Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Technosoft's Hyper Duel on Saturn

My current go-to game on Sega Saturn is Technosoft's excellent 1996 shooter, Hyper Duel.  I played the arcade version on MAME a few years ago, but was slightly disappointed by the experience.  The Sega Saturn version, however, is a completely different story.  Of the three spaceship shooters on the system - Hyper Duel, Blast Wind, Thunder Force 5 - I think Hyper Duel is my favorite, which, of course, makes it my favorite side-scrolling arcade shoot-em-up on the Saturn.

In the arcades, Hyper Duel looked flat and even a little sickly; far too many greys and greens in the color palette.  On the Saturn, Technosoft completely revamps the graphics, adding light and contrast, and bringing a vivid saturation to the colors.  Explosions are a fiery red, enemy ships have a metallic sheen, stars and galaxies in the background look stunning.  It's a testament to glorious pixel-art; Hyper Duel now looks like a proper Technosoft game.  If only Herzog Zwei and Thunder Force III were remade with these graphics!  Ah, I can only dream.

You can tell that Technosoft came from a console background, because their arcade games are relatively simple and straightforward by comparison.  Hyper Duel (and Blast Wind, their vertical-scrolling shooter) doesn't have the winding, unpredictable level design of Thunder Force III and IV, a design that owes its allegiance to 2D platformers.  Instead, it's much more direct and tightly focused, and the levels are fairly short before you have to battle the giant bosses.  It's also very challenging, which meant pumping in lots of quarters at the arcade.

Oh, and have I mentioned that you pilot a spaceship that turns into a robot?  You can also call upon extra fighters or mechs to attack the enemy.  Shades of Technosoft's masterpiece, Herzog Zwei, no doubt.  You can choose among three spacecraft, which move at different speeds and have slight variations in weapons (even though they're basically the same).  And two players can fight together, a terrific addition that should have been included in the Thunder Force games.

Like all of Technosoft's Saturn games, Hyper Duel never left Japan, and it's an extremely rare game that currently sells for a king's ransom - $200 has been the going price at eBay for some time.  I can't fathom why you'd pay that kind of money for a single videogame, especially when you can download and burn to disc for free.  Bragging rights, no doubt.  The Saturn has become a highly prized collector's item among old school and shooter fans; it's a badge of honor for the true hardcore gamer, and Hyper Duel is one of their most prized trophies.

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