The recent trend of resurrecting long-ceased shoot-em-up IPs from the dead, usually when the original developer has shuffled off its electronic coil, is a welcome one. M2 revived Aleste, Platinum Games reanimated the Crestas, and now small indie outfit Picorinne Soft — comprised of brothers Ryo and Satto — has ventured a sequel to Visco’s Andro Dunos, a largely forgotten, Hellfire-inspired Neo Geo shoot-em-up from 1992.
Despite stellar work, Picorinne Soft’s Steam, Dreamcast, and recent ex-A Arcadia releases remain relatively underground. While Andro Dunos II carries over its forebear’s ship and Hellfire-style weapon system, everything else is so vastly improved and expanded upon, that it bears only scant resemblance to the original game. It’s so different, in fact, that Visco’s IP seems like little more than a Trojan horse to gain them wider recognition. This, as it turns out, is an all-round win.
Anyone who grew up with arcade games will know within the first 30 seconds that something here is very right. Your retro gaming faculties sing like a sixth-sense, recollecting ten-pence coin drops and control panel cigarette burns as stage one’s wonderful indoor space city, barricaded by steel walls and zipping skyscrapers, opens up before you. Within minutes you ascend outside of its confines to a scorched-earth desert that echoes the starker element’s of Zoom’s Phalanx and Taito’s Metal Black.
From there, the creativity goes supernova, using almost every shoot-em-up convention one can think of, from attacks on mobile tanks to a thrilling mothership boss rush that throws up seemingly bottomless invention. There are moments where maps flash up, showing you a route before you race through tunnels, not dissimilar to the Mega Drive’s Aero Blasters; elsewhere, twinkling interplanetary cityscapes carpet the background before you plunge inside laser riddled techno-compounds. An ever-changing sci-fi spectacle, it completely holds its form over a reasonable difficulty curve from one blistering moment to the next, pacing itself as it drives toward increasingly epic new heights. If Gradius V was a 2D arcade game, it would probably be something like this.
Initially very easy — and all the more encouraging for it — it’s hard to overstate how precisely the brothers have captured the gaming traits of yesteryear. While visually a nigh-on perfect facsimile of '90s arcade software, the aesthetic is compounded by an exemplary soundtrack from Britain’s Allister Brimble, who has been composing since the Amiga and Spectrum days. His punchy, spacey themes drive the adrenaline with classic chords and evocative synth in a superior fusion of Eastern design ethics and Western musical composition.
Your little orange Jetsons-like craft, recalling '50s cars of the future, comes with four stock weapons that can be cycled freely. ‘S’ icons power up whichever weapon is currently in use, incrementally increasing in strength up to seven times. In the event of a death, conversely, weapon power is decreased by a value of one. There are also missile and shield icons that bolster the power of your secondary weapons and defensive options.
During play, blue orbs dropped by destroyed enemies can be swept up before floating off-screen. Collecting all 30 orbs in a stage allows a total of three upgrades to be applied during the between-stage interval. While the mechanics seem simple on the surface, one soon realises that there’s a carefully structured economy at play that boasts a wealth of experimental freedom. This is tied expertly and exactingly to the crafting of the stages, their enemies and threats.
Choosing which weapons suit you best and focussing on powering them up is a common first instinct, although ultimately it’s a race to get your entire arsenal maxed out as quickly as possible. This can be done in a variety of ways, from focussing on a single forerunner to spreading your upgrades evenly across the board. Integral to all of this, is each weapon’s ability to go hyper in four unique expulsions, blasting out a few seconds of heavy-duty firepower before dropping into a brief recharge period where your shot is temporarily reduced in power — a small penalty for otherwise unlimited usage. To combat this, you can switch to any of the other three weapons instead, placing emphasis on cycling your arms with the shoulder buttons.
Not only is each weapon unique — some firing behind, some touting power over range — but so are their hyper attributes. Learning to use the right weapon at the right time becomes integral from around stage five onward, with many hyper attacks helping to clear threats from above and below, wiping out busy boss attacks, and even nullifying incoming bullets. Timing, of course, is key.
As you learn the early stages and their bosses, it’s hugely fun to map out your strategies, snatch all those blue orbs, and let rip at giant enemies and popcorn fleets with your hyper attacks. The controls are taut and tactile, and the horizontal format allows plenty of room to breathe and manoeuvre. It feels great to juggle everything in tandem, unleashing hell on alien hordes to Brimble’s fantastic toe-tapping themes.
Bosses are particularly inventive too, impressively dwarfing, with multiple destructible parts and a vast library of exciting attacks to navigate. Whether facing off against monstrous aquatic nemeses or bomb spraying destroyers, there’s rarely a dull moment.
There are plenty of continues available, but if you’re playing it 'properly' you should really only be using one. That said, continues obviously enable you to reach subsequent stages and then have them added to the practice mode’s roster: an all important feature in combating the increasing difficulty curve.
