Super Hydorah Review

The 80s shmup genre has been rekindled by the all-new retro-shooter Super Hydorah. This side-scrolling adventure comes with instant death, unique power-ups, and tons of levels that players can explore as they weave through the multiple paths through the game. It's easy to pick and up and play, but mastering this game will take more than just a typical gamer. Only the fittest will survive this mission.

Super Hydorah Review


If you're nostalgic for 80s style shmups then Super Hydorah has been revived specifically for you. This is a side-scrolling space shooter that feels an awful lot like an homage to a classic shooter like Gradius. The control scheme is as basic as a two button retro-shooter, but mastering this game is a feat that not many will get to boast about since the difficulty comes straight out of the mid 80s playbook.

Locomalito, Gryzor87, and Abylight all helped deliver this modern throwback title, and it's loaded with some really neat features such as different routes through each stage and tons of weapons that can be chosen from. The game is sprawling with many levels, bosses, and extra game modes. 

If you think you're up for the challenge, Super Hydorah can be purchased on Steam on September 21st. 


The original Hydorah was released as a free indie game on Windows back in 2010. The game received a lot of praise from a niche fanbase that craved the masochistic shooting style of the 1980s. Now the game is being revived and revamped as Super Hydorah.

It's huge for a shmup: There are 35 sublevels to play throughout the course of 21 levels, and there are a ton of weapons to select from as well as a massive soundtrack sprawling over 60 tracks. On top of that, the game has multiple endings and secrets as well as extra modes like multi-player and robot chase mode.

If you missed out on the original game or want to endure the challenge again then this is the definitive version. 


Super Hydorah may be as simple as plug in and play, but the challenge is anything but. This game is REALLY difficult. Like the original shmups, one hit and you're gone. There are shields but unlike many games, if your shield is hit, there is no invincibility period. All in all, it's very unforgiving and mistakes are very costly.

Levels require practice, memorization, and yes, lots and lots of dying. I did manage to beat a couple levels within one continue, but it was very rare. I often found myself using multiple continues in just a matter of minutes. Luckily there is no real loading time, and the levels aren't very long if you are lucky enough to survive them. The game has a handy save feature where you can resume from your current stage rather than start over, but by doing this you sacrifice your rank. You heard correctly: the game even punishes you for using continues.

Super Hydorah Review labyrinth
To be honest, this game will be too difficult for many gamers. The careful planning, memorization, and ability to not make stupid mistakes like hitting a wall or getting too close to the edge of the screen will frustrate a lot of people. But on the flip side, the players who are open to the challenge and enjoy the original space shooters will find this game to be excellent and a true representation of that era of gaming.

My biggest complaint with the difficulty is actually the bombs. Bombs can be found in the stage, and they act as an emergency explosion to get out of a tough jam. Yet, they were hard to find, and I didn't find them to ever assist me as well as I wanted them too. The radius is smaller than in most other shooters, and I found I had to rely on my standard weapons to kill most tough foes.  

I want to point out that this game is always fair. It isn't like some bullet hell games where it seems impossible to even remain on the screen. As challenging as this game is, each part is beatable and can be learned and even mastered with diligence and patience. I recall many moments where I waited in dread for the very moment that stole my last ten lives only to die to it again, but there was always slight improvement and knowledge gained.


Super Hydorah is a side-scroller where the levels automatically move. Therefore the challenges are often predetermined, but there is still a lot of freedom within each level. There are usually multiple paths to take rather than one linear route. This is really neat since the player can navigate through seemingly less dangerous areas, and it offers a lot of replay value since the levels are sprawling and have a lot of variances.

The levels each come with a boss or two. Smaller levels only have one boss while bigger levels (denoted by brighter dots on the world map) have a sub-boss as well as a final boss. The bosses are not any easier than the levels. They require a lot of hits to kill, and they often have more than one form. It's not rare to encounter an entirely different attack pattern or obstacle midway throughout a boss fight. It's fun but extremely difficult, and I died to the third boss in the game about thirty times before finally overcoming his plethora of bullets and being able to move on.

Even on the world map, there are different routes you can take, and I was happy to see that you are allowed t to play stages on alternative routes if you wish, so the player could play every level in the game or skip some if they wish.

Super Hydorah Review dodging time
Each level has different colored orbs that are dropped by enemies. The red and green orbs boost your primary and secondary weapon. They become more powerful or gain a larger blast radius. The blue, purple, and yellow orbs offer the player stuff like shields, bombs, and speed boosts. These are much rarer and require a critical choice from the player since they only appear a few times each stage.

On top of the orbs, each level offers a new weapon upon completion.It offers the player incentive to play more stages, and it may even be required for less skilled players since the stages quickly get harder and harder.

One of the most distinct aspects of Super Hydorah are the obstacles presented by the stages. The levels are able to kill the player as well as inhibit their progress. Stuff like the desert wind blowing you back or plants that grow from the ceiling and floors add to the challenge and make each stage feel unique. I loved this part of the game despite it killing me countless times, and it may be the most differentiating thing about Super Hydorah when comparing it to other shmups.

graphics and sound

The graphics in Super Hydorah are a unique blend of 8-bit landscapes with beautiful environments in the background. Stuff like the spaceships and the platforms are all 8-bit and definitely make the game feel old school, but the backgrounds look more modern, and they are very detailed. Stuff like moons, cavernous lava, and space dust all contrast nicely with the more immediate pixels. I really enjoyed the graphics, and I find the details definitely brought the levels to life without losing touch with their 8-bit roots.

Super Hydorah Review bullet spray
The soundtrack is fitting. It's enjoyable, and I liked that the music never got stale since each sub-level seemed to have its own soundtrack. It rarely grabbed me like some of the best shmup soundtracks, but it's overall very well done and adds to the games spacious, frightening worlds.


In the end, Super Hydorah is a very polarizing enterprise. The difficulty is just too crippling for many players, especially those who have never really experienced retro-shooter such as R-Type or DariusThe people that will fall in love with this game will likely be used to these games or enjoy the punishing difficulty and having to study a stage via multiple deaths before seeing any rewards. There were points where I wanted to stop playing because I had died so many times in one stage.

Despite the difficulty, Super Hydorah is very well made, and it's mechanics work almost flawlessly. The controls are easy, and the levels offer a greater freedom than nearly any shmup to date. The challenges never seem contrived, and patient players will love the intricacies of the stages and weapons. Even in the most grueling moments, I knew that I had the ability to overcome the challenge with enough effort,–and continues–but it does take a lot of devotion.

I loved the level design and weapons, but I would have liked to see the bombs be of more assistance. I never felt like they would help me except maybe in a boss fight, and choosing a bomb meant no shield or speed boost, further nullifying their status within the game.

Definitely get Super Hydorah if you like 80s shooters and can handle the difficulty, but if you like the conveniences of modern gaming, this shooter may be too old school for you.

+ Choose your own path – Truly maddening difficulty 
+ Feels like an 80s shmup – Bombs felt superfluous
+ Level design and variance – Mechanics can feel outdated


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