Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Dynowarz (1990)

Name:Dynowarz - Destruction of Spondylus
Developer:Advance Communication Company
Genre:Side-Scrolling Shooter
Time:1 hour 40 minutes
Won:Yes (69W/60L)

Power Rangers is something a lot of people are familiar with, thanks to basically being a mainstay of children's TV since the '90s. Not as many people are familiar with the series it was based off of, Super Sentai, or the other series in the same vein, like Kamen Rider. The entire genre is called tokusatsu, at least to its western fans, inside Japan basically describes any sort of special effects driven work, from those shows to Lord of the Rings to Star Trek. Like everything else, it has its share of unrelated but clearly inspired by something more famous.

I bring this up, because this feels like something that should have been a license of something. It feels like a cheapo licensed game for some forgotten tokusatsu show that never made its way outside of Japan. Instead, it's original, and it was only released in North America according to every bit of info I can find. So, why the hell does a game released before Power Rangers hit the States feel like it's ripping that off? And make no mistake, I bring up the whole licensed game information because this is a game that plays like every mediocre licensed title you've ever seen.

The game just throws you into it after the title screen. No intro, no explanation, no nothing. Just you in a room full of spikes and two floating dudes. The D-pad moves left and right, along with a crouch function. This isn't the most necessary function, as the game is kind enough to give you three shots from your gun, one straight ahead, and one diagonally up and down. It is slightly difficult to hit things. Jumping is delayed, but your guy has some reach, half the screen up, but much less side to side. And you'll need it, because those platforms go up and down. It's hard to reach those, you can go through them, but not to worry, the spikes aren't lethal, they just hurt a little bit. I don't think I ever managed to get past these without falling. A sign of things to come.

This first stage is very easy in terms in enemies, you just get these floating snake things. They don't shoot you, they just float around. They're really easy, they die in one hit, whereas you have considerable health reserves. Sometimes they drop items, like energy tanks. It's more dangerous picking it up off the spikes than it is actually getting one. What is worrying is that you can only have one set of shots on-screen at once.

After an insultingly short time, the masked hero approaches his mecha, a giant dinosaur. The screen shows a fancy, well-done background, triumphant music plays. This is going to...

...suck. The dinosaur stage here is an incredibly simple left-to-right situation which is just a general platformer. You start off with a fist, which sounds like it might be troublesome, but most enemies only hurt you when they touch you, the biggest enemy are the pits. The dino has a worse jump, which hurts most horizontally. Even ranged enemies don't do much damage. They're all dinosaurs, some have the aforementioned ranged ability, others take multiple hits. Sometimes they drop weapons.

First, you get fireballs, these are useful, but you can only have on-screen at once. Then there's the throwing fist, it's basically a boomerang and it sucks. There is no way around it, it sucks. It doesn't go all the way to the edge of the screen, it's slow and it has the most bizarre arc I've ever seen. You get upgrades for these, but it takes a while to get another power-up, and if you get a different weapon power-up, it's back to the first level. Upgraded, the throwing fist is tolerable.

Of course, the game is designed around screwing you over by forcing you to take an power-up dropped in an ill-killed enemy's place. Remember, you basically have no horizontal ability here, it's a sharp drop from the top. Let's take this part of the level. That little blue area is a landmine, step on it and you get knocked back, into the pit. Seemingly, because the game has no real challenge from the enemies it tries to do hostile level design...and I'm grateful it's failing.

We soon have the pterodactyl, something I thought was a boss at first. It starts in the sky and swoops down. Then it just sort of flies back and forth. It's annoying because you can't hit it standing up with the throwing fist, and if you crouch it hurts you anyway. What's the point then? I'm just fighting an enemy in a way the game makes intentionally awkward.

Afterwards there's a weapon that would have been useful against the pterodactyl, and nothing else, the bomb. The bomb is basically a grenade that launches up at a high angle, then has a horizontal travel somewhat better than the player, and then misses whatever you were aiming at. 99 out of 100 times, this weapon is next to useless. No one would willingly use this weapon if they had a choice in the matter, it's truly awful.

