In 2007, Neo-Geo: Development Team ported its debut title Last Hope to the SEGA Dreamcast.
Not long after the games release NG:DT’s lead artist Rene Hellwig launched his own separate independent studio Hucast.Net created solely to develop Dux exclusively for Dreamcast. To promote the game, he set up a beautiful blog where he routinely shared his unique vision for his upcoming space sh’mup. The concept art was breathtaking and beautiful. It emphasized a stylistically simple aesthetic, lending an almost serene vibe to everything.
It took two long years of development for Dux to finish development, and the game was finally released on July 17, 2009. The game came in a packaging that adhered to the zen design philosophy. To the best of our knowledge, Dux is the only Dreamcast game to date that comes in a white DVD case and does not even mention that it is a Dreamcast game anywhere on the packaging.
Unfortunately, Dux, like Last Hope before it, was given a limited print run restricted to a 1,000 units (Just for the sake of sharing, Last Hope initial print consisted of 2,500 units). The game sold out as fast as lightning; hence, why we weren’t able to play it back then.
For the next few years, Hellwig remained busy with his commitments at NG:DT, and the Dreamcast-Scene had to wait patiently. Three years later, in the summer of 2012, Hellwig re-branded his studio simply as Hucast. He kicked off a Kickstarter campaign, announcing plans for Redux: Dark Matters, a game intended for multiple next-gen consoles; however, backers were only given the option to pre-order the Dreamcast version.
Meanwhile, Dux was given a re-release via hucast.com, and this time we were not going to let it escape, and we ordered both games. Unfortunately, Redux: Dark Matters took two long years to finish development. It was not released until Jan. 27, 2014. Since our order was bundled with it, we had to wait until April to finally get our hands on Dux (it got lost in shipping when it was first mailed).
To celebrate my younger brother’s birthday on April 27, we finally decided to play Dux. Since we had been waiting for so long, common sense sort of took a back seat. As we quickly tore through the packaging of the game and popped it in, gloom and doom, death and despair soon followed. We could not even get to the second checkpoint on our first stage. My younger brother had enough. He thanked me for his birthday gift and left me alone to play the game.
I finally did the intelligent thing and opened the game’s manual and educated myself on its intricacies. It immensely helped to clarify the game design. I also looked at the brief tutorial that displays after a period of inactivity on the main menu.
I also rummaged through the option menus and adjusted the visibility. Apparently, setting the visibility to perfect eliminated the background. One would think that would make the game look baron, but on the contrary, it accentuated the feeling of tranquility.
It’s funny that when I started playing the game, I had to shut off the awesome soundtrack by Andre Neumann and wiped off the distractedly dynamic backgrounds so that I could give my full attention to the gameplay. I played the game for about 30 minutes, and I finally had to stop playing because of an excruciatingly throbbing pain in my thumb. I had not experienced since my time playing button mashing beat ’em ups in the ’90s.
The fact that that I had to hold down the main shot button to charge its power, forced me to rapidly mash it for successive shots. Thirty minutes in, I couldn’t endure it anymore and neither could my trusty controller that has been with me since 2001. The X button on the controller got indented, and now, the button stays down for a second after I move my thumb off it.
In conclusion, there are two ways to look at Dux.
The game is designed by hardcore sh’mup fanatics for hardcore sh’mup fanatics, and you have to be worthy to experience the game. If you don’t have the skills, you don’t deserve to play. It is a gameplay choice the developers have chosen to make. The game is obviously designed for a specific demographic.
The other way to look at it is make a small game ridiculously hard to increase replay value. It is a well known cheap trick in game development to make a game nonsensically difficult to compensate for its short length. Fortunately, Hucast realized that they may have gone over board with the difficulty; for even the best of players, hence they released Dux 1.5, which was initially released as a free upgrade to anyone who owned Dux. The director’s cut of Dux 1.5 is a story for another time.
As of press time, I have beaten Dux 1.5 and Redux: Dark Matters multiple times. Yet, I still haven’t managed to get beyond the fourth stage of the original Dux.
So if you think you have the nerves of steel to beat this game, Dreamcast-Scene is teaming up with SEGA Nerds to give away a copy of Dux! Tweet to us @SegaNerds and tell us why you have what it takes to beat this game. Be sure to include the hashtags #SNcontest, #Dreamcast and #Hucast with your tweet!
For more information on Dux, check out DCS’s Game Page