Andro Duno 2 Review: Better Late Than Never
As someone with a fondness for SNK’s home and arcade hardware, I have to say I’m pretty stoked to see Andro Dunos 2 make its way to the Switch. Though I have to admit, it’s not the first Neo Geo game I’d expect to see a sequel more than 30 years since the hardware was released. After all, as far as shoot ’em ups go on the platform, the original Andro Dunos was largely overshadowed by hits like SNK’s own Last Resort and Yumekobo’s spectacular Blazing Star and Pulstar. Still, it was a solid offering from Visco Corporation that was worth sinking a few quarters in back in its heyday.
Nearly three decades after that game soared onto the Neo Geo, and Andro Dunos is back for a second shot at saving the galaxy thanks to Picorinne Soft, a tiny indie outfit made up of brothers Ryo and Satto, who share a fondness for shooters and RPGs. And what a sequel it is! Andro Dunos 2 is a carefully crafted love letter to the 16-bit era. Featuring gorgeous sprite-based visuals, a pumping soundtrack, and some exhilarating boss battles, it doesn’t just eclipse its processor in terms of quality; it reduces it to space dust.
Andro Dunos 2 straps players into the cockpit of a starfighter dubbed Yellow Cherry on a mission to rid the galaxy of nefarious forces. Your task will take you across seven stages, teeming with mechanized nightmares that want nothing more than to reduce your plucky little ship to scrap metal. Thankfully, the Yellow Cherry comes bristling with an impressive arsenal to help even the odds.
There are no weapons to collect in Andro Dunos 2. Instead, your ship comes loaded with four types of shots that you can cycle through at any time, each serving a particular purpose. For example, one fires lasers in a slight spread pattern that’s good for dispatching enemy ships in a wide area in front of your craft. Another specializes in dealing death from behind to take out any bogeys on your six. Each weapon can be upgraded up to seven times by collecting icons dropped by fallen enemies or by leveling them up manually at the end of a stage with blue orbs you obtain. However, if you lose a life, whichever weapon you have equipped will lose a level. With that in mind, you’ll sometimes need to strategically switch up your arsenal in the middle of the action to avoid gimping your favorite guns to save them for the challenging boss fights.
Additionally, each weapon also has a unique ability that you can unleash that deals considerably more damage. Unlike bombs found in most shooters, these aren’t limited, though you’ll need to wait a few seconds for them to recharge after every use. My favorite was an energy flail that would spin around my ship, demolishing everything in the immediate area. Not only was it great for destroying popcorn enemies, but it also bats away many types of enemy bullets, giving you some breathing room. Throw in varying missile types to further augment your firepower and shield options that you can freely manipulate to protect from oncoming fire, and it’s clear Andro Dunos 2 has some fully fleshed-out mechanics in place to please fans of the genre.
And let me tell you, you’ll undoubtedly want to experiment with your ship’s capabilities. Andro Dunos 2 can be a tough nut to crack. While things begin easy enough, it doesn’t take long before the game starts throwing massive waves of enemies and firepower at you. Even when your weapons are maxed out, bosses can also take a substantial beating. Still, it does make a few concessions to make things easier for novice pilots. For example, once you complete a stage, you can select it from the main menu and get back into the thick of the action with all your credits. Additionally, while the standard difficulty setting affords you five continues, you can choose to start with up to nine from the options menu.
As far as the stage selection goes, Andro Dunos 2’s settings are pretty much par for the course. You’ll soar through heavily-armed space stations, wage war amid armadas of capital ships, and weave through asteroid fields. However, there were a few standout stages I found myself coming back to. One is a gilded city where searchlights illuminate the sky, and large-scale shootouts give way to frantic trench runs through claustrophobic corridors that you’ll need to memorize from a map that suddenly appears on the screen. Another begins in the stormy skies before taking you beneath the waves of a raging sea for some Darius-style underwater action. And after you complete the game, you’ll also gain access to three additional modes, with the ever-essential Boss Rush being my favorite of the bunch.
Without question, I had a ton of fun with Andro Dunos 2 during my review period. However, that’s not to say it’s a perfect revival of Visco’s long-dormant shooter series. A few things can occasionally get in the way of an otherwise good time. For starters, your ship’s movement can feel pretty slow, making it tougher to avoid enemy fire than it should be. This issue seems to be exacerbated by what feels like an oversized hitbox. Another area of aggravation for me was how the weapons on bosses can still fire at you, even after those parts have been destroyed. It feels a little cheap and takes away from the satisfaction of systematically stripping your adversaries of their offensive capabilities.
Those issues aside, it’s also hard to believe Andro Dunos 2 lacks online leaderboards or a two-player mode. These are features that virtually every other shooter offers. I’ll never understand why developer Picorinne Soft decided to omit them, but it’s definitely to the game’s detriment.
Still, there’s an awful lot to love about Andro Dunos 2. I especially appreciate the game’s presentation, which is a very faithful recreation of what we could have expected to see on the Neo Geo, with scaling and parallax scrolling effects that would have looked right at home in the early 90s. The music is also mostly very catchy and fits the on-screen action well. However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise as prolific British video game composer Allister Brimble produced all of the tunes featured in this title. Though I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the final boss theme, which I feel is probably the weakest piece in the game.
While not perfect, Andro Dunos 2 is an excellent revival of Visco’s 16-bit shooter series that deserves your attention. With its killer retro-inspired presentation, driving music, and plenty of exhilarating boss battles to test your mettle, it’s a game that’s easy to recommend to anyone who has a passing interest in shoot-’em-ups. If nothing else, it makes me excited to see what else publisher PixelHeart has in the works for Visco’s other IP. If the upcoming Ganryu 2 is anywhere near as good, nostalgic Neo Geo fans should be in for a treat.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, Dreamcast; Publisher: PixelHeart; Developer: Picorrine Soft; Players: 1; Released: March 24, 2022; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher.