Super Hydorah is a Shoot ‘Em Up For The Old Schoolers
The busy world of video games has seen its fair share of retro-inspired titles the last handful of years. Games like Shovel Knight, Undertale, and Slain have brought us back to the days when CRT TVs treated us to chunky pixels and rockin’ chiptunes. Although the current influx of retro-themed goodness has been pure bliss for us older gamers, I personally couldn’t help but notice that the good old shoot ’em up genre had been sorely missing.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my platformers and old school RPG’s, but I yearn for the days of maneuvering a spaceship through hundreds of bullets while blasting away robotic aliens. Well, thankfully I’m not the only one looking to get back into the cockpit of a starship! A team of three developers, Abylight Studios, Locomalito, and Gryzor87, have decided that it’s time to dust off the trigger buttons and bring back the classic shoot em’ up genre with Super Hydorah.
Itchy Trigger Finger
Super Hydorah is a 16-bit nonlinear horizontal shoot ‘em up that offers gamers that classic feel of traditional spaceship shooter action, but with a few fresh surprises. Don’t let that “few fresh surprises” tag confuse you though! Like the shoot ‘em up’s of yesteryear, Super Hydorah knows its roots and doesn’t weigh down the player with a long-winded story and confusing plot twists. Basically, there’s a bad guy that has launched an invasion, and since you’re the most skilled pilot in the galaxy, it’s up to you to put a stop to him. Yep, it doesn’t get any more classic than that!
If you’ve played any horizontal shoot ‘em up in your lifetime you’ll feel right at home with Super Hydora’s controls. It’s your job to maneuver a starship fighter around environmental obstacles and enemy fire while collecting various power-ups that will enhance the abilities of your starship. Maneuvering can be done with either the analog stick or the D-pad, although I personally preferred the D-pad. You can fire back at the enemy with the starship’s primary and secondary weapons, which fire simultaneously with the fire button. A second fire button will offload a powerful missile, but these must be obtained and they are few and far between.
Keep ‘Em Coming!
There are a total of 21 stages, or planets, that each offer different environments, enemies, and bosses. Most environments feature your typical otherworldly alien-like visuals, but some offer game-changing climate hazards that will keep you on your toes. Be prepared to face harsh winds and other numerous threats that will cause your starship to control erratically. Split-second reflexes are a must, especially considering most of these dangers come as the enemy is relentlessly firing upon you. Enemy variety comes at a steady pace and offers some really nice eye candy. Boss battles are also larger than life and usually require you to switch up your strategy mid-battle. I was constantly treated to a steady drip new enemies throughout my playthrough, and I couldn’t wait to see what was going to be thrown at me next!
Even though there are a total of 21 stages, you won’t have to complete all of them. The non-linear route selection will force you to play certain stages, but about half can be bypassed depending on what path you take. But take note, every stage offers a weapon upgrade at the stage’s completion, which means that if you skip a stage you’ll be missing out on some major firepower. And these aren’t small upgrades either! I had some stages that I simply couldn’t complete until I went back and earned a better gun upgrade from another stage. This may sound irritating, but I came to appreciate it by the midway point of the game. If it wasn’t for this feature I wouldn’t have experienced stages that I believe to be some of Super Hydorah’s highlights.
Your Ride Is Due For An Upgrade
As mentioned previously, both the primary and secondary weapons can be enhanced by collecting the green and red orbs that some enemies drop upon death. The bottom of the screen will display how much the weapon has been enhanced by way of green (primary) and red (secondary) bars. These enhancements may seem minuscule, especially considering most enemies can be defeated with one or two shots, but having them maxed out during boss fights will help immensely. Thankfully, these enhancements aren’t completely lost upon death, although they do decrease a bit.
Some enemies also drop power-ups that will add a shield, increase speed, and add missiles to the ship. These don’t appear as often as the red and green orbs and can usually be found once or twice during a stage. Considering how much enemy fire and how long certain stages are, I found the shield to be the only power-up that was worth getting. It’s nice to have an increase in speed or a powerful missile, but the shield is basically an extra life, which you’ll most definitely need. Which brings me to my next point: This game is hard as f#ck!
You Though This Was Going to Be Easy?
Yeah, the old horizontal shooters were pretty damn hard and Super Hydora makes sure to keep the tradition going. In some ways, the game is too hard. There were some sections that had me questioning its fairness. Let me explain. Certain stages have multiple paths, usually an upper and a lower. These areas require the camera to move with the ship, which will put you in the way of enemy fire that isn’t visible until it’s too late. It’s not a problem once you know it’s coming, but getting killed by these when traveling through a stage for the first time can be rage inducing.
To add to the difficulty, some stages are simply too long. To combat this Super Hydorah offers unlimited continues. Dying at a boss will start you back off at the boss fight, but if you use up all of your lives during any part of a stage, you’ll have to play the stage all over again. When you have to fight off a mid and final boss on one stage without using a continue, you’re going to be using up your lives faster than you can pull the trigger. You’ll find out that the more you play the more you’ll train your brain on what to expect. If you keep at a stage that’s giving you trouble, you’ll eventually beat it. Don’t give up!
Play It Again!
I did mention that this is a retro-inspired game with pixel graphics, but what I didn’t mention is the beautifully created modern soundtrack. Yep, chiptunes are nice and all, but they got nothing on what Spanish composer Gryzor87 has created. Each stage contains multiple tunes that blend perfectly with the action. I’m not talking cheesy space music either. The music presented here is stuff that I would listen to while driving in my car. It’s simply beautiful! Some games have me wanting to complete them just to hear all the game’s music, and Super Hydorah is on the top of that list. I’ve never played a game that has blended music and sound effects so well. It’s truly amazing.
Hand in Hand
Before I finished up my time with Super Hydorah I had to have a buddy over to test out the multiplayer co-op. I’m glad I did because having a friend play alongside you makes things a whole lot easier! The added ability to bring your partner back to life makes the difficulty a tad more bearable. We were still unable to complete the whole game though.
After using up all of our lives we decided to jump into Super Hydora’s mini-game titled, “Robot Chase”. This is a fun little side game that requires both players to work together and collect small orbs. In order to collect the orbs, the players must stay close to one another. If someone drifts too far away, the link between the two ships will be lost and the orbs will not be collected. It’s a fun little tacked on mini-game that will let players take a much-needed break from the main game.
If you’re a fan of old school shoot ‘em ups you NEED to play Super Hydorah. Slipping through enemy bullets had me smiling ear to ear and feeling like a kid again! I seriously loved every minute of it. Well, maybe not all the dying. I’m still trying to beat the damn game. It is hard as nails, but that’s what makes it so great. There’s no hand-holding. Just kill as many enemies as possible and try not to die. If you fear a solid challenge, look elsewhere. Super Hydorah is not for the faint of heart!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PlayStation 4(reviewed), PlayStation Vita, PC; Publisher: Abylight Studios ; Developer: Locomaltio, Gryzor87, Abylight; Players: 1-2 ; Released: December 13, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a PlayStation 4 review copy of Super Hydorah given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.