It's okay-ish against the boss. Not ideal, but he moves slow enough that I'm not crippled here. You're basically in the same situation no matter what weapon you use, you hurt the boss, he walks faster, you get hurt. You can't jump over him, not enough height let alone distance. He has a low enough health that it isn't too troublesome beating him though. This leads into another human section, still on the first stage though.

Now there are turrets, which is fine at first, except they take more damage, and the game is already throwing them in awkward places to shoot. Look at this crap. You don't get knocked back if you're on ground or a platform, but you need to jump to hit either of those, and it's just as annoying as it sounds. I did get a power-up for my gun, but all that did was increase the amount of shots I could have on-screen to two.

Apparently I was in an invincibility frame here.

Then, there's the boss. Mama Head, no doubt. Why does this feel like it's trying to crib from Metroid? It feels bizarre, and they're stealing the least important aspect of it anyway. The boss is fairly easy, just climb up, and then jump and shoot the thing. It's harder to kill his compatriots. He dies and...the game continues. Nothing is happening. Guess I have to return to the start.

Another sequence starts and I almost think I'm at the next stage, only, the game takes me to where I killed the dino boss. Only now there's a platform. I jump onto it and my dinosaur floats away. If you had this game as a child, my condolences.

Stage 2 doesn't start off with much interesting in the way of changes. It's still the same cheap game, only now I can sometimes get a barrier item, basically more health, and the dino boss from the last stage is now a regular enemy. I think it's slightly easier but I could be wrong. The game is not not even pretending to not give me the worst of the weapons, only the throwing fist and the bomb are on this stage, and the bomb is every bit as impossible to use against the regular enemies as I expected it would be. The relative speeds, along with them constantly jumping, is enough for the bomb to be completely useless.

Yeah, this game is just obsessed with screwing you over with a crappy weapon selection. No joke, you're better off with the punch than the bomb. Maybe the second level of that bomb is more useful. I'm not about to find out. I do get the second level of the fireball attack, which just adds a fireball aimed upward diagonally, and a beam attack. It just shoots a beam which goes through everything.

The boss is like the previous pterodactyls, except now it tries to be smart and just execute hit and run tactics. That said, it doesn't do a lot of damage, so the real trouble is hitting it. It playing smart and it having no pain state means I'm not sure if I hit it. Guess the bomb would be useful against this boss.

The second stage part on foot is kind of a joke. There are a total of two parts, one with a now familiar layout. Despite the new dude who looks like the bounty hunter Princess Leia dresses up as in Return of the Jedi, the real trouble is the land mine in the upper left and that freaking turret. I cannot seem to hit anything while jumping to save my life, which I suspect the game is going to exploit quite heavily. And that ends stage 2, surprisingly.

Stage 3, basically, the game at this point consists of trying to avoid enemies that you know drop useless power-ups, it is that consistent, and basically just trying not to die. Health is saved between stages, and while there is a password system which restores health after reloading, I just prefer to use save states in this case.

The rest of the dinosaur part of the stage is the same old, same old. Even the boss just feels like I've already killed him before, and this is just getting sad. The on foot part is similarly uninteresting now. Oh, sure, now the game is forcing you to get onto those tricky platforms, but having to make precise jumps because the developers screwed up the collision physics isn't new. I guess there are falling platforms, but meh.

I can't really tell if the increasing difficulty is because the game is genuinely difficult or if I just do not care about winning this beyond being able to say I won it. Stage 4 is curiously heavy on fireball drops, don't tell me the developers thought that was the worst weapon? Hahahaha. This stages looks nice. It's never a bad-looking game, but the animation feels lackluster, probably just a NES thing.

The on foot half of the stage is just entirely lazy. The same kinds of rooms I've been through before, only now the boss is placed behind some convenient cover. He can't hit you, and I see no reason not to take advantage of this.

