It’s a good month for retro fans with a Playstation Vita. Super Hydorah was just released and it’s one of the best shooters money can buy for the system.
Granted, there isn’t an overwhelming number of classic arcade shooters on the Vita, and Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours and Resogun are the ones I have the fondest memories of. It’s been quite a while since I played those though, and since Super Hydorah was a small indie title I was thinking this perhaps wasn’t going to be enough to end my hunger for the next Gradius/R-Type like shooter. Luckily, I was wrong.
Super Hydorah looks and plays like that classic from the golden age of the arcades. While most arcade shooters these days are of the vertical variety (and most of those are bullet hell shooters), Super Hydorah goes for the classic horizontal scrolling approach. Visually, it looks like a re-release of Gradius IV – probably its closest cousin in terms of the presentation.
Gameplay-wise Super Hydorah has a few tricks up its sleeve to stop it from becoming a tad repetitive too quickly – something that’s always a danger in arcade game conversions where the campaign takes about an hour to complete. In Super Hydorah, progress is non-linear, meaning you can select your desired path in between levels – a dynamic that always reminds me of the classic arcade racer Outrun. There’s plenty of content too, with dozens of bosses and levels and over 100 different enemy types.
Where the game differs from the arcade classics it mimics so well is in the auditory sense. Perhaps surprisingly, Super Hydorah’s developers didn’t go with a chip tune approach to the game, instead using sampled music for a more modern sound. The music’s excellent, though I would have appreciated a setting that would turn all the wonderful compositions into chip tunes. Obviously there might be technical limitations to that, so I’m not holding it against the game.
There’s a plot in place, but I can’t remember the last time a plot for an arcade shooter was worth remembering. As is almost always the case, you’re the lone pilot who has the skills required to defeat a new alien menace to the galaxy. Luckily, the main focus is on the gameplay, and it shows.
Besides your standard primary and secondary weapons, you also have the option to upgrade your weapons and ship stats over the course of the game. There is no permadeath, so you can continue at your most recent checkpoint when you get killed – but you lose all of your temporary power-ups. This can be extremely tricky when you’re just about to face off against a boss, but it does bring back that nail-biting sensation of having to stay alive despite the lack of permadeath. Some other nerve wracking sections can include the scenery, as you weave in between obstacles – sometimes creating the illusion of a ton of verticality inside this horizontal shooter.
I love that Super Hydorah has come to the Playstation Vita. It’s missing the kind of same-screen multiplayer fun that can be found on its large screen version, but the single player gameplay is not to be missed by retro shooter fans with a Playstation Vita.