Game Description: Classic gameplay genres combine to create a whole new animal in Hybrid Heaven. You’ll take to the underground tunnels of a dark and dangerous New York City in this action-packed, role-playing, hard fighting, puzzle-solving adventure for your N64. Blast sci-fi bots and strange creatures with your defuser gun, find hidden clues, and battle hand-to-hand with enemy thugs. You can also learn new combat moves and level up your character Diaz, in the gritty, mysterious missions of Hybrid Heaven.
It's strange that after having played Hybrid Heaven, I didn't know where to start with this review. I was, in fact, drawing blanks until I remembered the summer movie seasons of 1996. Independence Day (ID4) was the big hit and consequently, perhaps, many missed out on a lesser-known film released the following summer entitled Starship Troopers. They were each hyped as the biggest and most epic movie of the summer and expectations were extremely high. But after ID4 was released, it stole all the limelight and left little room for Starship Troopers. A similar situation seems to have appeared, this time in relation to the Nintendo 64 console. Since its inception, the Nintendo 64 has always lacked (and continues to) a halfway decent RPG library. So, naturally, when two heavily hyped RPGs, The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time and Hybrid Heaven (Hybrid Heaven), were on the horizon, fans had their eyes set squarely. Konami had hyped Hybrid Heaven as the best RPG to hit the console and stated it so loudly and clearly that they were shooting high. We now all know what happened to Ocarina Of Time and the impact that it had on the industry. But Hybrid Heaven has only just arrived and now must make strong waves of its own to save Konami's credibility, among other things.
The developers, KCEO, obviously set their sights high for this game. One look at the cinematic intro for the game and this point becomes apparent. Its length and use of voice-acting is initially very impressive for a cart-based game, but upon further inspection, it becomes a metaphor for the rest of the game and is ultimately what's wrong with Hybrid Heaven. The building-up is like that of an episode of X-Files, where everything must build calmly and culminates with a surprisingly violent or, otherwise, shocking incident. We are then held in suspense while the opening credits roll by. In this case, they are successful thanks to a bit of a plot-twist right at the beginning of the game.
But whatever points it gets for style, it loses in overall presentation. For one thing, the graphics are so bland that I was ready to turn off the game as soon as I started it up. It got to the point where I was wondering whether or not I was looking at a first-generation title and that left me feeling cold. Hybrid Heaven's textures are crude and repetitive. Did I mention that they were bland? It was amazing how muddy and average most of the levels in the game looked as a result. I am usually pretty forgiving to a company that makes games on the Nintendo 64; with the relatively small size-limitation of Nintendo's ROM carts. I understand that there are going to be times when developers run into inherent limitations and simply must reduce the quality or amount of graphics and sounds of a game just to make it all fit onto a cart. But when it comes to a company like Konami, with its kind of resources and experience, my expectations are raised and on this point, Konami does not come through.
Graphics aside, Hybrid Heaven does take big steps towards innovation. With "hybrid" in the title, I knew I was to expect the best of both worlds; an RPG and an action-adventure game. To their credit, KCEO took the role-playing game angle in a different direction. The fighting system doesn't put various spells, potions, or monsters at my disposal and rather gives me control of the basic fighting moves. I can throw an upper cut on an enemy if I wish or instead throw high kicks with my right foot with a simple selection on a menu. It is such a different angle that it was not without a bit of frustration on my part that I played through each fight. I do like having that option, but the pacing is so slow and the interface so clumsy that I sometimes wished they had dumped the menu system and focused on the shoot-and-destroy elements also in the game. Let's face it, the fighting system is Hybrid Heaven's bread and butter and if it wasn't perfected, they should have never released the game.
Whereas Starship Troopers was simply beaten to the punch by ID4 (both movies were amazingly average), Hybrid Heaven has arrived long after Ocarina Of Time and seems unable to get out from under Zelda's albeit very large shadow. Amazingly, aside from the graphics and the fighting system, Hybrid Heaven isn't horrendous. It just looks a lot worse compared to Ocarina Of Time and other titles on the market. If Konami had spent more time on this, it would have certainly been a more rewarding experience and would have gotten a higher score.
It is an extremely rare occasion in which I would come across a game that should be trashed in a matter of seconds, but usually, and against all odds, I don't. In fact, not only do I grow to appreciate the ugly duckling, I often end up being hopelessly addicted to it. The last time this happened was when playing V-9 Space Griffon on the PlayStation. Graphically, Griffon was nasty even by first generation standards and the controls were simply awful. But the story kept me on edge and allowed me to tolerate all the negative aspects. Now a similar situation has happened again with Hybrid Heaven.
Hybrid Heaven doesn't have terrific graphics (which Dale described as 'bland') and it doesn't have a great control scheme either. But it does have an excellent storyline (unfolded through some of the best cut-scenes to grace the N64), emotionally complex characters and some interesting ideas towards gameplay. For example, I start out the story as one character, but after a couple of stages, I'm unmasked to be another character. It's a Total Recall-type plot twist and quite a balls-y move on the part of the developers. Then there's the RPG-esque turn-based combat system that many critics complained about as being overly slow. Yes, I agree that it's a little more tedious than I would like, but what kept me glued to it was the sheer variety in attacks and the experience of never having played anything quite like it. It may have been slow, but it never bored me.
All the elements (good and bad), however, don't come together in the end, which keeps Hybrid Heaven from reaching greatness. But some of the parts by themselves are truly innovative and deserve some recognition. As a critic, I'm obligated to inform consumers of its serious flaws and drop the score down a few notches. As a gamer, if you are looking for something with a little substance in the story department and don't mind the offbeat experiences, I wholeheartedly recommend Hybrid Heaven. This is one of the few games in recent months that had me on edge till its end.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood, Animated Violence, Suggestive Themes
Parents should be aware that there are a few scenes in the intro with a naked man and that some levels are splattered with blood.
Science-fiction fans will get a kick out of this game because its story is X-Files-ish enough to pique their interest.
Pure RPG fans should be advised that the game is really more of an action title than an RPG (despite it being listed as an RPG) and should also be aware of the game's dearth of RPG elements. For your RPG fix I seriously recommend Final Fantasy VIII. There are no spells or potions here, but it is menu-driven.