the sense that the gameplay and the variety should've been equally prioritized, but clearly, one thing took precedence, and thus Headdy winds up as "fun enough," but could it have been more fun?
Yeah, again, it's difficult for me to collect my thoughts on Headdy. I love what it's doing, I highly respect it just for being a game that the developers had complete freedom over. But it feels like it's doing too much within too little time, and I guess it makes it difficult to keep a lot of it in your memory once you're done. Perhaps that's not a bad thing, though. It just means that my next playthrough is going to still feel fresh.