Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
I decided to skip the first Hydlide game for this series. Originally released in 1984 by T&E Soft for the PC-88 and quickly ported to other Japanese home computer systems, it predates even Dragon Quest, and, along with its competitor Dragon Slayer, it established the template for action role-playing games in Japan. There, it’s considered a hugely influential classic: its system of running into enemies to fight them would be used again in Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished, while The Legend of Zelda stripped away some role-playing elements but expanded the action by including a dedicated attack button and items like the boomerang and bow and arrows that add tactical options. But Hydlide would not reach American audiences until 1989, after The Legend of Zelda, and by that point it just seemed simplistic and boring in comparison. I know, because I actually owned it as a kid.
Hydlide II: Shine of Darkness never made it out of Japan, and from what I’ve read is pretty similar to the first game. Hydlide 3: The Space Memories, however, did eventually get released in North America and Europe. The Japanese version appeared in 1987 (hence it showing up now in my timeline for this series) for home computer systems, but it was ported to the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis a few years later, including a US release in 1990 and a European release in 1991, both using the name Super Hydlide. Even so, I’d never heard of it. But it sounded intriguing when I read about it now: in addition to adding a dedicated attack button like The Legend of Zelda, it features a morality system based on whether the player attacks “good” vs. “evil” monsters, a 24-hour in-game clock requiring the hero to rest at night and eat two meals a day, and all items (including money!) have weight, so players must choose what to carry lest they be overloaded. These mechanics all sounded like those found in Western computer role-playing games, rather than the Japanese style that was more common on consoles. Perhaps that makes sense, given the game was originally a home computer game in Japan, but I was still intrigued. And then there’s that subtitle, which implies a science fiction element, reacalling some of my favorite classic role-playing games. And, since the North American release was on the Sega Genesis, it marks the first game in this series on a fully 16-bit console (the Turbografx-16 doesn’t quite count, even though it’s in the same generation).