MegaDriving: Hydro Thunder

So far here on MegaDriving, we’ve covered NASCAR stock cars, motorcycles, and a pretty bitchin’ Ferrari. Pretty much the holy trinity of Sega racing. So, where do we go from here? Well, get yo’ towels ready, cause it’s about to go DOWN…

…Is that song still relevant?

BAYTONAAAAAAAAAAAA

The first game of Midway’s acclaimed (no pun intended, I swear) Thunder racing series, and a game that can be considered the Daytona USA of the arcade powerboat racing world (if such a glorious world exists), Hydro Thunder was released to arcades in 1999, and most importantly, released to our beloved Dreamcast as a launch title, and would go on to be one of the most memorable racers on the system.

It’s hard to find a game as unique as this one. Speedboat racers are very hard to find, especially in this day and age, and most are budget titles that, frankly, aren’t anywhere near good. In fact, Hydro Thunder was the only water racing game even released for the Dreamcast in America and Europe and one of only two total in the Dreamcast’s worldwide library. (The other game, if you’re curious, is called Power Jet Racing 2001, in Japan only) So, if you invested in a Dreamcast and wanted to get your high speed waverunnin’ fix, this was pretty much your only option.

Luckily, it was a damn good option.

IIIIIIIIIIIIII'M SAAAILIIIIIIIIIIING AWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY

Remember when we all went nuts over the previous generation's ability to handle things like lens flare?

Firstly, it looked amazing. Maybe not in the “Gran Turismo” sense of the word, but certainly in that eyepopping “It’s so pretty I don’t care if it’s not realistic” way. For it’s time, it was easily one of the most spectacular looking racers out there, and to me at least, it ranked in the top five on the Dreamcast period, for a good while. The boats looked incredibly cool (Damn the Torpedoes and Tidal Blade being my favorites), and the tracks… Let’s just say I’ve crashed many-a-time because I got distracted by how amazing some of them were.

The tracks ranged from your basic motorsports parks to such things as the Nile River and a flooded post-apocalyptic New York. And not only were these fun to look at, they were a blast to play as well. The total package. It’s such a shame that most arcade racers these days don’t have that kind of mix in their tracks.

It’s also kind of a shame, though, that the music didn’t match the graphics, at least in my opinion. It really seemed kinda… I dunno, like low budget Soul Calibur music. Honestly, you could switch the music of those two games, and I seriously wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I know they wanted it to feel “epic”, especially when you’re speeding through ravaged cities or active volcanoes, but to me, it just felt out of place. I dunno, maybe I’d just grown accustomed to having rock/jazz/techno playing in racing games at that point. Luckily, the rest of the sound, such as voice clips and engine revs, was really good.

Most importantly, it played like a dream, no pun intended there either. The steering was very well done, especially when using the analog stick, and it was one of the few games on the system where the brakes and accelerator being on the triggers didn’t bug me. It all just felt so right.

Nice to see that even in an crisis, Conan and Letterman were still taping shows.

Nowadays, the game is looked at by several as quite the classic. It ended up spawning Midway’s Thunder series, which included another Dreamcast game that’ll more than likely be covered here in the future, and next Tuesday, a sequel/remake of the game is coming to Xbox Live (after Microsoft picked up the rights when Midway “died”) entitled Hydro Thunder Hurricane, and according to our Fearless Leader, any fan of the original will love it. In addition to that, some of the members of the original Hydro Thunder team released a game called H2Overdrive (Not to be confused with the PS2 game of the same name) to arcades last year. From what I’ve seen of it, it too looks like quite the crowdpleaser for fans of the original. Sadly, I haven’t seen anything related to a home version as of right now.

Which brings me to my current thoughts on the original. When Alex suggested the game to me earlier in the week, I punched the air because it was an excuse to go back and play a game I liked and hadn’t played in a rather long time. It was the same feeling I got when I decided on doing a feature on Daytona USA. And after going back and playing it for a couple days, well… To be honest, I think I love it more than I did before.

It still looks good, even for a Dreamcast launch title, in 2010. And while it doesn’t blow me away like it used to, it’s still got a ton of charm to it. And it still controls so smoothly, especially now that I have a bit more skill at racing games. It really does feel like a better game now than it did in the past.

If you’ve got a Dreamcast, and you see this game at a pawn shop or anything of that sort, don’t hesitate to pick it up. You certainly won’t regret it.

A screen from the soon-to-be-released Hydro Thunder Hurricane, AKA: Why I Hate Console Exclusivity Deals (Image from Microsoft)

And that’s another week of MegaDriving in the books. I personally thought this one turned out much better than the last two, thanks to the feedback you folks have been giving me. But those are just my thoughts. What’d you think of this one? Like it? Hate it? Thumbs in the middle? Don’t hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment here, posting in the forum thread (Seriously. Join the forums. They’re active and awesome.), or sending me a tweet. Next week’s edition will be the last one before I have to take a one week absence, so I’m hoping to make it a good one!

Thanks for reading, and I hope to see ya next week!

About the author

Brett Hatfield

Sega Addicts owner, writer, and podcast/stream host. Sarah's person and husband-to-be. Honorary Australian. #TakeTheWorld
  • Pat Reddick

    I’ve played this game in arcades several times, I really enjoy it. The place in town that had it closed down though, which sucks.

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