An evil demon named Varalys casts a curse upon the princess Ann, turning her into three fairies. You control Sir Jim and set out to find the fairies, and then slay Varalys. Only by vanquishing Varalys can the curse be lifted. Once the princess is restored the kingdom will be saved. The fighting is a little more in-depth than hack and slash. You can either fight with a defensive or offensive stance, or you can use magic spells.
Reviews View More
YES, it's impossible without a guide, YES it's janky as hell (god help you if you aren't using save states), but for 1984 it's an interesting game, and arguably there's a lot still interesting about it today that sticks with me.
There's so many weird little decisions that this game has. When it comes to action RPGs, I always think that if I have trouble or an interesting time killing the first slime... then it could be a good game. and that's the case here with hydlide, where I walked into a Slime while in "DEFEND" mode and promptly died. It felt like a weird puzzle trying to figure out how to get my first few levels.
Standing on forest tiles prevents you from regenerating health, and damages you. There's something moving in this simplicity of logic. Forests ARE dangerous, filled with unknown things, so of course you would get hurt while standing in one...right?
Attacking enemies based on where they're moving will hurt you more, back attacks are safer. But there's this absolute chaos to the chunky movement that makes it hard to consistently do.
As a result even the simple dungeons where you need to go two screens, pick up a chest, and leave... are remarkably tense. Sure it feels like a dice roll whether you'll just die, but there is an interesting layer of strategy that will increase your odds. So much personality and memorability in tiny, simple mazes. Each time you try to find the next place to grind it feels like a little microcosm of a 'new area' in a modern game - the zombie graveyard, the desert worms, etc... it feels like a big adventure shrunk down to this tiny size.
I'm a fan of the quiet narrative 'beats' - slimes being silently replaced by "HYPERS" on the overworld, upon reaching level 5 or 6.
I like some of the bizarre humor - the unexplained screens full of moving rocks and trees that will kill you even at max level. The screen of wasp-infested trees you need to investigate one by one to find a key item. Having to stand outside a cave of worms and slowly swat at them to grind out levels. Is it good? Not really, but the way Hydlide has these boiled-down, janky scenarios that we are familiar with today in action RPGs is sort of heartwarming. For example, the "standing outside a cave of worms" is very similar to cheese strategies for grinding hard enemies... The Elden Ring Moving Ball is similar to the Killer Rock in Hydlide.
The way this game gates stuff with obscure knowledge reminds me of Tower of Druaga, or arcade games in general. It's funny to know that you need to keep killing golden knights to get a key, but if you kill one more, the key vanishes. It's funny to learn that you have to drain the water around a moat to make a dragon vulnerable.
Ultimately, through the lens of 'is this playable and fun right away?' it's not a good game. But all the strange decisions and scenarios feel like they could be spun out and developed into interesting games of their own. So in that sense Hydlide feels like this box of possibilities.