First of all, hello! The Gagaman here. You may remember me from such
films websites as the Dreamcast Junkyard, Sega Memories and Lucky Hit. Shameless plugs aside, I’m humbled to become a contributor here on Sega Bits and hope to bring you guys some fancy-pants articles in the future, hopefully not too riddled with typos. For now though: Look!
Being the first successfully crowd funded Dreamcast indie game released, Redux: Dark Matters is finally here after two years of development, sent to me in the post yesterday morning. Has this kickstarted shmup been worth the wait and the cash? Read on to find out…
Back in 2012 I contributed to this Kickstarter, pledging $65 to get the limited edition. There was also a $100 pledge for a steel-book edition, but I’m not a big fan of steel-books anyhow. I may as well start with the first thing that I can give er.. first impressions of..
Redux comes in a standard 2-disc DVD case, much like most other indie Dreamcast release, with a Japanese styled spine. It’s nice looking, with a 3D render of the brightly colored space ship on the front and artwork of the ship’s pilot on the back as illustrated by GENZOMAN, who also contributed artwork to Gunlord. On the back we get the briefest summary of a game ever: “Shoot robots in space!”, the number of copy you have and some compatibility details. Nothing amazing really, but does the job perfectly well.
Inside we are treated to not one, but two games! Instead of a soundtrack CD the second disc included is a copy of Dux 1.5, which was released earlier last year. I didn’t purchase a copy of Dux 1.5 purely on the basis that I knew it was bundled with this, though owning it this way does mean missing out on the instruction manual and packaging, and that jewel case edition does look rather nice. Either way both discs have nice, full colour art on them.
Speaking of manuals this is sadly the biggest let down of the package: it’s a single sheet of folded paper with credits, controls and that’s it. Most other Dreamcast indie games have manuals of at least 10 pages full of lovely artwork, a list of the enemies and bosses, instructions on how to play the game and maybe even a bit of story. None of that here, just the bare minimal. What a shame. The package also came with a ‘I helped make this happen’ kickstarter sticker. Doesn’t it make you proud?
Anyways, on to the most important part: slapping that disc into my Dreamcast and..
Redux is, as the title suggests, a remake of Dux. A bit odd considering that Dux 1.5 was technically a remake of Dux, or at least a revision with bug fixes and improved gameplay, but hey ho. The main difference between this and the original is that there are now two different ships to choose from, each with a radially different weapon style.
The first one plays similar to the Dux ship, with the option taking bullets for you up front and a charging shot, but now it also has a bullet soaker which has it’s own charge bar. This will suck up any bullets on screen and also target enemies which you can then send homing, Panzer Dragoon like shots at.
“If you have played enough of Dux to map the levels out in your head, you will breeze through this as it’s technically the same game”
The second ship is far less equipped with weapons, lacking a option and the bullet soaker, but makes up for this by sheer firepower, which can be upgraded into screen filling flash blobs of fury. This new pair of ships makes the game far more exciting, varied and enjoyable than the rather basic Dux. Enemies also now drop lumps of gold to collect, kind of like other shmups like mars Matrix and Fast Striker, which is a shmup mechanic I have always liked.
Unfortunately, this is where the differences end. I maybe should have studied the trailers more to notice this, but was quite disappointed to find that the level design, enemy patterns and bosses appear to be identical. If you have played enough of Dux to map the levels out in your head, you will breeze through this as it’s technically the same game, but with more firepower thus making it easier, which could be considered a blessing or a curse depending on your skill level.
Oh dear, what happened here? As soon as I booted up the game, something didn’t seem right. For reference, Dux was a very sharp, crisp looking game. You could almost believe it was in HD, the pre-rendered sprites were so good, and the same looked to be the case with Redux, but somehow the game has ended up looking about held the resolution as Dux. The game is very pixelated and chunky, but not in the same way Neo Geo ports from NG: DEV TEAM are: it looks like the assets have been squashed down and detail has been lost in the translation. At first I thought maybe it was an issue with running the game on VGA, so I tried it via Scart but it looked even worse. Small text like the ‘boss approaching’ is almost unreadable no matter what connection you use.
Above is just a small example of the resolution difference between Dux 1.5 and Redux, which is on the right. I can only get photos of still shots from the game and my capture equipment doesn’t really do the Dreamcast justice.
“According to Hucast, this was a mistake on their part, confusing the Dreamcast and HD builds”
Chatting with Hucast on their Facebook page, I found out that this is indeed how the Dreamcast version of the game is supposed to look, there is no mistake with the print run or anything. The reason for this lower resolution is apparently that Redux uses far more RAM for graphics than the previous games, I assume due to more detailed scenery and more bullets and objects on screen. What this does not explain is why all screenshots and trailers of the game have looked much sharper.
According to Hucast, this was a mistake on their part, confusing the Dreamcast and HD builds. They added a note to the launch trailer description on Youtube saying that the footage is captured from the PC version, but the average watcher will probably not notice this as it is at the very bottom of read more section. The description also stated ‘high-res visuals’ which they have since revised to ‘arcade style visuals’ since I questioned them.
So why is there no Dreamcast screenshots or video? I was told that this was due to Hucast lacking the equipment to capture Dreamcast footage. This is not a large game company, but rather a indie team of a few individuals for sure, but considering they have the equipment and skills to develop entire games for the Dreamcast, you would think capture equipment would not only be affordable, but essential in the testing process.
Speaking of testing, this is another issue the game sadly faces..
A game breaking, console crashing bug in the first level, to be exact. The game can completely freeze by positioning the ship in the top right corner of the first boss. This was first discovered by Amidst Storm, who posted a video of the crash on Facebook. Upon testing this out myself I encountered the same thing, but found when testing the same thing with the veteran ship there was no crash. The photo below is where the crash occurs when I tested it.
“I hope that Hucast have plans to maybe send out a bug fixed disc to owners of the game in the near future”
I really want to like Redux: Dark Matters, but this situation has put a bit of a damper on the whole thing. There’s no denying that this is a very enjoyable shooter that improves on the original Dux in the gameplay department, but the fact that the graphics are, lets be honest, not as advertised, and that even after a two tear development they have not spotted a major bug that is easily done, is very disappointing.
I hope that Hucast have plans to maybe send out a bug fixed disc to owners of the game in the near future, much like how they shipped out free discs of Dux 1.5, but even then this doesn’t excuse the lack of information on how the Dreamcast version of the game actually looks in all this time it has been developed, it comes across as misleading and will put a lot of people off buying their games again, and it hurts me to say that as the Dreamcast indie scene is amazing and any developer that has the balls to develop a game for a console from 1998 in 2014 deserves respect and kudos.
I was assured by Hucast on Facebook that their next game Ghost Blade is running on an all new engine that will take advantage of the Dreamcast’s RAM better leading to high-res graphics, but I think I will hold out on pre-ordering for now and take a wait and see approach, which is a real shame as I’m looking forward to that game even more than I was Redux and really want them to hopefully learn from this. Oh well, there’s Neo XYX from NG:DEV TEAM on it’s way next, and those guys have an excellent track record for solid releases, so I’m looking forward to that!Ad: