Arrakis... Dune... Desert Planet.
On this day three decades ago David Lynch's Dune premièred in American theaters. It would be a couple year later that I would fist watch the movie, when it aired on local television. Much like TRON, it became a huge influence in my life and although far from a perfect adaptation of Frank Herbert's timeless masterpiece, it steered me down the right path to discover it's amazing Universe.
Enter French developer Cryo Entertainment, producers of what remains tome the finest Dune game ever made. A combination of both movie and book that unfolds as both role playing game and real time strategy, it was so unique and so ahead of it's time I lack the words to properly describe why it remains so special to me, you really need to experience it, and more so back in 1992. There simple wasn't anything quite like it. Here is the Commodore Amiga introduction and fantastic music.
Walking in the shoes of Paul Atreides was no easy feat. This game that came in three floppy disks had you flying around on Ornithopter, investigating sietchs and recruiting Fremen troops to your house's cause. The fair Atreides are seen as a blessing to the native people of Arrakis since most Fremen harbor hate towards House Harkonnen, previous constables of the planet. But they follow Paul not out of selfless duty, but in belief of prophecy that tells that the saviour would come from another planet, the voice of the outer-world and bring with him the Jihad that will cleanse the universe once and for all. Powerful stuff! Fun fact: Among my friends I was the only who had watched the movie and as such, I was the only one who actually understood what was going on, so I remember gathering them around one day and play the game form the start so they would understand why I loved the game somuch.
The game was also released on PC, featuring even more impressive midi music by Stéphane Picq and Philippe Ulrich. The game came packaged with a audio compact disc featuring the music arranged with proper instruments and synths, the exceptional and impressively rare Exxos Spice Opera, a true collectors item. The game was later re-released taking advantage of the the new CD-ROM technology, replacing flight with pre-rendered CGI motion video and voice overs for all spoken dialogue, truly a glimpse into the future of video game entertainment. Here is over half an hour of yours truly playing the Sega Mega CD version, pretty much an exact replica of the PC CD-ROM edition.
A few months later, still in 1992 enter Westwood Studios Dune II:The Building of a Dinasty (or Battle for Arrakis if you're European like me). The game that invented the whole real-time strategy genre. With some ideas taken from Tecnhosoft's amazing Herzog Zwei, Frank Herbert's universe provided ample background needed for a video game. From base building, mining and military unit management, Westwood delivered an amazing game that is still fondly remembered by many people, some of them had not even heard of Dune before they discovered the game. Retro Gamer has an excellent feature on the making of this game, if you're a fan I urge you to seek out that particular issue,you won't be disappointed. Here is some footage of, believe it or not, the Sega Megadrive /Genesis cartridge version!
It was a really shame that Dune didn't want anything to do with Nintendo because both these games could have been incredible Super Nintendo games. Westwood carried the Dune flag well into the early 2000's, with the remake Dune 2000, rebooting the game into the more advanced Command & Conquer engine among my favourites. Emperor: Battle for Dune brought a full 3D game engine with impressive results as seen below.
Cryo too would have one last chance at the franchise before shutting down, but it's often overlooked: Frank Herbert's Dune. A shame because despite not being perfect, it remains a very good game for Dune fans, mixing up third person Metal Gear Solid like stealth infiltration with Frank Herbert's more common war on Arrakis.
It did not take much for to make it's way to Shiryu Music. I released a first tribute with my good friend Hernandez all the way back in 2001 (which you can still download here)but to celebrate the film's 30th anniversary offer you today the Special edition of Return ][ Arrakis which I will keep free for the next 24 hours, so hurry up and go grab it like a Guild Navigator grabs Spice.
It's a shame Dune's legacy is somewhat forgotten in the current video game industry, I dare not imagine what could be made with today's technology (here is a freebie concept: Oculus Rift Sandworm Ride Simulator. Get on it, devs!) but much like the original 1965 novel, the concept remains timeless and rather unique. I still find it amazing how Frank Herbert managed to use real world events and turned them into such an amazing sci-fi epic,one that you should hurry and discover if you haven't already. Maybe one day we will have the movie (and video game) the franchise truly deservers, but for now let us celebrate the 30 years of Lynch's movie. Always remember:
"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
*OMAKE* A Shiryu Music 2008 classic video clip!