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Hydro Thunder - Dreamcast


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#1 dumpster

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 12:04 PM

Back in it’s day, the Dreamcast gave a perfect combination of technology and games I wanted to play. Games which at the time, couldn't have been done as well on any other machine. From Shenmue’s slow moving exploration to Toy Commanders surrealism, to Jet Set Radio’s pure style, to games controlled with fishing rods and maracas, the Dreamcast will always have a special place in my collection, even through the mainstream audience saw it as a failure.

Hydro Thunder and the Dreamcast go together perfectly. The analogue control, bright vivid colours, and manic arcade gameplay didn’t really sit well on the PS1 or PS2, but also provided a great quick-fix experience for those days when you just couldn’t care less where sailors hung out. The arcade structure of only one race per game meant that whether you won or lost, the game was over in a couple of minutes. You continually unlocked new boats and tracks when you beat the computer players, but whether you came first or last, it was still game over when you reached the finish line. Ideal pick up and play material.

During the game, the boats bounced along the river, the waves and reflections being as impressive as anything seen in more highly regarded titles such as Waverace. Each level had it’s own distinct setting, with a bright summer race in a stadium, a trip through the North Pole, a disaster hit flooded New York City and a volcanic island to name just four. During the races, monkeys would swing from trees, whales would swim alongside your boat, hidden passages could just be made out in time to try them out in the next race, police cars would screech to a halt on the bridges as you passed under them, and even Uncle Bobs Boat Tours would get caught up in the race. With clever use of the booster and a close eye on shortcuts, you could knock the monkeys out of their trees, run over penguins, bounce off the whales, crash the tour boat, and fly over the police cars on the bridge. The sheer noise caused by all of this action, combined with a thumping, almost operatic musical score sets your heart racing.

These fancy moments, which serve little purpose other than to add the sense of fun continue as you unlock more boats and tracks. The final track to be unlocked is a trip deep into the heart of a pyramid that collapses as you drive though. The rooms are dark with flickering lights, and as parts of the pyramid splash down around you, with snakes and monsters swimming below, as rooms rotate as you plough through them, and a large eye fires lasers, you find yourself crashing through the other side of the pyramid, over one of the games many massive waterfalls, to cross the finish line. It’s only at this time you realise how long you have been holding your breath for.

A fantastic conversion of a great game, Hydro Thunder on the Dreamcast looks even better than it’s arcade parent. The recently released Midway Arcade Treasures 3 (which also contains other similar quick-fix games like Rush and Off Road Thunder) is a little disappointing when compared directly with the Dreamcast version. That said, it’s a great little pack of games, and it’s currently 7 in the Game sale, so I’d recommend it.

Hydro Thunder is a great nostalgia trip to a time where games didn’t demand tutorials, ten buttons and a strategy guide to enjoy. It’s a great reminder of a time where the measure of a game was not how good the graphics were, but purely how much fun you were having.
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#2 angel

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 01:17 PM

Well done that man. Hydro Thunder is still my fave DC game,so much so that i managed to track down a US copy + DC-X bootdisc to get the game in its true form (US version is 20% faster).

Fantastic game. o/\o

Oh did you know holding L at the start, then R,L,R on the 3,2,1 would get you 5 seconds of boost at the get go?

Oh x 2 i have to disagree about the Arcade Treasures games, the converion isnt worth 7. Its not even as good as the n64 conversion.
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#3 dumpster

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 03:16 PM

I have a UK proper version, and recently downloaded a US version, as I read that the US one is compatible with the VGA box.

The UK version comes up with a message saying the game is not compatible. The US one does not produce a picture, but the console whirs and the VM beeps and Im fairly sure the game is running, just the VGA screen is not displaying.

Are you saying that the DCX disk makes the game play in VGA?
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#4 angel

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 04:44 PM

I thought no version of HT played in VGA. But the speed difference between NTSC and PAL is vast, you need to buy an original (a copy wont boot in 60hz AFAIK).

Hang on il check my box.

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I dont know about the DC-X disc booting in VGA, i'l check though.
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#5 dumpster

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 06:55 PM

I tried a few tricks I read on the internet, to make non VGA games work. I just tried again this evening, and lo and behold, got it sorted:


The DC version of Hydro Thunder pisses all over the Midway Pack, which is now being returned under Game's 10 day policy.

VGA Box users with Pal disc:

Turn off DC.
Insert disk
Switch VGA box to TV mode
Switch on DC
The disk starts to spin slowly. Wait for the disk to spin fast
Switch VGA box to VGA mode when the disk spins up fast.