While Andros Dunos II resembles long lost arcade-era magnificence, there are still a few imperfections. It’s only one-player — so no teaming up — and the lack of scanline filters is disappointing, especially in a game that looks and feels this arcade accurate. Elsewhere, being able to change or even turn off the random stock wallpapers would have been nice, and you aren’t able to stretch the display either, but that’s probably for the best.
The worst of it is the inability to remap the shoulder buttons, hampering one’s ability to use different controllers. For example, with 'L' and 'R' permanently locked for weapon cycling, you may well find yourself performing finger-gymnastics on an arcade stick, depending on its layout. This would be less of an issue if weapon cycling wasn’t so integral and didn’t require such regular use, but as it stands it’s a small but rather limiting oversight.
Minor gripes aside, if someone told you Andro Dunos II was a long lost relic of a bygone era rather than a 2022 release — and a salient example of the genre with it — you would honestly be none the wiser. To that end, it will likely be far better regarded 30 years from now than Visco’s original title.
Andro Dunos II is a resounding success. That a small indie developer can bat alongside the likes of M2 and Platinum and, honestly, with greater overall success, is always uplifting. Further inspiring, is how — superficial IP notwithstanding — it manages to be so utterly exacting to arcade standards of the '90s, and at the same time feel breathtakingly original. Its craftsmanship, from weapon negotiations and experimentation, to the way each stage is cleverly built to aid a variety of approaches and play styles, is top notch. Andro Dunos II looks good, sounds great, and plays wonderfully.
Sounds fun and interesting. New shumps always welcomed. It isn't listed on the US amazon site though. It links me to some protein fuel or another.
This looks incredible. Right up there with Blazing Chrome. Depending on the price, I may get it ASAP.
EDIT: Wow do I get this on Switch or 3DS!? Both!?
So we have confirmation whether the 3DS release will feature co-op?
Ah superb. I hoped for it to be good but it seems it's even better than good, it's great. I just skimmed the review but will have a read later. Can't wait to add this to my newly created SHMUP folder, sorry group. It's huge, it's proud and it's packed with quality.
The Switch is a SHMUP beast.
Edit - I just bought it. The icon looks really good.
@ChromaticDracula Get it on 3DS only if you don't care about dock play otherwise either one is okay. The game didn't utilize any 3D gimmick so getting it on 3DS does seem kinda pointless. Unless you want that super portable pocket game on the go factor which the Switch doesn't deliver then the 3DS version is the one to go for.
Oh. A nice surprise.
Cool. Was definitely thinking about this game, trying to gauge the quality. Good to see it’s one to consider.
Also it’s a sidescrolling shmup which tend to stand out more to me than the vertical variety.
Glad this is good cause I’ve had a physical preorder in for a while now. Would be great if Andro Dunos 1 was ported too.
Pixelheart has repeatedly said it is in 3D, had this changed recently?
@Specter_of-the_OLED good points… that would’ve been really cool to have included 3D but I’m sure that would’ve added a whole “thing” to its development.
Anyway I’m still very much enjoying my 3DS mainly because of the form factor like you said. Ultimately though, I’ll probably just get it for Switch for the TV play option.
I think the pricing is $19.99 on Switch digital and ~$40 for Switch physical. I’d imagine 3DS is similar pricing for physical. I can’t be dropping that kind of double dip money now.
@nukatha ...I'm not sure.. The pixelheart site makes no mention of 3D features. In fact these are the (only) features listed:
– Flexible and efficient gameplay.
– Recover power ups by killing enemies.
– Music composed by Allister Brimble (Alien Breed, Body Blows, Project-X, Colonization, Driver or Superfrog).
Not sure! If it does include 3D I'm going to preorder on 3DS. Maybe I'll then buy on Switch after a sale — that version will be around longer.
I'll get this on 3DS if i can. Though I heard there is a Dreamcast version, so I may get that instead.
Kinda wish Tyrian was on Switch. That was a worthy SHMUP.
You got me completely at Allister Brimble. His work on Descent was spectacular even before I learned of his console game endeavours.
This goes on the wishlist.
After some looking I found preorders for the NA physical release here:
Preorders open up on Mon 3/28. I've spent so much on games lately, I have to think about this one. ^_^;;
Seeing as how the 3DS release is likely the final North American 3DS title at retail (and maybe PAL as well?) it's likely to get a small print run and thus increase in value. Bonus food for thought. 😉
@Teksetter thank you my man
I wonder if this will get the same $40 hatred treatment Platinum got for Sol Cresta?
Of course we get it for the 3ds!!Pixelheart confirm that the game utilizes the stereoscopic 3d. Also as informing me the 3d effect is in great use with very good results! Pixelheart didn't have any other choice as almost all the 3ds community asked for stereoscopic 3d in the game on twitter/facebook/YouTube messages-comments.
