Title: Andro Dunos II
Developer: Picorinne Soft
Release Date: March 25, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Just For Games, PixelHeart
Originally released as a NEOGEO arcade game back in 1992, the original Andro Dunos was a pretty unremarkable shmup release. This was a time when there were numerous titles in the genre, and it’s likely most gamers would have ignored the existence of a shooter that hardly did anything to stand out. 30 years later in 2022, there are still way too many shmups available on any gaming platform, and yet there is something strangely remarkable about seeing a sequel to such an obscure release. While the original game may gotten lost in the shuffle, Andro Dunos II manages to offer something cool to genre fans.
The NEOGEO visual style works really well in the 2022 sequel, with crisp and clean sprites, huge pixelated explosions, and some really fast scrolling effects too. There are even some pseudo Mode 7 3D effects thrown in for good measure. The game honestly looks nice in motion, especially when you encounter some of the bosses that take up the entire screen. The use of color is practical, with lighter dull shades for the ships and backgrounds, and stronger colors for the projectile attacks, making them easier to spot and dodge.
There isn’t much in the way of lore, but Andro Dunos II does put some emphasis on presentation with a cool animated sequence and some inventive designs for the enemies and bosses. It definitely stays true to the old arcade-style aesthetics, but the only thing which doesn’t shine quite as much is the soundtrack. Although, the impactful sound effects are what you’d expect from a noisy arcade cabinet, especially when the end of stage boss is completely obliterated in one loud explosion.
As a shmup, Andro Dunos II takes after R-Type rather than the typical bullet hell affair we see in most modern releases. What that means is the game is far more methodical than simply dodging impossible enemy patterns. There is a stage design here, which even involves navigating narrow pathways and going through a variety of interesting set pieces, whether it’s getting through an asteroid belt or even diving underwater.
The bosses aren’t just about spamming an insane flurry of projectiles, instead, it’s more about studying their patterns and looking for their weak spots too. In a way, the boss battles and action take after 2D action games rather than your typical shooter, so this ends up giving the experience quite a unique feel.
The actual ship you control is surprisingly versatile. Rather than having to choose one offensive style at the start like in most other games, here, players can cycle between different styles with the press of a button. Whether it’s a spread shot or a concentrated fire, the game has you covered, there’s even a shot that fires from the rear, which comes in handy when enemies come from both sides of the screen and later stages that scroll in different directions. There are sub-weapons too, all of which can be upgraded with powerups in each level. What’s more, you can have more permanent upgrades after clearing each stage.
Andro Dunos II is no doubt challenging, but the difficulty progression feels natural, and with a variety of attack styles and even upgrades, it all comes down to how well a player can read the situation and use the best offensive response. It may not necessarily be the most innovative shmup out there, but it offers players a great deal of flexibility and control in play styles, and while the game is on rails like any shmup, there are moments where it feels like a side-scrolling action game thanks to the unique design of stages and boss battles.
Its predecessor may have been an unremarkable release 30 years ago, but Andro Dunos II manages to execute decent gameplay variety in a well-designed shmup adventure. It allows players to choose how they want to play, and with easy upgrades and clean level design, this is a nice alternative to all the bullet hell craziness out there.
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