Works for Hydro Thunder at least, which is enough to see how much worse the Midway Pack conversion is, and so that's going back to Game under the 10 day policy.

Hydro Thunder really does look fantastic on VGA and it's fast too.
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#6 angel

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 06:56 PM

Im gona have to try this now. Into the loft!

Oh and linky?
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#7 dumpster

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 08:14 PM

No link I'm afraid, this is something I tried after the ones on the net failed. However, type Hydro Thunder Dreamcast VGA into google, and that sees various discussions come up, including one who says his USA version plays in VGA with no messing about. Mine doesn't.

The stupid thing about all this is that the game discs seem to detect the VGA box and the dreamcast displays an error message, explaining that the game is not compatible. As this is an internal dreamcast message, and happens when you insert the disk (but before you start loading) it appears that the game is telling the console that it is not VGA compatible, despite the game working perfectly.

Off to try Resident Evil CV next - that also failed to work in VGA.
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#8 buster_broon

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 08:44 PM

love this game

but i only have Jp dreamcast stuff and i dont think it made it over there

:rolleyes:
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#9 Mr Spew

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Posted 06 May 2006 - 11:42 PM

Amazing game, so much fun and so colourful. :) Not sure I'd want to play it now, just in case it tarnishes my memory!
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#10 klargon

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 10:37 AM

I really liked Hydro Thunder, but there's no denying it suffers from some hefty slowdown at times on the PAL version. Perhaps I should try to check out the US version.

Favourite DC game, though - surely not?
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#11 dumpster

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 10:59 AM

It has been a while since I last played it, and now I'm on a very big screen using the VGA box, but It's not suffering from slow down. Not sure if it is actually faster than the UK version normally runs, but seems to be. It's beautiful looking. A real demonstration of show bright vivid colours can make such a difference.

I can't imagine the game looking better than this, even on a next gen console. The graphics suit the gameplay perfectly. I appreciate the X360 could do better graphics, but the extra realism wouldn't suit the game. It works just right as it is.
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#12 angel

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Posted 07 May 2006 - 11:30 AM

I really liked Hydro Thunder, but there's no denying it suffers from some hefty slowdown at times on the PAL version. Perhaps I should try to check out the US version.

Favourite DC game, though - surely not?


They both slow down sometimes, but the NTSC one absolutelty flies compared to the PAL game (once you'v seen it). It took me ages to find an NTSC copy for a reasonable price, so i was pleasantly suprised by it. Its the full 20% faster, the only PAL optimisation was screen stretching.
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#13 Dimahoo

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Posted 11 May 2006 - 08:16 PM

Its a lovely game on the DC and PC too - its what a watersports game should be about - esp. the island and artic and that rome styled level - pure arcade bliss.
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#14 bplus

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Posted 19 May 2006 - 11:34 PM

Completely loved this game. This was back in the day when I actually bought new games all the time, (now I hardly buy anything)
I remember digitiser gave it an ace review.
Was off road thunder any good?
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#15 angel

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 12:17 AM

Nope, not been a good 'thunder' game since. Pure one off.
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#16 trickytree

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Posted 20 May 2006 - 09:03 AM

4 Wheel Thunder (also DC) was good fun, but not in Hydro's class.
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#17 Dimahoo

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Posted 23 May 2006 - 08:09 PM

Quite. They should remake it.

It would make quite a game if the graphics were brought up to date.
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#18 Lok

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Posted 13 June 2006 - 05:15 PM

Still have my jpn dc and games, plus the cd collection x 3 :D
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#19 David Blunkett

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 11:45 AM

Just bought an NTSC copy of this for ... 5.67 based on this review :o

Should be here today or tomorrow just in time for the weekend.
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#20 NonShinyGoose

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 07:30 PM

Digitiser gave it 92% back in the day. Biffo loved it up big time.
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#21 David Blunkett

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 07:41 PM

Resi 4 is currently taking up my time - but I put this on for 10 minutes earlier ... and an hour later realised how much time I'd wasted.

The review's spot on. This is great.
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#22 KMxRetro

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Posted 09 October 2006 - 01:28 PM

Hydro Thunder was SUPERB. A great feeling of speed mixed with that classic (some love it, some hate it) brash Midway "arcade" feel. Really, really good fun.
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#23 dumpster

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Posted 11 March 2007 - 03:51 PM

I retract my comments about how good the Midway Xbox Classics pack is. It's rubbish!
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#24 angel

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 12:37 AM

I also bought the NTSC version and it is way faster than the PAL game, well worth tracking down.
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#25 Guest_ghostgate2001_*

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 11:38 PM

I also bought the NTSC version and it is way faster than the PAL game, well worth tracking down.


