Cybernator - NCS Corp./Konami

Cybernator (a.k.a. Asault Suits Valken)

Reviewed by Mechaman

Ah, Cybernator. One of my favorite styles of console games-the "side-scrolling giant-robot platformer/shooter". Cybernator's original name was Assault Suits Valken-probably intended to be a semi-inspired sequel to Masaya's original Assault Suit Leynos(which was adapted for the Genesis under the name of Target Earth and had a sequel on the Saturn).

Oddly enough, it's a fairly rare style of game; there are only about two other ones for the SNES that I know of off-hand. Front Mission: Gun Hazard was a Cybernator-esque spinoff of the fab Front Mission strategy series that injected much more story along with better detailed mecha-building (think 2D Armored Core). Metal Warriors was an attempt by Lucasfilm (and Konami??) to cash in on the success of Cybernator; it suffered from average play control as well as being highly uninteresting, although with neat designs.

Cybernator concerns itself with a future that, like usual, has gone wrong (do they ever go right in these games?). The Earth is divided into two major powers currently involved in a civil war over "dwindling fossil fuels and territorial rights on the moon". Probably some U.S. President started that, I'll bet you. In any case, both sides are pulling no punches, and as a Pacific States Marine piloting a Cybernator Assault Suit with a big gun and bigger shield, it's up to you to survive these turbulent times. All set on a backdrop of pseudo-angst, death, and Really Big Explosions(tm)...

Object is simple: move to the right and complete your mission, which is usually "blow this big thingy up". However, you can "fail" certain missions. Fail to destroy the engines propelling an asteroid towards Earth and you see a neat nuclear-blast in the background of the next stage, etc. Plus, since the game is story-based, failing a mission gets you a different ending.

You start off with two weapons, your Vulcan and a punch. You can earn two more weapons, homing missiles and (hammering the Gundam angle home) the line-of-death laser. Grabbing a certain amount of power icons will power up each weapon; the Vulcan gets bigger shots (and can bounce off walls, oddly enough), the missiles get bigger explosions, and the laser becomes wider. Level 3 laser is wider than your unit-perfect for "that's not a gun, mate" quotes. Powering up weapons is important, since there's a limited amount of power icons, and it's VERY hard to beat some bosses without the appropriate powered-weapon. You also start out with a dash, jump thrusters, and an invulnerable shield. "Hey, how hard can it be if you've got that?" you ask. Simple: you can't move or shoot while you have your shield up, and you can't use it while you're in the air. While it seems cheap, it becomes very handy in the later missions and you won't survive long if you don't know how to use it well.

Graphically wise, Cybernator is impressive, using a good amount of rotation and scaling (especially on large explosions). There aren't as many "whoah" effects, like with Axelay or Gun Hazard, but they get the job done. There's also a great amount of animation and attention to detail, like lots of metal frameworks, dust blowing back from your jetpack, your gun spewing spent shells, shots digging holes in walls, enemy pilots running around underfoot, etc. Even though the small communication portraits were removed from the U.S. release, anime fans may be surprised to hear that the infamous Satoshi Urushihara did character designs. Soundwise, it's good music, I can tap my toes to it, but others hate it. Sound effects are also good quality, and don't grate. Gameplay may feel "heavy" to some, but this is a giant robot we're driving, not some nippy fighter or muscle-bound commando. Konami was also smart enough to put in a "lock" button, so that you can keep your gun pointed in the correct direction during zero-G combat.

Where Cybernator falls down are the levels. For some reason, the designers got tired, or lazy, because after the relative fast pace and clever design of the first five missions, the last two levels of the game are an exercise in frustration and boredom. The next-to-last mission has you enduring a high-speed chase that never seems to end, then a slog through a mazelike cave with nary a shield-restore in sight. The last mission suffers from ridiculously overpowered enemies, as well as a dirt-simple level design(walk a few steps, guard, wait for an opening, shoot, walk some more), coupled with several annoying autoscroll jumps.

Overall, if you like these types of shooters, give it a whirl. The ROM is fairly common, and the cart should still be kicking around used game stores. One odd thing removed from the US release of the game: the enemy president actually committed suicide when you burst into his room in the last level. Of course, with the graphic engine, the president was less than a fingernail high (which works out to about three or four pixels of the "red stuff"). Ah, those wacky Nintendo censors, saving us from such graphic and disturbing sequences...

Choose your level!

Yup, took me ages to put his one up. It got clogged in the middle of the hugest backlog we've ever had =P Sorry 'bout that, Mechaman.
I like this Cybernator game. The whole idea of anime/big-mechs is one of my favs =) One of the games of the era when I liked Konami. Now I hate them. Funny, huh? =P - Akira -


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