Dynamite Düx and the Lost Sega Mascot

The history of Sega mascots is rather short for a company with such a voluminous catalog. Sega’s first attempts at company spokes-things appeared mostly in game manuals instead of the games themselves, as the rabbit-like Dr Asobin and the blandly human Dr. Games traded places. Sega then toyed with Fantasy Zone’s faceless ship Opa-Opa before giving the vaguely simian Alex Kidd an iconic slot almost by default. In 1991, however, Sega concocted Sonic the Hedgehog and never bothered with another mascot. 

But what other characters could have filled that role? Which Sega game had the makings of a mascot if Sonic had never existed? I can think of one: Dynamite Düx.

An obscure Sega title today but a modest success back in 1988, Dynamite Düx appeared during the heyday of the side-scrolling brawler, or “beat ‘em up,” popularized by Double Dragon. As the genre favored, things start with a woman’s abduction. Lucy, the owner of two large and partly dressed ducks, is kidnapped by an enchanter, and her pets take up arms to rescue her.

The typical brawler of the era had players controlling vigilantes and bashing around a street gang, but Dynamite Düx roams more freely. Heroes Bin and Pin face ranks of comical animals, including Bullwinkle-like moose heads and goggle-eyed soldier hounds, but their arsenal is suitable for any Contra or Metal Slug. Bombs, flamethrowers, machine guns, and rocket launchers all can be picked up and fired, and the game allows its heroes a little more range than the humanoid crime-fighters of other belt-scrollers. You're not limited to attacking just from the side, and that helps a lot in the crowded battles.

It’s messy and short and in need of more memorable bosses, but Dynamite Düx shines with the cartoon nonsense that video games handled so well back then. It’s an neat little hybrid: an early 1980s arcade game in concept, but constantly showing off the large characters and memorable sights that would define arcade classics from the era of Strider and Ghouls 'N Ghosts


A duck toting a flame thrower might have made a suitable standard-bearer for Sega, adding just enough of an oft-kilter tone to the typical cute animal protagonist. In fact, it’s not hard to see Bin as a prototype for Sonic’s design, blue and sneaker-shod and fashioned with the same mixture of old Warner-Bros cartoon appeal and '90s derangement. If nothing else, Dynamite Düx had its goofy animal heroes wielding heavy artillery many years before Sega issued a firearm to Shadow the Hedgehog.

Yet Sonic had a striking gimmick with his speed, and the heroes of Dynamite Düx didn’t. Their game made the rounds to several home computers and the Sega Master System, yet these lacked the visual panache of the arcade game. The Amiga and Atari ST version is notable for including well-hidden filthy humor that sounds like the ravings of some weird kid on the grade-school playground, but this was the wrong decade to establish a game with encoded ribaldry.

The Sega Master System seems the most unfortunate missed opportunity. It’s a credible one-player port of the arcade title, but everything is smaller and less animated, showing just how the loss of a few details can detract from an arcade game. It also makes the strange choice of rewriting the introduction. Bin is now Lucy’s boyfriend, cursed with a duck’s form until he can rescue her. This opens all sorts of psychoanalytical doors best left closed.

In more favorable times, Dynamite Düx might have seen a Sega Genesis version, faithful to the arcade and perhaps enhanced with shops and additional stage routes. Perhaps a sequel would have done the idea full justice. In reality, though, Bin and Pin didn’t really fit the early Genesis rubric of grimacing werewolves, floating mercenary gunmen, and thong-clad barbarian swordslingers. They’re just two ducks, after all.

They re-emerged only when Sonic the Hedgehog became big enough to get his own fighting game. Sonic the Fighters and Fighters Megamix both include Bean the Dynamite, a duck who totes explosives and establishes the official pronunciation of Bin’s name. We might assume that Pin’s name is actually “Peen,” but that sounds like another dirty joke unfairly lobbed at this innocent game.

Dynamite Düx stands among those Sega relics that deserve revisiting, perhaps not so much as Burning Rangers or Panzer Dragoon but certainly as much as Golden Axe, Shinobi, Altered Beast, and, well, Alex Kidd. It’s a cute piece of arcade chaos that, with some prodding, might have grown into a major Sega property. It didn’t, but there’s always a chance for a comeback. In this crowded and increasingly risk-averse game industry, we still don’t have very many games where a duck carries a rocket launcher.

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