We live in a time of near constant re-releases and remasters nowadays. Barely a week goes by where an announcement is made regarding an old favourite being brought back for current consoles so that it can be enjoyed again. Most are welcome returns with the likes of Resident Evil 2, Dead Space etc. Others not so much. There is a specific sub-set, however, that I will always embrace with open arms. This being games that never received a Western release. And here, with Cyber City Shockman, we have one.
Today, I was given the opportunity to go hands-on with Cyber Citizen Shockman. Being a bit of a fan of various Japanese media, I was looking forward to having a go at this.
Cyber City Shockman – Backround
For those not in the know, the original game, Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman (translated as Modified Townman Shubibinman), was developed by Masaya Games and released way back in 1989 for the PC Engine. It was then later re-released for Nintendo’s Virtual Console, but only in Japanese markets. Oddly, the sequel was Westernised as Shockman and released exclusively for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992.
But now, thanks to Ratalaika Games and Shinyuden, Western audiences are able to experience the original game. Releasing for all major modern consoles including Xbox, PS4/5 and Switch, this retro arcade platformer will be coming in at a very reasonable £4.99 ($5.99/€5.99 in US and Europe) and has a few new features to appeal to the modern gamer that I’ll get into later.
I played the PS5 version, though I can’t imagine it being any different to other copies. It immediately took me right back to the games I used to play as a kid on my old NES and Master System. The only difference being that I thought it looked a lot nicer. I’m not sure if they’ve worked on the visuals or whether this is how it was originally presented but it’s a very nice looking game. A lot of games, particular of the 8-bit/16-bit era, don’t look so great when blown up on todays big screen TVs but this one fares much better. The colours are crisp and distinct and limited animations for the characters somewhat hold up. In particular, each level ends with a black screen and a victory animation from your selected character that I thought was kinda neat.
Initially Cyber City Shockman asks you to select one of two characters to play as; Tasuke or Kyapiko. I really didn’t notice any difference in the way the characters play. You’re then taken to a map screen similar to Super Mario Bros 3 but not as expansive. There are a total of 18 levels to guide your character through on their quest to defeat Dark Skull. Each is fairly short, only really taking a few minutes, but each presents its own challenges in terms of the obstacles you’ll face.
The levels generally present as the standard sort of side-scrolling hack’n’slash fare that was pretty popular in the day with hints of Megaman style level and character designs and Castlevania-style combat coming into play. In a very basic manner, you are tasked with travelling from left to right, taking down enemies and avoiding falls and traps. Upon reaching the end of the level, you’ll meet a boss that often takes the form of a mech or dragon of some sort. These boss fights ultimately result in a handful of hits being delivered for the win and don’t present much of a challenge. The challenge comes in avoiding the other enemies that are also bouncing around the screen. I’ve fallen afoul of those a few times.
Combat takes the form of just one button to swing a sword. Later upgrades will unlock a ranged weapon that can be activated by holding the attack button down to charge it. As with other games of the era, it makes use of a two button control scheme. One for hitting, one for jumping and then your direction control. You can use the analog sticks or the d-pad though for some reason, I always revert to the d-pad when I play retro 2D games. It just feels natural to me. Oh, and did I mention you can duck? So many older games forgot to include ducking. Not this one.
Game Mechanics And What’s New
I found the hit boxes for the enemies to be very generous. Often I felt like I hit them way before they were close enough for the hit to register. However, this also rings true for my character where I sometime take damage before I feel the enemy has even touched me. It’s a minor gripe but something I picked up on pretty early. Upon destruction, enemies will very helpfully drop items to be collected. These can be health replens, temporary power-ups such as invincibility, but more often than not are wads of gold which acts as the games currency (why do videogame enemies carry so much gold around?!). The currency can then be used to purchase upgrades, and health replenishments from the map screen which I found to be a very welcome and useful feature between levels.
Movement can initially feel like your running through mud initially and is a little floaty on the jumps but once you grow accustomed to it, it’s not that bad. Platforming requires a little precision and timing to nail some jumps so you don’t end up hitting an enemy or landing in one of the many lava pits (seriously, who designed this city?).
In terms of new features for this re-release, the devs have included the ability to save (always welcome), the ability to play in English or Japanese, a rewind and fast-forward feature and an art gallery featuring some images from the game’s designer; Suu Urabe. Fairly standard for this kind of retro release but still a nice little package for the price.
To wrap this up, I genuinely had a good time playing Cyber City Shockman and plan to continue playing. It certainly has it’s flaws due to the age of the game but as a title that was never available to Western audiences, it’s a nice little curio and if Ratalaika and Shinyuden re-release the others that we never got (as is the plan, apparently), then I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground so I can have a go on those too.
For the price and the retro-nostalgia, I would happily recommend this to anyone looking to fill a gap in their retro experience.