If I asked you to think of your favourite Shoot-‘Em-Up, you would probably reply with Gradius, Thunder Force IV, or any number of games from throughout the years. For me, it was also R-Type Delta on the original Playstation. Retro Shoot-‘Em-Up throwback Super Hydorah is the latest retro throwback from developer Locomalito. An updated and expanded version of his Originally free to play game in 2010 titled simply Hydorah.
It’s a simple yet enduring premise; an evil empire is invading the galaxy and it’s up to you to stop him by facing off against his hordes of villains through twenty-one stages. Don’t let the simplicity of its concept fool you, Hydorah is a lovingly and carefully crafted piece of work, full of throwbacks in the ultimate love letter to the genre.
After the initial introductory mission, the game thrusts you into a no mercy challenge. There are constant enemies and projectiles coming at you in every direction and without a shield it is death in one blow. And you will die. Particularly if you don’t play a lot of this genre. Or like me, even less than that. There are various different weapons and abilities through the game, which are earned by completing each level. This is where the game both rewards the players progression, but also encourages to go back to the earlier missions with the opportunity to have an entirely different loadout. These weapons can subsequently be levelled up by collecting coloured pickups in-game which will make them more powerful – if you’re familiar with Gradius then this is second nature to you by now. The powerups cycle which allows for a layer of strategy in choosing when to pick up the powerup. This, and attaining a shield is absolutely essential to do as soon as quickly as possible. The more upgraded the weapons are, the more palatable the challenge will become. Failure in a level will result in the weapons decreasing back to their original level, which when you’re in the thick of it can be very tough. For the most part the challenge isn’t frustrating or to the detriment of the game, but occasionally it felt like I just didn’t have the upgrades to keep up with the sheer ability to shoot behind you, which at times left me feeling particularly vulnerable.
Some weapons are more useful than others, particularly for different things. Early in the game I found a minor issue with the secondary rockets which automatically fire when trying to hit an enemy flying over a friendly settlement. Destroying the settlement resulted in a pretty nasty points penalty that I couldn’t avoid which I found frustrating. However, compromising the lives of the innocent did make me adapt to the given situation and subverted the idea that destroying everything in sight aimlessly is key. I had to strategize my position in relation to the enemy and the settlements.
The environmental manoeuvring will also absolutely test your metal. From dodging enemies, to projectiles to navigating the landscapes it often felt like I was playing a 2D version of Race the Sun and everything wanted me dead.
The game has an element of non-linearity. There are twenty-one stages overall, but the player can hypothetically carve out a path to the final stage in a minimum of twelve. The true ending is saved for those who finish every single level, on one continue no less. And of course, the optional levels are the hardest by far. The levels themselves can overall last a couple of minutes with only a couple of stages being split into six individual sections which can lead to some of more frustrating restarts of the game to get through. Either way, this is for the most part great pick up and play stuff, regardless of what console you are playing on.
Don’t let the relatively drab visuals of the first level fool you, there is a varied selection of levels featuring vibrant pixellated colours and design that are simplistic yet engaging and ever-changing. We are continually introduced to new enemies and bosses who are as varied as their environments. The game boasts authentic colours and resolution to its era, also boasting a CRT filter for an added layer of nostalgia. Where the presentation truly shines is the music. There are over fifty individual tracks of music which are all fittingly classic arcade synth and retro wave samples that warrant a second playthrough of each stage just to listen to the music.
If you are truly struggling to save the galaxy, the game also allows it to be played in a two-player co-op mode. In addition, there’s a robot chase mode which features players positioning themselves independently and activating a laser between them to destroy targets. A neat little bonus game which can add as a nice palette cleanser to the main challenge. Multiplayer is local co-op play only but the addition of online leaderboards and trophies make for even more replayability.
Super Hydorah is fun. Packed with awesome eighties throwbacks in its gameplay, visual style and music. It never relies on nostalgia alone and carves out its own identity and challenge. Whilst a smaller entry of price would probably expose this game to more people, it is well worth every penny.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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