Thanks to Abylight Studio for the review code
Title: Super Hydorah
Release Date: 12/13/2017
In a distant galaxy, you are assigned to a mission where you must destroy the evil Meroptians and their leader, Hydorah! Similar to the games that inspire it, there’s really no story to speak of outside of the little bits offered in online descriptions, along with bits of dialogue that pop up in certain levels.
Being made by the same devs behind the gorgeous Cursed Castilla EX, Super Hydorah manages to be a faithful tribute to the retro 16-Bit Arcade era, going for something that isn’t really common to pay tribute to. While it may look like a Gradius clone at first glance, it really isn’t, as a lot of the visual detail is different from the stuff found in that franchise, and instead leads to the gorgeous pixel art showing off some truly stellar backgrounds, enemies and boss designs. The music’s also pretty good, although I found none of the tracks end up being as memorable as the franchise that inspired it, they’re still serviceable and get the job done. Combine that with a few handy filters for folks who like them, and you have yourselves an outstanding presentation!
The main goal of Super Hydorah is to traverse a big map, reaching the end to destroy the evil Hydorah as you collect upgrades from each of the destroyed bosses along the way. Whether you choose to play this in single player or in co-op. (Each using their own save file) Before each stage, you get to choose your loadout, and while you only start off with very basic weaponry, completing the stages will unlock more and more weapons, from ground missiles, spread shots, a powerful laser beam, and more.
While it initially seems like a straight copy of Gradius at first glance, the game makes it clear right away that outside of the nature of some of the powerups you obtain and the nature of a few levels, this game focuses more on powering up your ship through collecting the same colored capsules multiple times, not unlike the RAIDEN franchise. Green capsules upgrade your primary weapon, while Red capsules upgrade your secondary weapon, and the higher the meters fill, the more strength your weapons will deal. Of course, other items can dropped from enemies in certain portions of the level, from hidden extra lives to a rotating capsule that alternates between an item that revives your co-op buddy, force field, Option, or speed increase.
Each stage is broken up into multiple sections, none of which tend to take too long due to the nature of the checkpoint system, which operates like the earlier Gradius games and sends you back to a predefined checkpoint upon death. (said checkpoints in this game always take place after a screen transition) In Co-Op, the other player is allowed to revive on the spot as long as the other player picks up a revival item from defeated enemies, and game overs will only happen if both players run out of lives at the same time. Since stages in Super Hydorah revolve around memorizing enemy patterns, Co-Op is a much easier mode to play through the game on than if you played solo, since two ships come into handy on the earlier stages when you’re not as powerful as when you reach the midway point. Nevertheless, regardless of how you play the game, you’ll be able to choose your stage from a map, with some branching paths opening up from time to time. Each stage contains a hidden secret to discover, most of which you will certainly not find unless it’s by pure accident or if you use a guide, and sadly you can’t replay already completed stages once you complete them, unless you either complete the entire game or restart the adventure from the beginning, so if you want to secret hunt for the best ending you’ll need to practice hard and refrain from continuing.
Still, one you get past the rough difficulty at the start of the game, you do get to experience a really fun horizontal shooter, and if you don’t focus entirely on the secrets, then this can be a fun game to play a little at a time as you go throughout the entire map, even moreso in co-op! Some stages can get a bit longer than normal as the game goes on, which does prevent the game from feeling too easy.
In conclusion, Super Hydorah does manage to be a decently fun horizontal shooter, with a good amount of variety and tons of fun to be had in the game’s Co-Op mode. However, as a single player game or a high-score chaser, it doesn’t really feel as solid or as addicting as the games that inspired it. Starting out with a weak selection of powerups ends up making the early stages a lot more difficult than they should be until you gain some upgrades, solely because the bosses take a lot longer to kill with the default shot. Still, with a buddy in hand, this isn’t as much of a problem, and trial and error will lead you a long way into this fun adventure. For $20 however, I can say that some other similar games of this nature would be better options, mainly the Arcade Archives ports of Gradius I and II. Still, this game does offer an incredibly challenging Platinum Trophy, and it will still test the reflexes of hardcore shooter fans nevertheless. Just don’t expect it to have the hi-score chasing nature of the inspirations, and treat this more like a fun Co-Op game!
I give Super Hydorah a 7 out of 10.