Every Monday, we’re going to take a look at a classic game that redefined, embodied, or perfected a genre. This week, we revisit Hyperblade.
An amalgamation of lacrosse, hockey, and rollerball, Hyperblade is a futuristic sports game originally released back in 1996 (making it a part of the gaming revolution of 1996.) The game takes place in a half bowl/egg shaped arena, with goals on opposite ends. While trying to score is the point of the game, extreme brutality is the actual purpose of it; advances in medical technology prevent things like severe injury or even decapitation(!) from being life threatening, so the players of the sport are encouraged to harm each other as much as possible. It’s possible to pull off some stunts, but aside from visual flair, they don’t serve any purpose. The exception to this is ducking, which allows you to evade certain obstacles and attacks.
A ball-like object (called a “rok”, har har) would drop down into the arena. Both teams (represented by where they are from, just like real sports teams) would attempt to scoop up the rok, navigate their way through the arena, and chuck the rok into the goal at the edge of the “egg”. Getting a shot on goal was harder than you may think; not only would the opposite team be trying to trip you, cut you, or decapitate you, but you also had to avoid obstacles that would appear in the arena, all while trying to out-maneuver the goalie. The obstacles ranged from harmless objects that would knock you down, to more elaborate fare that could cut your head off. Taking your time to make sure your team was posted in the right spots in the arena was essential to scoring goals.
One of the things I remember most about Hyperblade was its place as one of the earliest 3D-accelerated games available for PCs. Specifically, it was able to take advantage of Direct3D (meaning it worked with most 3D-accelerators of the time, rather than being limited to Glide or S3 ViRGE specific hardware, such as Myth: The Fallen Lords or Descent II.) This acceleration made a huge difference, as the game went from a muted mess to a smooth-looking experience that, thanks to its unique style, still holds up today.
I spent many hours playing Hyperblade back in the mid-90′s…a group of my friends even held small tournaments, with Magic: The Gathering cards put up by each participant. By today’s standards, Hyperblade seems rudimentary and overly simple, but I still absolutely love playing it. People have some significant issues with getting it to work on modern systems, so your best bet might be to find an older PC to play it on. Luckily, the game itself is easy to find, and can be bought for next to nothing.
If you have any experience getting Hyperblade to run on a modern system (either through compatibility modes or with DOSBox), please let us know in the comments. I still have my original Hyperblade CD, and I’d love to actually use it again!