When I was a young boy, I was extraordinarily fascinated by anything related to space or vehicles. Part of this fascination was my huge enthusiasm for action-packed cartoons, such as Transformers, and grand sci-fi movies, such as Star Wars.
At the time, the SNES was my system of choice, and the games I loved playing featured big, simple action and awesome vehicles. Titles that met these criteria included Cybernator, Metal Warriors, and Choplifter. However, one day, my mother got my Gradius III, an ambitious side-scrolling spaceship shooter from Konami. The cover on the cartridge was enough to sell me on the game, as it featured a spaceship firing neon-purple lasers through the mouth of an alien dragon in a desert.
When I played the game, I always had fun, despite the fact that the game featured concrete-crushing difficulty. As a young boy, the most I could make it is level 3, but the presentation, gameplay, and the ability to kill at least two bosses was enough to keep me happy. Gradius III was fun and exciting at the time, and those are the memories I had while playing Super Hydorah from Abylight Studios and developer Locamalito.
Super Hydorah is a classic spaceship shmup built from the ground up to give us a new path while reminiscing about the games that got them there. The game is described by Locamolito as the game he always wanted to make. If SUper Hydorah is any indication, I definitely want to see more.
Times are desperate in Super Hydorah. The Metroptian Army is waging war with humanity, and they are winning a very bitter fight. The Metroptians have unleashed an ancient army, with deadly alien technology and a large variety of super weapons. It is up to you, the pilot of the latest interceptor starfighter, to dive head-first into action and defeat this overwhelming nightmare.
At the beginning of each stage, players can select a primary secondary and special weapon. These range from extra gun pods to downward firing lasers and even splitter cannons. The special weapons, while scarce, can make a huge difference. These range from screen-wiping plasma walls to powerful particle beams. The control scheme is extremely simple. it is up to the player and their skill to get the highest score and survive.
Despite this firepower, players have neither shield nor health bars. If they get hit once, they will be destroyed. If players crash, it is instant death. The only hope is to acquire the shield power-up mid-combat to give players a second chance, as well as constantly shoot everything in the hopes of grabbing an extra life. With the basics out of the way, players are thrust into the action.
From the very start, Super Hydorah feels very fresh and new, while also feeling familiar. I was instantly brought back to Gradius III, from the 16-bit animations to the amazing MODE 7 music. Super Hydorah even has the option to engage a CRT mode, with lines stretched across the screen.
Billed as easy-to-learn, hard to master, the first few stages of Super Hydorah will ease you into the combat experience, with waves of enemies attacking you, and the familiarization of power-ups. Players will feel an exhilaration taking down the first giant bosses. From that point on, Super Hydorah ramps up the difficulty and truly opens up as a sharply fresh spaceship shooter.
Super Hydroah begins overwhelming you by stage three, as you begin to choose which path you wish to embark on. The game will introduce environmental hazards, such as rotating asteroids, uncontrollable alien vines, and even solar winds shifting an entire level. One level, in particular, has you swallowed by a massive beast, and as you venture deep into its intestinal tract, its guts literally move and shift.
This poses a difficult gameplay mechanic that requires players to play, die, and repeat. As the tract moves, players could crash or get destroyed by an enemy from an unexpected angle. It looks and feels disgusting, but that is a compliment to the game’s visual presentation and its attention to emulating a classic feel. With close to 20 levels, there is plenty of variety and challenge to be had.
Playing Super Hydorah is exciting, and the player will constantly feel that “one more game” hook. Players will feel like galactic badasses as they strike down the vicious foes and bosses present in the game. With the many surprises that came across my path, the game continued to unfold and become something special. Despite my numerous deaths, I kept wanting to play more and more.
Super Hydorah is a game made for experts and casual gamers, as well. The game does feature a checkpoint system for levels, so players don’t have to endure the agony of starting from every beginning. However, your score is completely reset to 0, and for completionists, players will want to make it through the game without using a continue. Players could exit to the main menu to avoid using continues, similar to X-COM. With repeat gameplay, players will become pros, and discover the many surprises the game provides, including hidden secrets and unexpected bosses.
Perhaps the only real drawback of Super Hydorah is the length, as once its over, all that’s left is to mop up achievements. I would gladly want to see more campaigns or some kind of single-player adventure mode, similar to the Chronicle Saviors mode in Dariusburst CS. However, the game is time worth investing, and clearly, is a labor of love, passion, and enthusiasm. Super Hydorah is a wonderfully good time for all players, and I highly encourage everyone to strap into the cockpit and take the fight to the enemy.