Thanks to PIXELHEART for the review code
Title: Andro Dunos II
System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 03/24/2022
In this sequel to the cult Neo Geo shooter Andro Dunos, you take control of an orange ship, as it heads out of retirement for another mission! The first game isn’t at all needed to understand this one, both due to the simplicity of the genre and the fact that the first game didn’t really have much of a story to begin with. In fact, the story for this game is pretty much relegated to the manuals/online descriptions.
Considering that the original Andro Dunos was on Neo Geo, you might expect that original game was state of the art, with flashy graphics and impressive effects. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case, as Visco’s shooter looked rather cartoony and simple compared to other NG games such as Last Resort and Alpha Mission II. That being said, it was distinct enough that I could see why some people would be receptive to another crack at this IP, and thankfully, Andro Dunos II succeeds.
Yes, we have yet another retro revival with a throwback look, with this sequel aiming to go for a late 90s Neo Geo look, providing the sort of flashy visuals that the original game should have sported, with a great amount of effort poured in to make Dunos II look just like it was pulled from a late 90s MVS cartridge, and honestly, it does a pretty darn good job: it’s presented in a square ratio, the font is very similar to ones used in some Neo Geo games, and the sprite shading reminds me an awful lot of how games from 96/97 would look. Sure, it doesn’t look as fancy as Blazing Star, but ADII is still a fine looking game that does a really good job at fitting in with the Neo Geo vibe. The bosses in particular look especially excellent, being pure joys of spritework.
The music is also rather decent, with some memorable stage tunes, especially near the endgame. However, it does lean more for an electronic vibe, something which I don’t honestly recall the original game doing, and overall I find this to be the aspect that I feel isn’t really authentic to the NeoGeo, as the instrumentation here just doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard from the system, outside of maybe what could be on Neo Geo CD. It’s still fine and fits well in the game, and the sound effects manage to remain on point, but it is a minor gripe.
Unfortunately when it comes to in-game options for presentation, ADII is shockingly barebones. The game starts with a randomized border upon bootup, and you can’t change it unless you reboot the entire game and hope it gives you a different one. This means that most of the time, you can’t turn off the border at all without a lot of headache. There’s also nothing in terms of screen options, filters, or anything that would remotely help make the game look sharper, which is just really baffling for a game aiming to be a throwback. The borders provided are fine enough for me to enjoy on my Lite, but I didn’t find myself even wanting to try this in docked mode due to how much they’d irritate me on a wide TV. Honestly, I’d live with the randomized borders as long as I could turn them on and off at will.
Andro Dunos II is a horizontal shooter, with seven stages for you to fly through, shooting down waves of enemies along the way. It’s a pretty typical romp, with two buttons for your shots: a main weapon that rapid fires, and a special weapon that recharges upon use. Unlike most shooters, ADII outright gives you all the weaponry you need from the onset, so you won’t be collecting new weapons via pickup. Rather, you collect orbs for score, and the occasional upgrade for said weaponry. Whether it’s the handy homing shot, the wide-range wave shot, the twin shot, or a standard shot, there’s a good bit of variety, and they do upgrade to more meaningful weapons in no time, especially if you choose to redeem the orbs you collected on maxing out your favorite weapon. (for me, that was easily the green homing shot)
Swapping between weapons is done with an easy press of the L or R buttons, and no, you cannot remap these, though this wasn’t much of a bother for me due to the Lite’s form factor. In no time at all I was finding myself having a good bit of fun through the stages, seeing how far I could get on one credit. There are multiple difficulty modes, and you can toggle the credits anywhere from 0 to 9, so if you want to go on a 1CC challenge run, you can definitely do so! I found the stages to be generally fun, with the early ones being a bit slow, but never outstaying their welcome, with the middle of the game having the best balance: great bosses, perfect level length, and tons of fun moments to play with weaponry.
Unfortunately, the last three stages of the game is where I feel ADII gets a little overboard, as enemies here just love to get all bullet hell on you, even on the easiest setting. More infuriating than that though, are the many times where enemies would just fly out from the left side of the screen without any warning, killing me before I had any chance to spot them. Bosses especially like to swiftly ram into you, and with Stage 6 being a gauntlet of new bosses, it does feel very akin to the Neo Geo games that wanted your money. The final stage is even more insane, as while it does feel pretty OK at first, it ends in a final boss rush that just drags on too long for my liking, and didn’t hesitate to drain all of my continues when I otherwise barely used any for the rest of the game. Luckily, you can just restart from a reached stage at any time with a new set of continues, but this is still a difficulty spike I feel could have been slightly tweaked.
Nevertheless, I had good enough fun beating ADII, and really dug the weapon system and focus on score pickups. That’s why it’s a little depressing that there’s just no online leaderboards at all, though thankfully, you do have a local one, so setting your own 1CC Challenges isn’t too tough to do if you wish. Still, considering the $20 asking price, I would rather they at least add a caravan mode or something score-related for online purposes, especially since this game is still a fun romp, even if simplistic and it doesn’t really do much new for the genre. ADII is just a polished game that feels right from the 90s, for better or worse, and the local co-op from the original is also strangely absent.
In conclusion, Andro Dunos II goes for authenticity, and mostly nails it in a lot of fun aspects, but struggles to make a bigger mark, especially considering the asking price. Here you have a game that definitely feels like it could have launched in the later era of the Neo Geo, with gorgeous sprites and decent music, while also providing a weapon rotation system that allows for a variety of strategy in the stages.
Unfortunately, the general package leaves a lot to be desired, as a good shooter is dragged down by a lack of options, with no local co-op, (despite the original game having it, oddly the only major thing from the OG game to not be improved on here) no border options, no visual display modes, and most disappointingly, no online leaderboards, which for a shooter in 2022 is a sad exclusion. Yeah, the main game has some minor frustrations such as enemies that surprise you from behind, and the latter half of the game leaning a bit too hard in the Bullet Hell realm, but all in all, you’ll still have a fun time with Andro Dunos II, and if you somehow grew up with the first game, this absolutely surpasses it in every possible way!
Otherwise, Andro Dunos II has quite the steep competition on the Switch eShop, so I can only recommend this for newcomers if you’ve exhausted most other options, or just really like how this game is presented.
I give Andro Dunos II a 7 out of 10.