Box Shot
Platform: NES
Publisher: Jaleco
Designer: Natsume
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1992
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Ever since The Terminator, I've always been interested in cyborgs. You know, CYBernetic ORGanisms, half human, half machine. Shatterhand places you in the shoes of a guy that's still a human being, but has powerful hands made of strong metal that can pound through everything. Very cool indeed.

In the future, cyborgs have been developed and whaddya know, they're revolting (headed by a machine named Grover. The first rule when naming bad guys is to never have them coincide with Sesame Street characters.) A policeman named Steve Hermann is out to fight these computerized baddies, but ends up getting horribly injured. While in surgery, he is given those cybernetic hands I've mentioned, code-named himself Shatterhand, and takes upon himself the duty to stop the rebellion single-fisted (pun intended).

The game starts off with an introductory stage as you make your way through a contruction site. Once you beat this level though, you're treated to a stage select. Choose one of five areas and fight! Some levels are easier than others though, and beating a level doesn't give you an future advantages (a la Mega Man.) These stages consist of an arctic base, a subway on fire, a refinery, a biology lab and a submarine. Once these levels are beaten, it's on to the final stage.

Obviously, the main weapon in the game are your cybernetic hands. They can kill most humans in one or two hits, and can also break down barries, block bullets, and such. However, the designers figured that simply using your hands was too limited (they don't have a long reach) so they added the help of robotic pals. Scattered throughout each levels are two types of symbols (a D and a B.) Get three symbols and a robot will be join your fight. Whenever you encounter a letter, you can punch it to change it to another type, so you're pretty much free to assemble whatever robot you want, as long as you know the correct combination. There are a total of nine robots, some of which has light-sabes, shoot lasers, throw boomerangs and other cool things. It can also be used to lift Shatterhand straight up into the air. However, your robotic buddy can take damage just like you, and after enough hits, he'll go away.

Unfortunately, this leads to a slight game balance problem. Many of the bosses fly around a lot and are very tough to hit with just your fists. So a robot companion is almost required to kill, or at least do a good amount of damage, these bosses. So what if you die when fighting? Well, you come back to life right at the boss, without your robot friend, making the battle near futile. This is one of those games I'd preferred if you started at the sub-level before the boss instead of starting right at it. Which also reminds me... restart points are few and far between. You either get sent to the beginning of the level, the mid-way point, or the boss. The levels are a tad on the long side, and you only have eight life bars, so if you're not careful, death can occur often. There's no pits to fall into or anything, so at least you don't have to worry about instand deaths.

Additionally, some enemies drop money. These coins can be used at little station to purchase extra punching powers, a life-refill, or extra lives. There aren't many purchase stations though, and money is pretty plentiful, so this idea isn't as expanded as much as it should be. Money bags containing mucho dinero can also be found in certain boxes, although bombs can be hidden in them as well, so watch out!

On a whole, Shatterhand seems to remind me of another Natsume game, Shadow of the Ninja, in pretty much every sense. The graphics are very nice, with some good background animations, good enemies, and even a bit of multi-plane scrolling. The music is also quite good, sort of like Mega Man but less cute. The game also controls very well, getting rid of the control quirks found in Shadow of the Ninja. Punches can be delivered quickly and in rapid succession, plus every few punches yield a really strong super punch.

Shatterhand is actually a very enjoyable side-scrolling game. It manages to be tough without being too frustrating, and it's not a short game by any means either. The premise is interesting and the robots add an innovative twist to the game. If you like good ol' bash-em-in action, check this one out!