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Super Zangyura Review

Super Zangyura Review

While developing our Super Zangyura review, it was easy to reminisce on Vampire Killer. As of late, some indie games may reject “metroidvania” gameplay and opt for a more focused and linear style action-platformer. Sometimes called a “linearvania” or “classicvania”, this style of gameplay emphasizes high challenge and memorization over exploration.

When the original Castlevania came out, it had many ports; one of which was on the MSX2 and was called Vampire Killer. This was a unique version of the enduring classic, as it introduced the first non-linear game design elements before Simon’s Quest in the form of locked doors and keys.

Super Zangyura is a remake of Maid Samba, a doujin game from 2004 and it is heavily inspired by Vampire Killer. With completely revamped imagery and sound, does this re-maid action platformer from the early days of Japanese indie game scene still hold up? Find out in our Super Zangyura review!

Super Zangyura
Developer: Platine Dispositif
Publisher: Mediascape
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Release Date: March 3, 2022
Players: 1
Price: $19.99 USD 

Super Zangyura Review

The premise of Super Zangyura is lifted nearly word for word from Konami’s Castlevania series, with minor alterations. “Dracula” is never mentioned; only referred to as “The Immortal”. Instead of a whip wielding crusader of the Belmont line, players assume the role of Maid-san; wielder of a massive flail.

Maid-san will have to traverse a gauntlet of diabolical traps, undead, and demons while trying to avoid getting peed on if she wishes to vanquish the night and exorcise the evil. She will do this by unlocking doors by finding the appropriate keys and navigating tricky platforming while also relying on her morning star to helicopter herself to a safe landing.

It is a premise as old as console gaming itself. Running through stages and attempting challenges to stay alive while finding hidden power-ups in walls is still satisfying as it was in the 1980s. Super Zangyura may sometimes look like a doujin game, but the level design frequently comes off as inspired- as if the developer had been making games for years.

Super Zangyura Review

Maid-san does not have moves like Alucard. She is a lot more like a Belmont. Her jumps require a bit of commitment and there is a wind-up to her flail that must be accounted for. She is not completely a stiff-knee crusader; she can dash – which is vital for negotiating many of the castle’s traps and pitfalls.

Most importantly; Maid-san can hover. Most of the jumps in Super Zangyura will require players mastering this maneuver and being able to clear some of the more nasty traps. The only regret that might be a hold over from Maid Samba could be the unfairly short to non-existent limited invincibility, which can result in Maid-san getting stun-locked into an early grave.

Super Zangyura is a 2D action platformer with retro sensibilities and is made by a developer with a taste for kaizo-style challenges. Gamers who prefer to take it easy when playing should steer clear, because the action can get very spicy and learning from mistakes is a core part of the Super Zangyura experience.

Super Zangyura Review

Dying is not the worst thing to happen to Maid-san. During play, gamers will come across various gems and currency which is kept after death and can be spent in the shop for upgrades. This is seemingly a soft difficulty modifier (on top of the existing easy or hard mode), which offers players the expected health boosts and more lives.

On top of various stat upgrades, Maid-san can also purchase the keys she would normally have to go out of her way to collect while running through stages. This is a fair compromise for players who wish to bypass large chunks of the stage they must replay. It also offers a choice for anyone who wishes to save their treasure and to “git gud” the old fashioned way.

Control and playability is very tight and has some of the signature stiffness that fans of Castlevania would know. Despite this, Maid-san does feel a bit more flexible than any Belmont and thanks to her hovering, she can manage some level of air-control. The challenges within will compensate for this added layer of control, so don’t get comfortable.

Super Zangyura Review

Bosses are a highlight and come in many shapes and forms. Some are human sized and others are massive; filling the screen with effects and dangerous projectiles. The developer’s panache for bullet-hell action games can be seen during these intense moments.

Dodging with the dash and weaving in and out of danger is satisfying. It looks cool to pull it off without getting hit and players will feel like a champion sending a hellion to meet god with the broad side of a metal ball as it connects, making a symphony of delightful crunching sounds like when a iron girder lands on top of a Prius.

While many of the level layouts of Super Zangyura do have plenty of homages to Maid Samba; sadly the limited range of assets are inherited as well. Unlike the many Castlevania entries which had a vast variety of backdrops and settings to power-walk your way through, Super Zangyura‘s setting is mostly the same brick patterns throughout.

Worst of all, Super Zangyura commits the heinous sin of mixing pixel art with HD assets. If only this were limited to UI elements, this might have been tolerable. Alas, HD character portraits clash with the retro aesthetic and do not scale properly with the imagery.

This is made worse with some background art which is sometimes done in a hand drawn pen and ink style which is only done once in the entire game. It is distracting and does not mesh with the arcade-like, boisterous imagery.

Thankfully, all the pixel art that is in Super Zangyura is very appealing and has a lot of character. There is a surprisingly amount of bounce to the animation, which is fitting for the lighthearted anime-style the game is going for.

Super Zangyura Review

Maid-san is much more detailed than she ever was in Maid Samba. She has more realistic proportions now and is more congruent with the rest of the enemy designs. Her distinct ponytail helps to give her a defined silhouette that clearly indicates which way she is facing and drags in the air when she moves.

A lot of care went into the overhauled visuals. While it still has some of that hobbyist, doujin game flair about it; there is no mistaking that the talent that went into this remake is so much more mature than what was possible in the 2004 version.

What makes Super Zangyura stand out from other 2D action platformers is that it is made by a developer who truly understands its influences. It is focused on homaging the obscure Vampire Killer and manages to add plenty of new ideas to make it special.

Replay value is high, thanks to the upgrade system. Being able to complete the game without dying or upgrading Maid-san at all is definitely a harrowing experience and is something players ought to try. Achieving that level of skill found in our Super Zangyura review does take practice and the mechanics in place facilitate a skill ceiling.

Super Zangyura is highly recommended to fans of Castlevania and linear 2D action games. The easy mode will give newcomers just enough intensity to appreciate what the appeal is and the upgrading will allow them to see the game to the end.

Hard mode in Super Zangyura is the only other option and is reserved for 2D action game maniacs. This setting is the ultimate challenge for anyone who thought Dracula’s Curse was too easy. Super Zangyura will show these players what true hell is.

We did our Super Zangyura review on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by Mediascape. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Super Zangyura is now available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Nintendo Switch.

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The Verdict: 8

The Good

  • Stimulating and varied Vampire Killer-esque gameplay
  • Highly challenging yet very fair
  • Upgrade system that gradually guarantees victory
  • Energetic and electric gothic music
  • Excellent animation and character pixel art

The Bad

  • Limited range of tile assets make the environments feel samey
  • HD art assets clashing with pixel art
  • Hit-stun death due to the lack of temporary invulnerability after getting hit

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A youth destined for damnation.