Super Hydorah is Abylight Studios’ 2017 shoot ’em up that has been ported to the Nintendo Switch. It takes on a classic feel, so fans of the genre can enjoy a plethora of nostalgia as they dive in. The game takes a non-linear approach to gameplay, so players can choose which path to take to the end. This is a fantastic approach to the genre, but it’s not without a few of its own faults.

Super Hydorah Review

Branching Paths

What makes this title stand out from others in the genre is its non-linear approach to gameplay. Pick your own path and decide what’s next to be discovered. It feels like Star Fox meets a side-scrolling shooter mixed in with a classic, retro feel. However, unlike the Star Fox franchise, players are able to interchange which planet they want to go to next. Sticking to one path doesn’t have any repercussions, so feel free to go back, unlock new secrets and look through every area. This makes it easy to obtain 100% completion and allows a bit more freedom. So when one planet may be giving too much of a headache, it’s possible to take a break and go through another area.

Picking every path carries a risk-reward, though. Death can send you back to the start, but luckily there’s an infinite amount of continues that can be used. Using one of these revives doesn’t mean that there isn’t any sort of penalty. Whatever high score that is being obtained wipes down to zero, regardless of location. Receiving higher scores on playthroughs means selecting the best path so death can be avoided.

Super Hydorah Review

Learning Experiences

Difficulty in this title can be a bit rough for newcomers in the genre. The first few levels show off a slew of unique and varied enemies alongside boss battles. All of these may come off as hectic and unfair, but that’s how the game shines. Super Hydorah rewards skill rather than sheer luck. Players are forced to learn the mechanics or be completely out of luck. Don’t be turned off by this though. This isn’t a wild, off-the-rails bullet hell as some may think. It’s simply just retro. Locamalito has crafted an experience worthy of the classic phrase “Nintendo hard.” Areas may be short, but how the enemy moves and shoots effect just how the user will navigate through it.

Even though this game can be difficult, there is an easier mode which makes it possible to hit objects without dying. Death is very easy to encounter due to the hectic nature of levels. Merely touching an object can spell instant perish, as does getting hit by a stray bullet. Dodging enemy fire and learning the layouts of planets can require precision, but the easy mode gives players access to a shield which allows users to be hit three times rather than once. It helps make things less frustrating for newer players while also retaining a classic mode for veterans.

Super Hydorah Review

Tough but Rewarding Combat

Another way in which overcoming the game’s learning curve is made easier is through power-ups. Finishing off a planet’s boss means that a shiny new upgrade is available for the player to try out for the rest of the game. Each one provides a much-needed tweak to tip the scales to one’s advantage. Finding out what works best and which combinations create a perfect set up is part of the fun. Some of these don’t have the same results as others and actually hurt my style of play, but it really just comes down to what approach is more comfortable for the user. I like more focused shots, so the widespread bursts weren’t exactly to my tastes, but that’s fine because these still provided effective damage and never created a disadvantage.

Since this game feels like a love letter to the classics of the genre, it’s, fortunately, able to look the part too. The pixelated graphics help to capture the essence of the genre but add a modern flair to it. Running at a smooth 60 FPS in both docked and handheld modes, all the action is smooth and fluid. It all looks amazing, yet the developers didn’t stop there. A CRT Mode creates another way to get wrapped up in nostalgia, however, this is more of a novelty and should be enjoyed without it. An excellent and atmospheric soundtrack is yet another ingredient in this retro cocktail that is Super HydorahThe synthesizers and futuristic beats help make this a more memorable journey than it already is.

Super Hydorah Review

Forgettable Plot

Along with all this fast-paced and retro shooting, comes the game’s storyline. A deadly alien force has invaded the galaxy, but only you can push it back. Every planet in the galaxy is under attack, so traveling to each one is mandatory to clear it out. It’s not just a normal attack, however, there’s something larger going on which the player gets to discover for themselves. There’s a slew of alternate cutscenes and endings available to unlock with every path, but the overall plot is forgettable. The game falls a bit flat in this respect, but everything else helps to make up for it.

Made better on the Nintendo Switch is Super Hydorah’s cooperative mode. Friends or family can grab a joy-con for some split-screen local play to take down each level. It makes areas a bit easier to overcome while also providing an incredibly fun atmosphere. Working together is a highlight, but only if you’re playing with someone who’s okay with repeating the same level until it’s done right. This can take away from the co-op experience for some, but for others, it’s executed perfectly.

Super Hydorah Review

Locomalito and Abylight Studios’ Super Hydorah is one of the best shoot ’em ups of the generation and can be enjoyed by newcomers and longtime fans of the genre. The soundtrack, graphics, and gameplay will keep players immersed in this title and yearning for more. It’s a fairly short experience with a forgettable story, but this can be overlooked by the satisfying combat and level design. This is a title that fans of shooters and retro gaming should experience as soon as they can because it won’t disappoint.

Super Hydorah Review (Nintendo Switch)
Super Hydorah is a perfect love letter to the shoot 'em up genre while also adding its own flare to it.
Overall Score8.5
  • Branching Paths
  • Very Rewarding Combat
  • Nostalgic Visuals and Soundtrack
  • Difficult to Master
  • Forgettable Story
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