Cybernator
Box Shot
Cybernator
Platform: Super Nintendo
Publisher: Konami
Designer: NCS Corporation
Genre: Action
Players: 1
Published Date 1993
Reviewed by: Kurt Kalata

Ah, the glory of humoungous, six story tall mechs. Cool weapons, shields, jet packs, firepower...seriously dude, kick ass! It seems that a majority of mech games take place from a first person view (like the original Mechwarrior games) but Cybernator looks more like your typical side-scroller. Saying that would be a mistake though, as it's quite a different approach to both the mech genre (if you can call it that) and side-scrolling shooters.

Several years in the future, everything goes to hell (can the future EVER be good?) Fossil fuels are limited, and major factions go to war over territory. Giant mechs called Assault Suits have been developed to do battle. Of course, pilot are required for these things, and only the best make it through training. And you're one of those pilots. The default name for your character is Jake, but you can change this to whatever you want. The intro features a bit of anime artwork to portray the characters, but that's all you really see of them. There are some conversations that take place during the game (the action annoyingly stops for some reason when these messages are broadcast) that gives directions and tell generally what's to be done. I heard that there were anime pictures in the Japanese version, Assault Suit Valkan, but this isn't a biggie.

The levels actually follow some sort of a structure rather than your typical random level placement. You start off destroying enemy bases in outer space, but soon enter the atmosphere (destroying robots as you fall to the Earth, with a suitable heat build-up, is probably one of the coolest moments in the game) and end up running attack missions on the Earth. The final level is in the main bad guy's HQ.

The first thing that may put gamers off is the control scheme. Your mech is a bit clunky and isn't completely responsive (although this is what you'd expect from tons and tons of walking machinery.) Plus there's the aiming mechanism. Each tap of the control pad up or down will move your gun a slight bit. This makes for very precise shooting at various angles, but if you want to go from shooting downward to upward, you'll have to wait a few seconds while your mech's arm gets back into place. Another thing you'll have to get used to is using the "hold" button (L button is the default.) In this case, you can aim your gun in a certain position while moving in different directions. This is a skill you must master if you want to win the game.

You have two main weapons at the beginning of game: a Vulcan cannon and a punch. The way the Vulcan cannon works is a bit odd at first. You can fire continuously for about five seconds, then it stops for a second to reload. Then you can go back to firing it. It's a bit jumpy, but you'll get used to it. You'll also find two other weapons in the game. Missiles are rather powerful, but only have a limited supply (you can't reload.) Then there's the laser, which shoots a powerful beam forward...similar to the Vulcan, you can only use it for a few seconds before it has to recharge. All four weapons start out at a weak level, but by finding P chips around each area, you can upgrade your weapon of choice (they can be switched at any time.) You also have a shield to block bullets, but you can't move or fire when you put this up, and it can't be used when you're jumping.

You'll certainly find the pace of the game to be different to what you're used to. Sure, you could run through each level, guns blazing, and hope you get to the end. But beyond the first or second level, this doesn't really work. It's better to take it slowly, blocking projectiles with your shield and attack the enemy when it's vulnerable. The levels aren't entirely linear, as they are open to a bit of exploration (the game even includes a map when you press Start, if you wish to use it.) It's a good idea to wander around the stages a bit and blow up as much as you can, as you can upgrade weapons faster and maybe even get some life power-ups.

There are a few variations in different levels. In some areas, there is no gravity, leading to some intense dodging and firing action. You'll also discover a few levels where you where a rocket booster for unlimited flight. These sections are similar to shoot-em-ups, but really don't work considering the size of your robot.

On a whole, Cybernator isn't TOO difficult, though you're only limited to three continues. You don't have any lives, but when you die, you don't have to start way at the beginning of the stage...usually there's a checkpoint somewhere. It'll just take a bit of practice.

The visuals won't bowl you over, but they have a definable style and don't look bad at all. Most of the floors and walls dent whenever you shoot them, and there's a variety of landscape that can be blown up for fun. My only complaint are some pixelated explosions (apparently by using Mode 7, probably to save memory.) And while the music's decent, there's not enough themes and most of them aren't too memorable.

I was initially put off by the control method in Cybernator, but after some playing, I got hooked to it. If you're looking for an action experience that's a bit different, I'd definitely recommend that you pick this up.