Super Hydorah (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 18.09.2017 2

Review for Super Hydorah on Xbox One

It must be that time of the week again; mankind is in danger. Invaders from the planet Meropticon are trying to destroy all that we hold dear. Rather than kowtow to this biomechanical threat, Earth has engaged in a galaxy-spanning war. Taking control of delta lance, the world's most advanced fighter ship, your mission is to explore planets and eliminate all opposition. It's an extraordinary task for all but the most hardened veteran. Fear not, for the delta lance features hyper-advanced armour plating. Of course, the darn thing still explodes in a single bullet.

The checkpoint shmup has become something of a lost art. Back in the day, it wasn't enough that players had to pilot rickety ships that were always one scratch away from obliteration. When they failed, all they could do was try again from the last checkpoint. For some games, it was worse than death; it was purgatory. Imagine the 7th stage in R-Type. If the R-9 can't defeat the boss of that stage, then it'll be sent backwards. The player's ship is placed in a location with no power-ups, enemies approaching from all angles, and all they have is a sub 1% chance of success. Huh… Perhaps checkpoint shmups died out for a reason.

Nevertheless, there is a method to the madness. After all, what is a life? Even if somebody is capable of holding more than one, can they really be casually expended? Lives are not meant to be resources; they are chances, nothing more. When a player fails to overcome a challenge it means they aren't ready to move forward. If they can't pass that hurdle, they're guaranteed to be halted when the next one occurs. Difficulty is nothing if not a consistent upward curve. Rather than complain about being sent backwards, be grateful that another opportunity has presented itself. Use this chance to try a new strategy or test a different route. This philosophy is what drives Abylight's Super Hydorah.

Screenshot for Super Hydorah on Xbox One

Anyone well-versed in genre stalwarts - such as the Gradius series - will feel right at home upon starting this game. Each of its many levels is designed in a manner that evokes the classics of yesteryear. Basically, players must survive a sequence of gauntlets. This can include narrow corridors infested with enemy cannons, a harrowing assault on the alien armada, or even an underground cavern filled with giant snakes. Getting through these increasingly difficult scenarios depends on the player's knowledge, skill, and loadout. A few power-ups couldn't hurt, either, so keep an eye out for them, especially the lifesaving shields.

Keep in mind, "knowledge" doesn't necessarily mean knowledge of the stage itself. Sure, it definitely helps to know what's going to happen, but that tends to involve failing and retrying, which isn't really ideal. The player is more likely to succeed when they can accurately predict what's about to happen. Sometimes there are visual or audio cues, other times a particular enemy or obstacle will make repeat appearances. Then, of course, there are the subtle instances. These can include the arc of an enemy's bullet pattern, or movement shifting ever so slightly. Shmups are all about the minor details, because the minor details are the number one cause of death.

What's great about this game is that it understands the importance of foreshadowing. Each stage is crafted so finely that there is never a "Gotcha!" moment. At no point will the player be treated to an absurd death, simply because they chose the wrong path, or got blindsided by a sudden attack. As long as they're paying attention, they'll always have an idea of what's about to happen. At the same time, the action doesn't suddenly halt or trip over itself just to indicate what one should look out for. Pilots are expected to act of their own accord, and keep tabs on both environment and adversary. They must be proactive and not reactive. Either take the necessary actions to throw off the enemy's aim, or become overwhelmed trying to dodge a sea of bullets.

Screenshot for Super Hydorah on Xbox One

As one should expect, given the genre, the controls are spot-on. Piloting the ship demands little effort, so the player's attention can be focused elsewhere. Whether they have zero speed power-ups or several, the ship never feels too slow or too fast. It's not like some shmups where too many speed-ups cause the controls to become unwieldy. Also, the hitboxes are accurate and fair. Tight squeezes and pixel-close dances with bullets are a frequent occurrence, so it's gratifying to actually be able to make those lifesaving movements.

The world's most advanced fighter ship comes equipped with basic forward-firing cannons… and not much else. There's little hope of stopping the alien invasion with such a miniscule arsenal. Thankfully, as the player completes stages, their choice of weaponry becomes more robust. Cannons, sub-arms, and special weapons will change dramatically over the course of a playthrough. The right loadout can make harder stages manageable. The wrong loadout can make them practically insurmountable. Of course, until one familiarizes themselves with the stage, they won't have any idea of what the right loadout is. The process of experimentation can be a little frustrating.

Screenshot for Super Hydorah on Xbox One

If the player believes that their weapons aren't optimal for the stage they're playing, all they have to do is quit and return to the title screen. What's unique about Super Hydorah is that it has a save feature. Progress is automatically saved after every completed stage. The player's current status, such as unlocked weapons and remaining lives, is also saved. This feature is prone to abuse. If someone loses a lot of ships in a single stage, they can opt to reload, and get a fresh start. Although this isn't a traditional arcade shmup, due to its multiple paths and optional stages, the design decision might rub people the wrong way. Of course, there's nothing stopping skilled gamers from doing a "no reload" playthrough.

While this game takes cues from classics such as Gradius Gaiden, it is still very much its own beast. The routing and weapon systems lend an unmistakable identity to the affair. Recovering from a lost life isn't some highly improbable task. Though armaments can be powered up, the difference in strength isn't that big a deal. It's not like the difficulty will suddenly do a 180, practically forcing the player to restart (or reload). The long-term appeal is in scouting for secrets and challenging levels with different loadouts. There's no complex scoring system, or an indefinite number of loops. Regardless, the finely-tuned gameplay is enough to solidify this title's appeal.

Screenshot for Super Hydorah on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Genre enthusiasts, both young and old, are certain to enjoy Super Hydorah. This throwback covers all of the bases in exemplary fashion. Although there are a rather large number of stages, they're appropriately paced and creatively designed. The action never gets repetitive, nor does the difficulty ever become unbalanced. A checkpoint-based STG isn't easy to pull off, which makes this title all the more impressive. Although, anyone interested in checking out the Xbox One version should seriously consider investing in a good arcade stick. The stock controller is woefully inadequate for shmups.

Developer

Abylight

Publisher

Abylight

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Wow! Glad to hear this has turned out so well. I love some classic Gradius fun.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

The saving and keeping power-ups is a good thing for me. Definitely makes me more interested!

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