Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hybrid Heaven: A Perplexing Paradise

I recently purchased Hybrid Heaven from my local used game store because I remember renting the game years ago and thinking it was cool then. Of course, I didn't remember anything about the game itself, and after playing the game again today, I think that was because the game is so goddamn weird. Normally I would write something like “Hybrid Heaven is 1999 *insert genre here* game from Konami,” but I don't know what genre I could put this game into. Wikipedia marks it as an Action RPG, but I don't think that really describes it accurately. The game is just so many different things that I don't know where to begin.

I'll start with the beginning of the game, which for some reason starts with some male nudity. I guess the creators wanted the game to start off with something sexy to lure in female gamers, but remember that this is an N64 game, and N64 graphics are never sexy. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because I'm subconsciously gay or something. The cutscene goes on to set up the story. The naked dude is some sort of alien that's supposed to replace the president's bodyguard or something like that. Then, this other guy shoots the naked guy and kills some agent before falling down a futuristic elevator shaft. For some reason people that are killed disappear in a weird way, I think because they are aliens. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because I'm a fan of The X-Files.


Anyway, this other guy is the main character, Mr. Diaz, who wakes up at the bottom of this elevator shaft and inside some alien facility where he works. The game's controls are strange. The movement is handled in the usual “push the analog stick in the direction you want to go” manner instead of the tank controls that I expected, which isn't really a bad thing. Though, like Resident Evil, holding down a trigger will put Diaz into a gun aiming stance. Unlike Resident Evil, which has fixed camera angles, Hybrid Heaven goes to a behind-the-player view, which gives better accuracy, even though the controls are actually the same. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because I love Resident Evil.


There isn't much direction from the start, so I just wandered around, talking to scientists, shooting robots, and opening boxes. It didn't occur to me until I got to a save point that it dawned on me that the exploration is sort of Metroid-like. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because I like non-linear exploration. It was around this point when I paused the game and found out there were some menus with lots of different bits of information on my items, weapons, melee attacks, stats, and statuses. It was then that I realized this wasn't just a simple survival horror game. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven  was cool because I like action games with RPG elements.

Diaz has mad ups.
There was a little bit of extremely simple puzzle solving require to move forward, and then I finally got to the most surprising part of the game. It turns out that the Resident Evil-style shooting was not the main type of combat in the game. When you encounter a monster the whole game changes as Diaz puts up his dukes and prepares to beat the shit out of it. You are sort of locked onto the monster, and you move around it sort of like a wrestling game. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because I liked N64 wrestling games. But then you don't attack like in a wrestling game, attacking is more like an RPG. The idea of moving around freely then stopping to choose attacks is reminiscent of Vagrant Story. The way different strikes for different limbs and methods can be chosen and stringed together in combos reminds me of Legend of Legaia. Oddly, all of these games came out within a couple of years from each other. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because I liked those games.

I didn't get very far into the game, but I saw enough of it to know it is very schizophrenic. I don't know if I'll ever play the game some more and find out if all of this meshes better later in the game, but I think I've seen all of its unique parts. This game just bewilders me, and I don't know I can describe my feelings towards it. Though they are completely different, it is the same sort of feeling I had when watching Twin Peaks, a mix between interest, confusion, and indifference. Maybe I thought Hybrid Heaven was cool because my brain could not process it.

1 comment:

  1. When I first played Hybrid Heaven, I had rented it. Before it was due back I had started a second file on a cartridge that I went out and bought myself. I didn't think Hybrid Heaven was cool, I loved this game.