The game on 3ds doesn't include co-op but nevermind. It's a great game and it's awesome to get a New 3ds game (especially smhup) in 2022. The orders for 3ds games will ship propably next week and it's still available on pixelheart(pal region) and vgny(usa region) shops.
We are looking forward for a nintendolife review of the 3ds version!!
Infinos Gaiden (from the same developer) was pretty good, so I've got my hopes up for this being good, too.
The original is a great game so to read that this is even better is excellent news gonna buy this digital for switch and physical for Dreamcast
I am eagerly awaiting both the Switch and 3DS copies (I doubled dipped).
This just looks amazing
@Specter_of-the_OLED I thought it had 3D on 3DS
@koekiemonster It does.
@Guile I'm guessing the 3DS was Kickstarter or something only in which case ordering it now is out of the question anyways.
And then there's region locking.
Stereoscopic 3D is basically a no for my launch day NA 3DS, I do have a N3DS for which the 3D became a usable option but it's JP.
@KingMike It’s available for preorder now on Pixelheart.eu - I ordered it this morning. There are both EU and US region options.
Is the 3ds version in 3d?
@KingMike maybe 3d is only available in new 3ds, then?
Now this is true gaming from the golden age. Preordered this months ago physical copy. Now will probably order the 3DS version now as well )
@twztid13 yes the 3DS version supposedly supports full 3D
This has been on Amazon as a preorder for so long that hardly comes as a surprise, but given the lukewarm reception of Sol Cresta I thought this one would be another case of harmful hype, but glad to see it's not. Plus, the first entry wasn't exactly a success. Anyway, this one is cheap, and physical, so I might get it.
It's on Dreamcast too, by the way.
Ohh, will have to pick up later. I've maxed out the wishlist so I will have to make an note. I remember trying to order the physical version but the webpage kept dying so I gave up and forgot about it.
@Tom-Massey Hope for a 3ds review also Tom!
As a huge fan of shooters I’m overjoyed to see this as the final 3DS physical release and hearing it’s quality. Had always hoped Steel Empires 3DS would have gotten a cart copy but this will definitely do.
@AllieKitsune infinos gaiden goes from average to awesome once you reach level 3. It feels like a whole different game. I hope it receives a Switch port.
@Guile is it going to 3DS eshop?
@NinChocolate No unfortunately. Physical is the only option for 3ds. What a game to close our physical games 3ds collection.
I'm really hyped and I can't wait to play it on 3ds!
@Guile Ha ha, well, that wouldn’t be up to me. Perhaps the NLife powers will make a special allowance for the console’s farewell physical release, but honestly it’s either going to go one of two ways: It will either be just as good but in glorious 3D, or have some hardware-related drawbacks that need highlighting.
It has that real arcade feel!
It’s “m’am” for me, but you’re very welcome! I hope you enjoy what looks like a great shootem’up!
Since you mention it, I’d say Sol Cresta’s price point didn’t deserve all that hate, and neither should this one. People’s sense of value varies, right? Plus we’ve paid more for lesser games in the past.
This caught my attention and I'm glad it reviewed well. I saw in the review that's it's not considered bullet hell, so that's a winner for me. Gonna wishlist it now.
@Teksetter mind if I ask - did you buy Cresta? I'm hesitant but I own most all of Platinum's other games...it's odd to not own this one. But the backlash frightened me!! Thanks again my lady!
LRG’s deadline to preorder the physical “dramatic edition” of Cresta was last Sunday. I hesitated till the last minute and then… didn’t buy. So I haven’t played it yet. I do have some second thoughts, but I’m about half squashed under the backlog right now, so…
But maybe I’ll have a chance to get it at Best Buy someday? 🤷🏻♀️
I would just say don’t fear the backlash. If you love playing and collecting shooters then who cares? It’s your money to spend.
@Teksetter I have not enjoyed my experience with LRG - not their fault - they are what they are - but I don't like waiting a year for money spent today. And at the end of the day having these physical releases won't amount to anything.
If I get Cresta it will be on the eshop. Thanks for repsonding!
Ohhh yeah, that LRG wait is a killer. I’ve had good service from them otherwise, but you definitely need the patience of Job.
If only eshop purchases were shareable and remained on account for future gens, I’d buy a lot more of them. Accessing everything from the comfort of your couch is such a luxury! 😌
@MostHandsieBoy An informative, honest, and well-measured review exists right here on NLife:
16:9 mode added. The pixels are chunky enough so it doesn't appear stretched. Great game. Fantastic sound track too.
@Ryu_Niiyama I didn’t know the eshop wish list had a limit.
I like that you maxed it out. I hope you get to play all the games on your wish list.
@Jacoby I think the limit is 394 now (switch not in front of me) but every time I go shopping, something I want fills it up again. It’s an endless cycle lol.
FYI, this now has a scanline/curved display filter option and a not-great 16x9 stretch. This one is really fun! And very pretty! Grab it on sale!!
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