The PC Engine / TurboGrafx 16 was an interesting oddity. It contained a lot of unique games that are considered hidden classics – even including bigfranchise games such as Castlevania Rondo of Blood, which many may have heard of but few have actually played. That’s why when I heard about the rerelease of Cyber Citizen Shockman, I was a little excited. This was the first time it had been translated and released in the west, so many could finally get their hands on an official version for the first time.
But, is it any good?
Many thanks to the publisher for the review code.
Tasuke and Kyapiko are androids put together by the Doc in order to become heroes of justice. They may be normal humans by day, but once the sinister Evil Group comes along and starts causing trouble in the neighbourhood, they become Shockman. A strong metal woman (or man!) armed with a sword that can slice through the menacing evil machines.
Over the course of 18 days (it’s nice that evil has a timetable that you can work to), you need to save the city and make your way through to the heinous head honcho and put a stop to it all. Do you take the direct route there and ignore the remaining days, or do you spend the time saving civilians and earning enough money to power up before taking on the big bad?
It’s a story that’s very much inspired by Mega Man, and was no doubt created as a rival to the excellent NES platforming series. It works well enough, even if its simplicity means that it never really sets itself apart either.
The similarities to Mega Man end with the narrative, however, as the game is very different to that of Capcom’s classic. Getting into the action, you’ll be presented with a map offering you multiple routes to get to your end destination. There are repeated level themes, but each one offers different level design to give you more incentive to give other routes a try. Between levels, you can use the money that you have earned to buy upgrades that help to buff your character a little but, as they’re mostly inessential, they’re nothing you necessarily need to worry about either.
Unfortunately, the inclusion of multiple routes is where the gameplay praise ends as the levels themselves aren’t really a whole lot of fun. They look fine for the most part, with enemy designs in particular being mostly solid for an early PC Engine title, but the level design doesn’t have a whole lot of variety and relies a lot on frustrating design – whether it be from the bland and oddly precise platforming that you need to do, or the irritating attacks from the same enemy variants that you’ll encounter again and again.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that the game is difficult to get through however, mainly because your generous health bar is supplemented by a decent number of health pickups to help keep you alive. The frustration is largely down to how absolutely godawful the controls are. Movement is slippery and jumps feel very inaccurate, often resulting in mistakes being made that don’t feel like your fault. This is further amplified by the awful hitboxes that cause you to get hit by baddies when you’re not even touching them; although on the flip side, you can also slash at them from further than you ought to be able to too.
The ridiculous hitbox detection is best seen when fighting against one of the game’s bosses, of which there are two variants – mech and dragon – plus the final boss. The two opponents you’ll encounter feel very similar to one another, and can be hit from so far back that it verges on ridiculous. The final boss shakes things up by having a different design and feels far more enjoyable as a result, but by that point the game is over.
Even though I didn’t particularly like the game at all, it’s hard to deny that the developers did a great job bringing the title over to modern consoles. Not only has it been translated for the west, but you also have the option to play the original Japanese title too – and both are completely playable in local co-op, should you have a friend that you wish to upset. Further modern additions include some visual and audio options, save states, rewind / fast forward, and even a cheat menu that can grant you unlimited health or extra money. It’s a pretty decent package for such a low price point.
Cyber Citizen Shockman has seen its first western release, and it’s clear to see why they never bothered to do it sooner. The sloppy controls and dreadful level design make it a chore to play, but fans of the PC Engine may find the game worth picking up for the sheer novelty alone. After all, even though the game may not be any good, it is cheap at the very least.