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Dyna Brothers 2

Genre: Strategy Developer: CRI Publisher: CRI Players: 1-2 Released: 1993

My claim to review Dyna Brothers 2 is old enough to start kindergarten. Dyna Brothers 2 is a Japanese text-heavy strategy game, one I had stumbled through and enjoyed back in the day, but I wasn’t looking forward to playing through it again due to all of the Japanese. Then I remembered: I live in the future now! Real-time translation is a thing! Well, nice try, Google, but we’re not there yet. I believe the text advances too fast for the Google translation app to process to use while playing the game, but then it appears to struggle with the manual, so… whatever the case, we’re still stuck with a scary looking language barrier to overcome going in.

Those willing to pass through the gibberish wall may feel a bit better knowing that for all of Dyna Brothers 2’s Japanese text, little of it impedes gameplay. At least, it won’t stop you once you get the hang of how to play the game. Although the game bombards players with lots and lots of squiggly lines during the game’s numerous animated cut scenes, the actions available and information relayed to the player during gameplay are largely implemented in a very friendly graphical user interface. It’ll take you a game or two getting used to understanding which button does what exactly – “Oh, so I can directly guide one of my dinosaurs with this button…” – but once you do, you’ll know right where to find it.

Then you’ll die. If you’re anything like me, then you’ll die a lot. Man, was this game this difficult back in the ’90s? Maybe I’m just an old man trying to ride a bike again through the arthritis, but yeesh, did Dyna Brothers 2 kick my butt hard. If the aliens have brought their “A” game, then our dinosaurs must make due with their “D” game. Dyna Brothers 2 does ease you into things a bit, but it’s not long into the 45-level campaign when you’ll find yourself tearing out your hair in frustration. The game forces you to be an active commander, and you will not beat the game by simply allowing your dinosaurs to gradually engulf the map and win via attrition, my typical slow poke real-time strategy… strategy. Dyna Brothers 2 will put players into challenging scenarios which will force them to reconsider how they approach the game. Then factor in the somewhat stupid dinosaur AI, and you’ll get to several points thinking all hope is lost. The lengthy battles – 10, 20, 30 minutes plus – don’t help. Neither does the language barrier, I imagine.

“Hey! You said the game’s language barrier wasn’t that bad!” Yeah, well, I lied. Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. In actuality, it’s more that when you struggle in the game, you’re going to want to blame the language barrier. Objectives and tips could be very well passed to the player, but none of that helps when the player is oblivious to what is being said apart from the English alphabet passwords provided upon death or victory. By and large, everything boils down to “eat all the aliens before they do the same to you,” but when the game introduces a new character or technique, not understanding how to utilize it is going to make for a rougher time. The game will impart a new feature such as weather effects, but until you actually summon them in-game across a variety of situations, you won’t really understand how they can help you win. For instance, you may dismiss lightning as just a means to attack enemy characters, but you can also use it to hatch your eggs immediately, good when egg eating threats are nearby.

So, yeah, dinosaurs lay eggs. That’s science. Aliens also lay eggs, and yes, that’s also science. When you begin a stage, you and the enemy both have these egg producing machines. This is your base-slash-factory from which you’ll buy eggs to hatch your dinosaurs. Your first available dinosaur is Stego, a green stegosaurus and one of a couple of herbivores you’ll control. These are your cheap, mana-producing units which exist solely to feed on grass and give you “money” to buy more useful dinosaurs (re: carnivores). As you may expect, the vegan dinosaurs are weak and can only plead to aliens to not eat them without their permission. Revenge is going to need teeth. Tyranno, the purple tyrannosaurus rex – yes, Google Translate shows the developer wasn’t very creative naming these guys – has the strength to fight back, but it comes at a price, costing 1,000 mana points to the Stego’s 300.

Understanding how to budget your victory is the hallmark of RTS games, and Dyna Brothers 2 is no exception. Everything costs money: hatching new dinosaurs, unleashing weather effects, and sowing plants. All dinosaurs generate money, but it typically comes from having lots of cheap dinosaurs grazing grass, so first and foremost you need to make sure your herbivores have a nice green field to munch upon using your available tools. Then, you’ll want a fighting force to take on rushing aliens to defend your territory and annex theirs, which is where the carnivores come in. You also have an ovivore – that means “egg eater;” I learned something new today! – a fast little green thing which you can rush across enemy lines to wreak havoc with the alien production. Dyna Brothers 2 adds a new dinosaur, Ptero, a flying reconnaissance unit as the name would imply, and although it feels a bit worthless in most battles, it can cross some terrain not navigable by the rest of the team which comes in handy.

With only four real gameplay roles spread across six available units, Dyna Brothers 2 feels a bit thin compared to other games in the genre. Your dinosaurs can go Super Saiyan if they meet the right criteria, and shepherding one of your dinosaurs so that it can take advantage of this power is often a necessary strategy to advance. For a title reliant upon the player deploying dozens of lumbering AI creatures, it still encourages a good bit of micromanagement. The small game environment, information overlay, and accompanying world map help players keep track of everything; but not having quick references to units’ health and power is annoying. The game relies on animation cycles to convey if a unit is healthy or not, which is slower and not as accurate as a simple meter or numeric counter would have been. Another nuisance is the awkwardness of having to play a game with a gamepad which would be better suited for a mouse. While Dyna Brothers 2 supports the six-button fighting pad for some extra shortcuts, it unfortunately offers no Sega Mouse support.

It’s too bad CSI didn’t add mouse support to Dyna Brothers 2: Sega Channel Special, an update of this game with some new features created especially for the Japanese Sega Channel. That version includes an all new scenario along with some small bonus features and was until recently not made available in the West until Sega offered the game on the Nintendo Wii’s Virtual Console. It would have been even nicer if Sega had considered to translate the game before uploading. I know I’m belaboring that point throughout the review, but the game is quite difficult to recommend for players outside of  its initial intended audience. A few may be able to enjoy the puzzles and challenges for what they are, but you’ll always get the sense that you’re missing out both on the story and the personalities of the game’s cast. I’m reminded of when my brilliant self thought I could sell my U.S. (re: English) Dragon Force for money and be content with the far cheaper Japanese version. Even though I fully understood how to play the game, a lot of the charm was lost, and I fear the case is the same here.

Anyone still not scared away by now will find much to enjoy about Dyna Brothers 2. The music is excellent and features a whopping 33 songs, a mix of Technosoft-sounding PCM rock and light-hearted 90s anime-style ditties. The drums sound a bit tinny here and there, and some of the horn sounds used are a bit jarring to my ears, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good it is. At least, you would have been if you hadn’t read that. The graphics are similarly well done with lots of color and animation, and most of the characters’ faces are large enough to be truly expressive which is great. The sprite detail really shines in the cinema scenes and in-game battles and give the game a lively, fun atmosphere. The world is varied as well, and the game takes the dinosaurs well beyond the expected Jurassic-looking landscapes which keep the game from looking tired as you advance through the stages. If you’re going to bang your head against a wall, it may as well be a good-looking wall.

Dyna Brothers 2 is a solid strategy game but also one which is difficult to recommend, not because of any lapse in quality but rather due to the burdens its language barrier places on players who can’t follow along and frustration it may exacerbate. Beyond the lengthy story mode, the game also offers some other short campaign modes including an alternating competitive two-player mode – all fun and rewarding experiences, but all requiring commitment and patience from players to get the most out of them. If a translation patch ever gets released, then I would say dive in for sure, but for now, it’s probably better to proceed with caution.

Score: 8 out of 10

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