This was one of my favourite shoot-em-ups, from the twilight years of the Amiga’s heyday. By 1993 we had the AGA system and millions of colours; level mapping, programming and sound design were ever increasing and all the games were looking slicker then ever, and Disposable Hero (or D-Hero) was no exception.
D-Hero drew from the classic shooters such as R-Type, Xenon II and X-Out. Although its formula was nothing new, it improved on the popular aspects of he former. Yes, you built your ship up with customisable weapons and various bolt-ons, but you have to collect the icons in order to have access to the weapons, and more importantly, you had to make sure you’ve upgraded your engine in order to have enough power to build the ship up. And another really nice feature is that shop “domes” appear quite regularly, so you’re not forced to wait until you’ve completed a level to change weaponry, and the big bonus is that a trip to any dome – regardless of your weapon status – will replenish your energy bar.
The graphics are glorious – gritty, gruesome or industrial tech, the look of the game is really stylised and not a copy of what’s gone before. In addition to the (already tough) enemies, you’re faced with a variety of other challenges from each level’s environment, such as huge claws (or fangs?) that pop up or huge fan blades that physically blow you off course.
It is tough. Even the smallest of adversaries take multiple hits to destroy, but with persistence, it is possible. A big plus is that you keep your weaponry when you lose a life, and with enough practice, you’ll discover various ‘safe’ spots for certain bosses or parts of the game, which is the key to success.
You’re eventually rewarded with the choice of a second ship, and the levels are just gorgeous. It does lack parallax scrolling, but that does mean that your eye doesn’t get confused with background elements. The bosses are big and tough, but everything expires with a satisfying array of voluminous explosions.
The music is good, if a little understated, and the FX subtle but effective. D-Hero wasn’t the easiest game on the market at the time, but certainly one of the best looking. Its only downfall is the small number of starting lives and the fact that nothing dies with a single hit, which is frustrating early in the game when you need to build your ship up.
Back in the day – and after enough practice – I could compete D-Hero without cheat mode (in fact, I never even found a cheat for it). It’s a slightly different story today, but I still find it a very enjoyable, if occasionally frustrating game. Despite that, I’d hail it as one of the finest sideways scrolling shooters to ever grace the Amiga.