Same here. I'd been meaning to track down a US 60Hz copy of Hydro Thunder for ages, and finally did. As angel says, it's well worth it - it's the definitive version of this awesome game. Unless something totally unexpected happens, like a brand-new slinky 60fps HD port for Xbox Live Arcade (!), it's the best version we're likely to see.

Just a note for anyone buying the US NTSC version to run on a PAL Dreamcast using DC-X... I thought I'd been sold a duff copy at first because the game disc refused to boot - all I got was a corrupted version of the Sega copyright screen. The trick was to use the extended DC-X options (press any key on the joypad after removing the DC-X disc and before inserting the game disc) to select composite video (the icon on the right with the 3 phono connectors). Don't worry, your display will still be RGB 60Hz, and with this setting the game booted up just fine on my PAL Dreamcast. As people have said earlier in this thread, Hydro Thunder seems to insist on certain video set-ups.

Even 9 years down the line, nothing else touches Hydro Thunder for OTT arcade thrills. One of the main things that made Hydro Thunder so great was the amazing tracks. Of the other Midway 'Thunder' games only Arctic Thunder came close to delivering the same kind of crazy track concepts - but in all other respects it was a stinker, with the addition of weapons being particularly annoying when you just want to race and see the sights without getting randomly blown up every few seconds. If you must check out Arctic Thunder then the NTSC Xbox version is the best. The PAL Xbox version is 50Hz only, but either Xbox version wipes the floor with the PS2 version which is shoddy by comparison.

As for Midway Arcade Treasures 3, I'm such a Hydro Thunder fan I checked out all 3 console versions (Xbox, PS2, and Gamecube) and, surprisingly, the three versions vary hugely in terms of performance. Speaking only about the Hydro Thunder ports, because that's the game this thread is about, here's how they compare:

Xbox: 2nd. The game runs a bit slow, but it's essentially all there. The biggest problem with the Xbox version is a recurring bug in the compilation's save system which can corrupt your save file. Shouldn't be a problem if you only play Hydro Thunder, but if you intend to flit around the various games on this compilation then you risk losing your progress thanks to the bug.
N.B. I was playing the PAL Xbox version, which supports 60Hz.

PS2: 3rd. This is the nastiest port by far. Slow, chuggy, and with some ugly pop-up not seen in the other versions. The PS2 clearly has a harder time with Hydro Thunder than either of the other consoles. Brake-boost through the little ice cave on the Arctic Circle track (by the whales) and when you shoot out the other side you'll see the track literally being constructed before your very eyes...
N.B. I was playing the NTSC PS2 version in 60Hz, and can't comment on whether the PAL version supports 60Hz.

Gamecube: 1st. After the poor quality of some other Midway Gamecube ports, I was expecting this to be shoddiest version of all, but was very pleasantly surprised. It's smooth, very playable, and best of all has the fastest loading times of any version, which helps immensely with the game's "one more go" factor. If you can't get hold of the NTSC Dreamcast version then this is the next best thing.
N.B. I was playing the NTSC Gamecube version via Freeloader, and can't comment on whether the PAL Gamecube version supports 60Hz.

Hope these comments are helpful to people looking to play some Hydro Thunder!
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#26 Dimahoo

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 11:49 PM

I must agree with everyone.
A great game - pure arcade fun and Midway at its best. The water effects are lovely and blue at time (esp. at the start) - certainly one to play with a fan in your face on a hot day.

Theres also a good selection of tracks with Greece probably my favorite becuase its lots of aquaducts. Certainly one game that deserves a remake IMO.
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#27 angel

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Posted 25 July 2008 - 09:10 AM

good post ghostgate. classic gaming and my favourite racer ever. nothing beats the air you can get in HT, not even burnout.
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#28 womble9

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 10:27 AM

nothing beats the air you can get in HT, not even burnout.


I'd pretty much agree with you there though I'd add that Excite Truck is right up there too when it comes to "Big Airness" :)
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#29 moonwhistle

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 08:19 PM

Like with all PAL games you can just force 60hz using a DC-X, no real need to import.
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#30 angel

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Posted 28 July 2008 - 08:54 PM

not on HT
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