Thunder Storms

One of the first games I played on the Dreamcast, and also one of the most spectacular home conversions of an arcade racer that I've ever seen. What am I on about? Hydro Thunder, of course! Amazing graphics, great music and sound effects, perfectly balanced vehicle (should that be boat?!) handling and a sense of pure fun that most modern games are sorely lacking: make no mistake, Hydro Thunder is one mind-blowing Dreamcast game. Indeed, it was the game I would put on if ever I wanted to show off what the DC was capable of whenever any of my PS1-owning (deluded fanboy) friends came round to the house. Not that it stopped them waiting for the PS2, but at least I did my bit. Sigh. The game was, however, ported to other consoles too - namely the N64 and PS1. How did those versions measure up to the mighty Dreamcast incarnation? Not too well, actually. OK, I respect that the Dreamcast is vastly superior to both of those machines in terms of technical specs so we shouldn't be too harsh, but regardless Eurocom and Blue Shift were handed the task of cramming the game onto the N64 and PS1 respectively by Midway, with varying levels of success...

The N64 port of Hydro Thunder actually looks the worst of the three - it's got muddy graphics and a lack of visual effects that made the original so attractive, such as lens flares and water reflections. It is smooth though, and with an Expansion Pak a four player mode is unlocked. That extra 4MB of RAM could probably have been better used increasing the screen resolution though, in my opinion. The PS1 version, whilst a lot sharper than the N64 game, does have a rather choppy frame rate and there are plenty of trackside details missing, as well as some amazing polygon tearing and water effects that border on the laughable in places...but on the plus side it does have a career/championship mode which is missing from the DC and N64 versions. The DC version itself isn't perfect - the sun is clearly visible through the walls of the tunnel in the first track...but I can live with that. Overall though, the Dreamcast version kicks seven bells out of the others...and the proof is here in this lovely little video I made. Enjoy:

2 comments:

Aaron said...

Wow the sound design is way better on the DC too, more than I thought it would be.

I recently reacquired this game after maybe a decade, and I forgot how slow it is, speed wise. Maybe I'm just used to more recent arcade racing games like Burnout, but it was disappointing.

Tomleecee said...

I don't know about about that - I know what you mean when you compare Hydro Thunder to more recent racing games, but compared to contemporary racers, it's light years ahead of the competition.