Retro Review: Dynamite Dux

From the Era Where Correct Spelling Wasn't Cool

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Dynamite Dux is a side-scrolling beat ’em up for the Sega Master System. Like many Master System games its an arcade port, and not a great one. The much less powerful hardware of the console made for a little less overall – less animations, power ups, enemies. In this regard the game might be compared to titles like Golden Axe and Altered Beast, which both saw limited, though undeniably fun, ports to the Master System. What makes Dynamite Dux stand out is is that it did not receive a better version on the Mega Drive – so while it had a few other versions on systems like the ZX Spectrum and the Amiga, if you were a Sega fan the Master System was your only option.

Comparisons to an arcade version are not necessarily productive, however, and for most of such technical considerations will never enter our minds. The two differences that are worth bearing in mind are that, like an unfortunate many arcade ports, Dynamite Dux is only single player on the Master System – you won’t even get a choice of character, the second character having been entirely erased from existence. The main difference of the home console version is the game’s plot, which went from a charming to bizarre. In the arcades Dynamite Dux saw you playing as two pet birds attempting to rescue their owner. On the Master System two human children are attacked by a wizard – the girl is taken away, while the boy (her boyfriend) is turned into a duck with super powers. It’s hardly The Lord of the Rings but its strangeness adds to the charm.

‘Bean the Dynamite’ as he appeared in Sonic The Fighters

There’s a lot of choice of beat ’em ups, on Sega consoles in particular, but the art style is really what sets Dynamite Dux apart. The Sonic-adjacent character design of the player character is a welcome departure from gritty street brawls. Homage to the character seems to have been paid in the later Sonic fighting game Sonic the Fighters (no points for that title). Complimenting this style are the other things that make the game a little different to other beat ’em ups – one of your main abilities is to charge your attacks into a huge cartoon punch animation. The less than serious tone is continued with the weapons – bazookas and machine guns that are not only powerful, but look wonderful when wielded by a cartoon duck. It is also not a long game – it can easily be completed in one sitting. The music is not bad, but certainly isn’t memorable.

Overall Dynamite Dux is a great Master System title – its focus on fun rather than tone and its cartoony visuals have allowed it to age a little better than some of the console’s other gems. As quick and unique title that’s easy to pick up and play its a title I’d definitely recommend checking out or adding to your collection.

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Matt Crofts
Matt is the SFFN's Retro Editor, focusing on all things old but interesting, including (but not limited to!) books, movies and video games. As a researcher in Gothic literature Matt also has an affinity for black cats, Hammer horror, and all things Dracula.