Cyber Citizen Shockman
Masaya Games and Ratalaika Games combine their talents to bring another classic PC-Engine game from Masaya's catalog to modern consoles. Much like when I covered Moto Roader MC last year, Cyber Citizen Shockman is the latest title to be released outside Asia for the first time in history. This time around we dial the year back three years back to 1989 when it was released under the name Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman.
The PC-Engine, better known in the United States as the TurboGrafx-16, was immensely popular in Japan as many third-party franchises debuted on the console. However, it was overshadowed by the Nintendo Entertainment System and other Western-developed consoles in America. This was a blessing in disguise as hundreds of PCE-exclusive games are waiting to be translated and released in other regions.
Much like Moto Roader, the Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman series was one of Masaya's several to be featured on the PC-Engine. While Cyber Citizen Shockman is the first of the series, it was not the first to be released in America. That honor goes to Kaizou Choujin Shubibinman 2: Aratanaru Teki, or Shockman, releasing in America in 1992. There are four games in the series, with the original trilogy and a spiritual successor spin-off, Kaizou Choujin Schbibinman Zero. Each game is vastly different from the other, with the first game being the most unique.
Players control the infamous Shockman, the alter-ego of Tasuke and Kyapiko, two students who have turned into cyborgs by "The Doc." They are given the chance to save their hometown by defeating the nefarious "Evil Group" but they have a total of 18 days to do so or else they lose. Yeah, if I'm giving the plot a half-hearted summary it's because I'm giving this as much effort as the original developers did back in the day. The dialogue, story, and humor are all satire, parodying popular anime and games at the time including Mega Man, Astro Boy, Super Sentai, and other "tokusatsu" examples of media.
Everyone in the town for example is very lax when it comes to waves of aliens, killer robots, and cyber dragons destroying their neighborhoods, forests, and sewers. Some will refuse to help Shockman should they answer their question on faith the wrong way. Others won't even help at all despite being rescued. Be prepared to see a lot of stages reuse many of the same settings, although the later stages have a considerable increase in difficulty. Shockman's gameplay is non-linear, giving the players the option to take any level in any order they'd like so long as they reach the destination of the final boss's headquarters.
The "quickest" way to clear the game is simply making a mad dash to the final boss in as few stages as possible, but this quickly becomes the fastest way to achieve a Game Over. While you don't "lose" every time you fail a stage, you waste a day and precious yen repairing your damaged body. Remember how I mentioned that the player can save the residents of the city? That also ties into the game's core mechanic as the more victims Shockman saves by clearing levels, the better resources that become available to Shockman.
Upgraded health bars, armor, and swords are all rewarded to the player for clearing certain levels. Saving the pharmacy will give the player a pill that serves as an extra life in which players can purchase additional ones for 2,000 yen. Perhaps the biggest example of a useless useful ability is a star laser beam that the player can earn throughout their playthrough. However, they can't use the laser beam unless they have permission from the mayor to do so. Unfortunately, the mayor needs rescuing and as one can expect, saving the mayor will grant the player permission to use the power-up.
By holding the attack button and releasing it, the laser beam deals the most damage out of a player's arsenal but they cannot move while firing it. Also, taking damage cancels the animation and the hitbox isn't even that wide, making it useless versus certain bosses. All but three of them are dragons that don't stay in one spot long enough to get hit with the laser beam. The armor, health, and sword pickups are by far the most useful as well as the various ability power-ups scattered throughout the level. Eventually, the final boss is defeated, which is the exact same as every other boss in the game but with lasers, and the day is saved.
Cyber Citizen Shockman is not a long game, taking me about two hours to one hundred percent. The game ends as satirical as it began, with the residents outright forgetting that Shockman saved the day and Doc refusing to turn the young heroes back to human. They're hardly bothered by it as they go back to sleep, but I enjoyed my time with Shockman. The "open-ended" nature of selecting a level and "play as you go" was similar to some of the more non-linear Wonder Boy titles I've played. The voiced dialogue, even if it was mere one-liners, and the humor also gave the game charm and personality. In future titles, this would be polished in favor of a more linear experience.
Fans of the original Shockman 2 will enjoy playing the official English version of the first game that was never released in America. While it's possible for the other Shockman titles to be released outside of Japan, there are other games in the Masaya catalog that are other notable mentions. Regardless, for a developer best known for the Cho Aniki series, it has been a pleasure getting acquainted with some of their other classics with a modern experience. Here's hoping fans don't have to wait long for more Shockman action.
Cyber Citizen Shockman is now available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S