A Great, Unique Hybrid
I grew up a Sega kid. My dad was a huge Sega fan who bought everything Sega related including the trio of Genesis, Sega-CD, and 32X. Though the Sega-CD has a bit of a bad reputation there were a lot of great games released on that system. One of which was Dune. This is a port of the PC and Amiga version of the game. Though the port isn't perfect, the gameplay and story make up for any technical limitations.
The game follows the story of House Atreides initial involvement in the spice trade on the planet Dune. Spice is a natural resource that can only be found on the planet Dune. Dune is a desolate, desert planet inhabited by a people known as the Fremen. Before House Atreides landed on the planet, another family, House Harkonnen, controlled the spice trade off of Dune. With House Atreides entering this trade, the Harkonnen are obviously upset with the Atreides. The protagonist is Paul, son of Duke Leto Atreides. The player controls Paul as he attempts make contact, and work, with the Fremen to mine for spice and take over the planet from House Harkonnen.
The gameplay is a mix of point-and-click adventure, resource management, and strategy. House Atreides is given a spice quota they have to meet in order to continue to work on the planet Dune. Spice is mined by the Fremen Paul works with. Spice is mined at Seitches (where the Fremen live). Each Seitch has a set amount of spice that can be mined before the player must send the Fremen tribe somewhere else. The quota, given by the emperor of the galaxy, will change depending on how the player mines for spice. So, if the player simply meets the quota that quota will slowly raise with each successive payment and will be expected after the same given amount of time (a specific number of in-game days). If the player chooses to pay the Emperor more spice then he was expecting, the quota won't raise as sharply and the player will have more days to reach the new quota. But, if the player doesn't meet the quota, the quota will still raise and the player will have a shorter number of days to reach that quota. If the player doesn't meet that quota enough times the game ends. Spice also acts as a currency on the planet. Spread throughout the planet the player will find smugglers who will trade items for spice. These items include spice harvesters (used to mine more spice at a faster rate), omnithopters (which Paul can use to travel the planet and Fremen can use while mining), and weapons (which the Fremen use to fight off the Harkonnen or take over Harkonnen bases later in the game). On top of the spice trade, the player can lead specific tribes of Fremen to be soldiers who can be used to fight the Harkonnen. Finally, the player can attempt to create plant and tree life on Dune through ecology. This allows for the morale of the Fremen to be boosted but destroys spice. On top of all that, the player must go through specific set events in order for the main storyline to progress (which is where the adventure game comes in to play). The game is won when the Harkonnen are kicked off of Dune and the Fremen, with House Atreides backing, takes over the planet from the Emperor.
Get all that? This is a complicated game with a lot of moving parts. There are a ton of checks and balances to the strategy and resource management gameplay. This aspect of the game works surprisingly well. On the Sega-CD, managing all of these components works relatively easily considering the player is using a d-pad and three buttons. The game may have been easier to manage with a mouse but the game isn't hard to manage due to the game controller. The gameplay is fun, addicting and surprisingly deep. Traveling in this game can be a hassle. Using the omnithopter, and later a large worm (yes, a worm), is a time consuming processes. Whenever the player travels from one area to another the player must set through a FMV cutscene. The length of the cutscene is determined by how far the player has to travel. It's unfortunate that you can't just skip that cutscene and move to the next area. These scene slow the entire game down and makes what is a great game hard to play through. Eventually, Paul will develop psychic powers and will no longer need to travel to Seitches to speak with the Fremen. But that ability doesn't quite come fast enough.
The game looks pretty good for a Sega-CD game. The art design is phenomenal. Every location looks great (though the Seitches' interiors repeat a bit to often) and every person's face is really well drawn and articulated. Unfortunately, the Sega-CD isn't quite as powerful as a PC and so only a set number of colors could appear on screen at one time. On top of that, the Sega-CD version looks more pixilated compared to the other versions. This is definitely an inferior port of this game. But, despite the problems, the game still has a nice, unique look.
The game has great sound design. The soundtrack is a bit limited compared to the other versions and the sound quality isn't quite as good but the songs that are on this version are really good ones. Every NPC has a voice and, though a few voice actors voice many characters, the fact that the game is fully voices adds a really nice touch.
This game represents a hybrid of many different game genres that all work really well together. Each gameplay component could easily stand on its own but together they add up to create one of the best, most unique experiences I've had playing video games. This game may be a bit hard to player now as you need either a way to play DOS games, a Sega-CD, or an Amiga but if you are able to play this game do so immediately. Because of its unique design, this game feels as refreshing and new as it did when it was first released.