Dynamite Headdy is one of the Mega Drives finest games, so why does everyone forget it exists?
Back in 1994, Treasure released the now cult classic Dynamite Headdy worldwide on the Sega Mega Drive. It received universal acclaim from industry professionals and gamers, praising the graphics and gameplay. Naming it one of the best games of the generation.
The game is known for its mercilessly hard difficulty and visually stunning graphics. Critics and fans alike loved Dynamite Headdy, it was a truly fantastic story that has lost none of its charm or replayability all these years later. Yet, inexplicably – where other games have been rebooted, remastered and retold. Dynamite Headdy has had a handful of re-releases on various compilation packs and that’s it.
So why did we never get a sequel and why do we not talk about this legendary game more? For these answers, it’s important to know what the game was.
What was Dynamite Headdy about?
Dynamite Headdy is not just a story of good vs evil, our hero is the top star of a famous production company. Headdy is the most famous puppet in the world. Who quite literally, uses his head – no really – he can use his hard wooden head to destroy blocks, fight enemies and climb. Understandably, when the evil Dark Demon invades to bring order to the puppet world, Headdy steps up to save the day.
“when the evil Dark Demon invades to bring order to the puppet world, Headdy steps up to save the day.”
Seeking to enslave the puppets for his own nefarious reasons. Dark Demon captures Headdy as he tries to save the day. Truly becoming the dynamite hero, he frees his fellow puppets and takes on Dark Demon. How does he do this? By defeating his keymasters and handing their keys over to the puppet, Heather, of course!
With a colourful cast of characters like Trouble Bruin, Beau and Headcase – Headdy sets out on his adventure to free the puppet world.
Why did Dynamite Headdy stand out?
One of the most interesting concepts of Dynamite Headdy was that it was determined to break the 4th wall. Levels are made out of broken sets, platforms are dragged by stage hands in the background, gears and cogs can be seen powering the puppets.
Amazingly, the game plays out like a pantomime on a grand stage. The curtain raises at the start of each level and the minimal UI shows Headdys health as a single stage light. Levels also feature elements like “The Green Room” and “Dance Night” shows.
“One of the most interesting concepts of Dynamite Headdy was that it was determined to break the 4th wall.”
Dynamite Headdy was able to stand out because visually it delivered a complex story without having to create a lot of exposition. Complex and highly visual, this style was quite chaotic but was underpinned by fantastic gameplay.
What made the gameplay stand out?
Every single level in Dynamite Headdy introduced a new gameplay element or concept. From typical platforming and exploration elements to a sudden twist in perspective traversing a psuedo 3D plane. Tower climbing, on rails boss battles and even a freaky bullet hell flight segment kept the gamer on their toes. Not one level ever played out the same way consistently.
Add the solid platforming on top, with interesting power ups and you have the icing on the cake. The most impressive thing was that it all made sense. In context Headdy was able to do all these things, and it was never in doubt that it wouldn’t be possible.
You see, the beauty of Dynamite Headdys setting was that it was always within the realms of possibility for the hero to perform these incredible feats. Headdy is this games Arnold Schwarzaneggar and he could do anything.
So if it’s so good, why don’t we have a sequel?
Perhaps this is the most difficult question to answer of any cult classic. Fundamentally games have to make money to deserve a sequel. Lucky is the fanbase that has a sequel for a game that was not commercially successful, no matter how good it is.
Treasure was working on 3 other games in 1994, Alien Soldier, Light Crusader and the Japan only, Yu Yu Hakusho Makyo Toitsusen. None of these titles would reach the same level of success worldwide as Dynamite Headdy. Once these games were released, development began on the fantastic Guardian Heroes.
“Treasure was working on 3 other games in 1994”
Then Treasure moved on. They simply moved on to 32 bit consoles. Perhaps the simplest answer is the most honest, the developers just did not want to make a sequel – Headdy had not had the commercial success on release to make it worthwhile.
Disappointing for all fans of the brilliant Dynamite Headdy and his adventures. However, as unique as Headdy is – would any sequel ever be as satisfying as the original?
Why don’t we talk about Dynamite Headdy?
For why this wonderful game doesn’t quite get the same level of attention as other platforming greats like Sonic, Mario or even Ristar and Rocket Knight, we probably have to look at its competition at release.
1994 was a fantastic year for gaming, with the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles, Donkey Kong Country and Earthbound. It is likely that the market was too crowded for Dynamite Headdy to make an impact. Mainstream audiences just do not remember poor old Headdy.
“Mainstream audiences just do not remember poor old Headdy.”
Frankly noone speaks of Headdy because not enough people played it originally. Thankfully with the retro game revival and interest as high as ever, there have been re-releases of this great game. And Treasure would go on to find further success with a number of other fantastic games. Like Bangai-o, Wario World and Gradius 5 to name but a few.
For us Headdy fans, we couldn’t possibly talk enough to do the game justice. But we can encourage others to finally try this fantastic visual treat.
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Dynamite Headdy is available as part of the SEGA Mega Drive Classics collection on all major consoles.