Super Hydorah

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Abylight
Developer: Locomalito
Release Date: Sept. 20, 2017


PC Review - 'Super Hydorah'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 14, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PST

Super Hydorah is a fast-paced, challenging, non linear SHMUP that gives a new turn of the screw to the gameplay of classics such as Gradius, R-Type, Darius or Turrican.

Buy Super Hydorah

For about 10 years, Locomalito has been releasing homages to games of yesteryear, and all of the offerings show a deep understanding of what made the original games timeless. All of Locomalito's games were released for free, which is pretty amazing considering the end result is a title that would easily rival those in the paid market. Last year, the Spanish developer started to sell updated versions of its creations. Cursed Castilla EX was the first, and it was an excellent title that showcased what he could do. Super Hydorah is the latest endeavor, and it's another great upgrade to the original.

The story is unimportant, as it basically takes on the tale seen in every single space shooter from the last few decades. An alien force is hellbent on taking over the galaxy and has happened upon your area of the solar system. As one of the last few remaining pilots who can get the job done, you set forth on your ship to take them all out.

Likewise, the gameplay can feel rather familiar. Though shooting fans can identify elements that were cribbed from many other titles, the most obvious inspiration comes from the Gradius series. The ship looks like the famous Vic Viper, and some of the weapons, like the missiles, are an obvious nod to that series, although they don't glide on the ground until they find a target. Some of the stages employ more vertical and horizontal space, so they can feel bigger than normal. Between levels, you can customize your loadout, though you won't get the full arsenal until you reach the end of the game, and you also have a branching system to take you through several pathways until you reach the final boss. The title also happens to subscribe to the old sensibilities, where you'll die in just one hit — often because of not paying attention to your surroundings rather than due to a hail of bullets.

There are a few differences. Most of your pick-ups are related to powering up both your primary and secondary weapons. While you'll get some temporary powers by killing certain foes on the field, the more valuable stuff doesn't come until you defeat the level boss, and those are more permanent upgrades. Your ship is nimble from the outset, so you won't have to suffer through a period of agonizingly slow movement before the movement speed reaches an acceptable level. Also, you can fire an endless stream of bullets by holding down the fire button, so you don't have to worry about mashing that button. Finally, the game comes with unlimited continues.

All of this creates a game that is inherently enjoyable because of two main factors. The game is hard. Aside from being able to die with one hit, the game does a good job of offering some tricky enemy patterns and obstacles. Bosses also give you a hard time with their attacks, but they're fair, which is the second factor that makes the game fun. You'll never feel that an enemy attack is a complete surprise, and keen observation reveals some of the traps in the environment. It follows that classic mechanic of pattern reading, where your carelessness is the only reason you'll die twice from the same thing.

About the only knock against Super Hydorah has to do with the power-up balance. Coming into a boss battle after a fresh death or without picking up any power-ups means you'll be chipping away at the boss for a rather long time. By contrast, coming into a boss fight without dying and with almost all of the powers obtained means that the boss will go down almost immediately. In a way, it encourages you to get better, but it feels odd nonetheless.

Aside from solo play, the game provides some local multiplayer modes. Standard co-op has you and a friend simultaneously taking on the campaign, with death being the only quirky element in this mode. Should one person die, they have to wait until their companion dies as well or picks up a cross to return them to the fray. It makes the game different, and compared to many shooters of the day, the fact that co-op is even here is a blessing. However, it would've been preferable if the game had gone with the more common mechanic of the dead partner immediately coming back to life.

The other multiplayer mode is much more charming because it differs wildly from the main game. Dubbed "Robot Chase," the mode has you piloting a duo of robots as they collect space jellies. To collect them, they need to connect with one another via a laser tether and hit large jellies with the tether to make them small enough for consumption. Aside from communication, the trick here is distance because going too far away from your partner causes the tether to disappear. It's another nice throwback to the simpler arcade days, and while it may not be enough to release as a stand-alone title nowadays, it's a great and unexpected addition to the game.

If you've played Cursed Castilla EX, then you know what to expect from the presentation. Graphically, the game is reminiscent of a Super NES title, complete with large color palette, Mode 7 for the opening cut scene, and a parallax scrolling background. Turn on the CRT scanline filter, and it looks like it was made specifically for that 16-bit system, especially since it doesn't have animations beyond those means. Sound, on the other hand, is completely modern thanks to the work of longtime collaborator Gryzor87. It mostly sounds like it would've come from the digital sampling of the SNES, but there are enough modern flourishes to dispel that notion. The blend of typical sci-fi tones, rock, and some vocal snippets make this title a joy to hear.

Super Hydorah is a game for those who appreciate the space shooters of yore. It isn't forgiving in the slightest, but it also doesn't overwhelm you with bullet hell sensibilities. It looks and feels so much like those old games that you could mistake it for a long-lost classic. Even if it didn't come with a co-op mode or a nice bonus game, Super Hydorah is so fun that it would still be a recommended purchase for genre fans.

Score: 8.0/10

More articles about Super Hydorah
blog comments powered by Disqus