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PHRASE OF THE WEEK: DIE JOB DEATH CAR? (Daijobu desu ka - Are you OK?) (C) Sodom

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

[MD] Dune: The Battle for Arrakis

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Dune: The Battle for Arrakis

Genre: real-time strategy
PC/MD/developer: Westwood
PC/MD/publisher: Virgin
Year of release: 1993
Players: 1
Media: 1 MB cartridge, SEGA MegaDrive compatible
Additional peripherals supported: none, sadly

I really do like this game. What I hate about the aura it makes, however, is that it is always treated like 'FIRST REALTIME STRATEGY GAME EVER, YAH!'... when you are grown-up enough to believe in fairytales, you start to believe this shit widespread by journalists. For the last time, STONKERS FOR ZX SPECTRUM WAS THE FIRST STRATEGY CONTROLLED IN REAL TIME. But I usually would like to close my eyes and cool down... unless I see the same gaming press in the faraway past when they poured shit on more fast-paced and unusual Herzog Zwei and gave flowers to Dune II which was pretty much like 'supUrb' and 'revolutionary' in their opinion, because they were pretty much like blind not to see that the concept actually existed since long ago. Westwood just tried to perfect it, as well as making it 'indirect control strategy' with mouse, and, needless to say, they did it.
I still like Dune though. If you forget about all these gaming press baby pranks. I can't really forget about Herzog Zwei at the same time, still, because, when I first tried this game, I understood that it has everything that Dune: The Battle for Arrakis haven't. But I will tell you what exactly much, much later. Meanwhile, we move on to the game...


Of course, Virgin in cooperation with Westwood couldn't make it look ABSOLUTELY the same as the PC version; otherwise, it would look just plain worse that the 'custom port' they have delivered to MegaDrive. First of all, the new intro looks badass (as well as the new intro theme written by Frank Klepacki himself), even if the port doesn't retain the ACTUAL sneak peek with the story. Also, the new feature that wasn't available on the PC, a little tutorial video, in case if you feel like a noob with this game. Needless to say, completely redrawn ingame graphics. Mentat behaves a bit different than he did on the PC, where he surveyed you to make sure you're not a spy sent by another house. The economics were rebalanced, sorta kinda, so one credit doesn't equal to dollar but rather to something more expensive than euro (hence that, buildings and stuff cost less but harvesters DO collect spice a bit slower).
And the interface. It has been changed completely. Do you remember that episode from Westwood's history when they have invented simple-to-use 'one click - one action' controls for adventure games (that remain in domination even today, too bad Sierra ACTUALLY invented the same thing at the same moment) while the other games of its' time messed your head up with the list of optional actions located somewhere below the game screen. Like, you want to open the door. Nowadays, you could simply point the cursor on it and click. Before, you had to choose 'Open' out of the long list, then point, then click. Do you get what I mean? Well, that's exactly what they did with PC-to-MD transition of Dune II. If you also remember how the original Dune II looked, you should also know that it, of course, didn't had all the possible orders listed in three columns, but moving your units with clicking 'Move' on the screen EVERY fucking time will be getting ridiculous. On the MegaDrive, you just have to point the place where your unit must move and press the A button. Simple as that. Believe it or not, this feature alone became the part of the modern RTSses, therefore used not only in Westwood's creations, but also in the RTSses not made by them (take Warcraft for instance). I doubt, however, that it was innovative too, because of the same damn Stonkers...
And, of course, Mr. Klepacki has proudly redubbed the voices and remade the music specifically for this edition. Yes, the cover versions of the original OST fit the game exactly, I will agree, but one thing is that THERE'S NOT ENOUGH TRACKS. Seriously, this game indeed lacks ingame music. Only four songs for the entire lotsa-hour non-stop action? Hah-hah. Even I could fit more music stuff into just one meg cartridge, Westwood!
And, for a dessert, I'm gonna tell you about the fate of this port in our suffering motherrussias. In there, Dune instanly became a cartridge that every good megadriver (not meaning the members of Megadriver band) definitely owned in his collection. And thanks to the, sorry for going nuts AGAIN, malpopularity of Herzog and, let's say, Populous on MegaDrive... it has been always treated like the only RTS on this console. But that's not the thing yet. Again, like in my Doctor Mario review, I'm gonna mention my first emulation site ever, So, the hacking of this game actually went on full speed, which brought us an easy-to-use map editor, which is, technically, a ROM editor too. Not to say that before, a guy nicknamed sergi, who is a host of, hacked this game BEFORE the editor came out, right into three versions. Sadly, the only way you could play these by now is to buy the reproduction cartridge with the hack. So, if you ARE a die-hard fan of Dune, keep your moneypig save and sane.


I will admit this port is awesome and that they've left the charm of the PC version, but let me return to where I have started the review: Herzog Zwei has the features that Dune: The Battle for Arrakis doesn't. So that's what basically OUGHT to be fixed in Dune so it technically would be par with Herzog Zwei. It needs more soundtrack. It needs the flexible password system. It needs bigger unit limitation. It needs the split-screen versus mode. The animation of troops shouldn't be that choppy. The AI should be less dumb. All that Dune managed to push into one megabyte is nothing compared to Herzog's success at fitting all this into 512 kilos, counting that it had different kinds of terrains. No, I don't say that Dune also needs to have the terrains other than desert, because the sands are the blood of entire Duniverse, that's in the canon. And it doesn't need the same kind of indirect controlling as Herzog at all. But, if they would fix all the problems I listed above, this port would be far more than superior to the PC version... Sadly, it's just a good game. Nostalgic, but not flawless.

That was a game that made the childhood of many happy owners of MegaDrives who lived in mid-90s before the invasion of PlayStation in ex-USSR kids' houses... It even made Dune 2000 on it obsolete because of how terrible this thing was. But I swear, even such a good port could be much better that. It IS a masterpiece, but if you look more carefully, you may accidently find Herzog Zwei more perfect than this, sorry about mentioning this game all over again.

P.S. Okay, I made a little ad above, when I was talking about the map editor. Anyways, if you're interested in getting it, contact me anytime (warning you that I have not created the program, SEGAMAN did).


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Yet another shiny new title screen. You gotta love the intro (even if you can't skip it). 
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The ropes are REALLY easy to teach, but in any case, you should learn a couple or two of extra commands! 
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The mentat screen now looks creepier, huh? 
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Paparazzi paparazzi.
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Attacking an Ordos base. Too bad I can't capture it right now - MAX UNIT LIMIT! 
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Harvesters at work. 

1 comment:

  1. Intresting review. I think I may have played this as well when I was younger.