Dynamite Düx (ダイナマイトダックス) / Dynamite Dux - Arcade, Sega Master System, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum (1989)
Belt-scrolling beat-em-ups are typically serious business. The likes of Double Dragon, Final Fight, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage and numerous others are all dark and gritty rampages of violence through decaying landscapes. Even the relatively goofy Kunio games involve street gangs. And yet there are a few that took things in a different direction, one of the first being Sega's Dynamite Dux (sometimes spelled Dynamite Düx, with an umlaut over the 'u' for no discernable reason). To make an analogy, Dynamite Dux is to Double Dragon as Twinbee is to Xevious.
The "men fight to save kidnapped woman" theme is still present, although here, the men are actually pet ducks named Bin and Pin, who are trying to save their owner Lucy from some weird looking guy named Achacha. The intro, where the ducks and the girl are playing around in a meadow before the main bad guy appears out of nowhere, was also borrowed for Alex Kidd in Shinobi World. (The question of who owns ducks as pets is never fully addressed.) The stages are a hodge podge of barely cohesive themes, starting off in a city, before warping to ancient Japan, to a jungle, off to Brooklyn and Texas, and then to the final lair of Achacha, which is vaguely Egyptian.
It's all an impossibly colorful and silly game. Bin and Pin are bright blue and red, respectively. The major enemies are dogs with gigantic jaws that take up approximately 80% of its body mass. Also present are cross-eyed coyotes decked in army gear and manning artillery cannons, as well as rhiocneri in American football uniforms. The one that displays not only a total lack of understanding of American geography but also basic things like climate are the penguins running around in the middle of the desert. Colonel Sanders, he of Kentucky Fried Chicken, makes an appearance right at the beginning, and makes it his purpose to act as a referee in the boxing match bonus rounds. It's a weird and wonderfully detailed game, meshing Warner Bros.-style slapstick with the randomness of Japanese humor, rendered in beautiful 16-bit late 80s pixel artwork. The only major disappointments are the bosses, which consist of things like rock monsters and gigantic flames, and are actually reused throughout.
The mechanics are a bit different from typical beat-em-ups, in that most enemies perish after a single hit, and the game never stops and waits for you to clear the enemies before moving on. Most stages also have a branching path near the middle of the stage. However, being that the ducks have super deformed proportions, their limbs barely have any reach, and combined with the occasionally erratic movements and attacks of the enemies, makes the hit detection feel rather dodgy. You do have a super attack where you hold down the attack button to wind up your arm and deliver a knock-out uppercut with a super-sized fist, although it too is slightly awkward to us. There are numerous weapons throughout each stage though, and nearly all of them fire projectiles, ranging from simple rocks all the way up to bazookas and flamethrowers.
On a fundamental level Dynamite Dux isn't really all that special, lacking in depth in a genre that's already typified as being fairly shallow, but it's an attractive game with catchy music and a generally goofy atmosphere, so it's worth a play through. It was designed by Sega AM2, which was headed by Yu Suzuki, although he doesn't appear to have actively worked on this game. The bouncy main theme was composed by Hiroshi Miyauchi, also well known for composing the Space Harrier theme and other Sega classics. The original arcade released was developed for the Sega System 16 board.
Dynamite Dux was ported to a number of platforms, mostly home computers. The most visually faithful are the Amiga and Atari ST ports, although the speed is a bit too slow and there are many graphical tiles missing. While the music made an acceptable transition, there are no sound effects. The Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum have descending graphical quality in that order, with no music whatsoever bar the title screen in the C64 version, but play pretty alright, bar the scaling down of the graphics and lack of two player modes. All of these were developed by Core Design in the UK and published by Activision. The Commodore 64 version also renames the main character Ben. These computer versions also have indicators which show how far you are to the end.
The only port handled by Sega themselves is the Sega Master System version, which was primarily released on PAL territories and Brazil, seeing very small distribution in America. Obviously a scaled down 8-bit version of a 16-bit game isn't going to look as pretty, and it especially hurts a game whose appeal balances heavily on its looks. Still, it looks decent enough for a Master System game and plays fairly well, a bit better than any of the computer ports. Unfortunately it's missing the jungle stage, so there are only five levels into total. The plot has also slightly been altered so Bin is actually Lucy's human boyfriend, who has been transformed into a duck through Achacha's curse. Pin is not present since the two player mode is gone, even though the duck on the cover is red.
Sega hasn't been too keen to remember Dynamite Dux, having never ported it anywhere else outside of its initial release. However, Sega created a tribute character in the bizarre 1996 3D fighting game Sonic the Fighters (AKA Sonic Championship) named Bean the Dynamite. Although he's green rather than blue (or red) and looks a bit like Plucky Duck from Tiny Toon Adventures, he has the same distinctive cowlick. Plus, "Bean" is close to the Japanese pronounciation of "Bin", and his nickname "The Dynamite" clarifies that the relation was definitely intentional.