The shoot-’em-up (shmup) genre has always appeared to pivot and move in popularity similarly to beat-’em-ups. A new big name appears and everyone’s playing again, but then we go through a trough wherein the core demographic seem to forget they exist. However, there’s still an ardent fanbase that weathers the storm; this is the audience Habroxia 2 has been created for.
Headlines from the likes of Ikaruga and Sine Mora will not be applied to Habroxia 2. Which is a shame as there’s actually a significant amount of interesting ideas in the game. It’s not going to redefine the genre, but that fanbase in waiting will certainly find value in the game.
Habroxia 2 begins by offering the player a short tutorial and entirely superfluous storyline about a pilot and his daughter. However, with delivery via 2D character panels and text, it does set the scene for the game’s aesthetic. This is a retro styled experience through-and-through. Habroxia 2 doesn’t try to emulate any specific era, but does rely solely on very limited pixel art. It’s such a stringent design decision that it’s actually quite unfortunate in places, specifically with regards to the text. Some players may be confused why completing level 1 will take them to level 28 or 29, until they realise it’s actually ‘2A’ or ‘2B’, depending on which route they took.
And here we come to one of Habroxia 2‘s interesting mechanics. Many of the game’s levels have multiple possible routes, and multiple potential boss fights. Each boss featured in the game requires very specific tactics to overcome, and as such Habroxia 2 very much encourages repeated play to get the better of each one. Furthermore, the upgrades store in incredibly demanding on your hard earned currency. You may well find that the answer to the current boss fight is to up your rate of fire a few times, but in order to do so you may need to replay several levels.
Finding the wealth required to upgrade every aspect of your ship is incredibly demanding, but also essential. Habroxia 2 is not an easy game; even those that have been enamoured with the genre for decades may well find that there’s a vital piece of their arsenal missing – halting their progress – at several points during the reasonably lengthy campaign.
But that of course is also a selling point for fans of shmups. You’re not here for a quick-and-easy completion; you’re here to have your skills put to the test. There’s no lives, no option for continuing mid-level and no assistance outside of the abundant powers-up. You get what you earn and, as stated several times in this Habroxia 2 review, you have to work hard for those rewards.
It’s highly likely that Habroxia 2 review scores are going to be very mixed. Just as with the genre itself, Habroxia 2 isn’t for everybody. It’s rife with ‘just one more go’ mechanics, however it’s also deeply entrenched in the genre’s staples, from reflex and memory challenges to ‘bullet hell’ difficulty. This will likely be too many boundaries for genre newcomers already. However, if it’s a new shmup challenge you’re looking for don’t sleep on Habroxia 2.