Stage 5 happened and I was there.

Stage 6 was an ice stage, no, that didn't affect anything, it just looked icy. Oh, and the boss was a brontosaurus, quite possibly the easiest boss I fought. It doesn't even constantly shoot at you as much as try to take pot shots at you. No, the on foot stage here isn't noteworthy either, it's just long. This, beyond the general crummy feel of the game, seems to be the game's big problem. The levels are broadly copy pasted, but just changed enough that I'm still playing new content, but have nothing to talk about. The same locations are there, just in a different order.

Stage 7 does something new and exciting, there are a lot more platforms. It doesn't change the gameplay by much, now you slowly walk up and down a lot more. The boss is a brontosaurus again, this time not so easy. And the on foot section surprisingly is, not worth talking about. Seriously, at best each new one of these sections maybe includes a new variation on the platforming jumps you've already done and a new boss screen, which isn't anymore interesting than the last few boss screens.

And that was the end of the game. Nothing special happened, just the same thing that happens every other stage. I guess the bosses were a little harder than usual, but I was floored when I saw the credits screen. This feels cheap in it's cheapness. It's a game that should have that annoying, cheap kind of difficulty, but because the developers were never that competent to begin with, it just canceled out. You can continue after every death, so while I'm sure playing without save states would be slower, it'd probably at most increase the playing time an hour. Mostly due to the on foot sections, the dinosaur sections were mostly a matter of annoyance with various weapons.

I also note that the collision detection, invincibility frames and damage knockback are all janky. Nothing really works the way it should work. You only get knocked back by certain enemies or if you're in the air. Meanwhile invincibility doesn't work in a way I can understand. I also think you can jump on enemies. It's inconsistent. The good news is that when you need to deal with some enemy you want to walk past, it's not really a problem.

The on-foot sections are workable, but are weird, owing to starting out with a triangle shot weapon, and getting rapid fire with each upgrade. The dino sections are annoying to deal with. You have three upgrades for about 4 weapons, some of which are good, like fireballs, some are okay, like a flying punch attack that you can only have one of, and bombs. Bombs are terrible and you cannot hit anything with it. Unfortunately, getting a new weapon makes your previous weapon's power disappear, and weapon powerups become like landmines, and the enemies who drop them are to be avoided. 1/10

A bunch of robot dinosaurs, which have varying personalities, all of which seem centered around slowly walking towards you and shooting at you. Bosses, meanwhile, are bigger versions of regular enemies. There are also turrets, landmines, and in the on foot sections, generic soldiers and flying robots who sometimes shoot at you. Can't say they don't give you variety, but I don't think it's all that special. 2/10


Seven stages, both in a dinosaur robot and as a man on foot, which mostly play the same way. 1/10

Player Agency:
The player moves very awkwardly, the walking speed is somehow less impressive than either character's jump. Everything feels forced on the game's part. There's a noticeable delay before actions that happen when you press the A or B button, to the point where you have to know where what you're going to press a second beforehand. This is a problem considering half this game is about platforming over bottomless pits. 2/10


A dreary sequence of the same stages doing almost the same things seven times. 0/10

I like the full-screen graphics. I also like some of the level backgrounds and the way the dinosaur enemies look. But, animation is poor and the game, like in every other respect, gets boring fast. 2/10

Whatever story there is, it's hidden in the manual. 0/10

There's sound and music. I don't actually hate it. The music, while very limited, didn't get on my nerves and neither did the sound effects. I note, however, that the pause button doesn't also pause the music. 3/10

That's 11.

This is not just the kind of game I usually play where I don't really care for it and ultimately dislike it, no, this might even come from a place of hatred for the game. I am worse off for having played it, and you are worse off for having read about it. It's boring, it's hard, and janky, the trifecta of bad game design.

Fun fact, the people who made this were the same people who made the legendary Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde NES game. That's right, they made more than one game. Quite a lot.

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