Overview – developed by Shinyuden and published by Ratalaika Games, Cyber Citizen Shockman is an action platformer that will be getting a release in the west for the first time ever. Originally released for the PC Engine back in 1989, this is the first official release of this once forgotten game. This release is available for all console platforms, with a link to each version of the game available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Cyber Citizen Shockman that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story. Please note, I will mostly be referring to the game simply as Shockman for the sake of brevity.
Story – Cyber Citizen Shockman is the story of two Japanese school kids named Tasuke and Kyapiko, who are in fact androids built by a mad scientist known only as Doc, who built Tasuke and Kyapiko with the ability to morph into armoured superheroes known as Shockman. Their plight is to battle the evil forces of Dark Skull.
Doc’s first attempt at a cybernetic organism who went rogue and established a gang of goons called the Skull Force. The Skull Force is trying to take over the city and have captured civilians in various locations. As Shockman, you must take back the city, one building at a time, rescue the hostages, and defeat Dark Skull and his gang.
Gameplay – Cyber Citizen Shockman is an action platformer, where the core objective is to clear each stage by defeating the boss at the end. The player has a total of 18 days to beat all 15 of the stages, split into day and night stages. From the home base, the player can select the stage that they want to challenge on a map, with three options to start and more stages opening up as the game progresses.
In the stages, the player must battle enemies with their sword and traverse dangerous platform challenges. The different areas contain deadly pitfalls, flying creatures and robots that stand in the way of the player reaching their goal. To battle these threats, the player has a sword that they can swing to damage and defeat enemies, with different enemies needing more hits than others to take down.
The sword can be used while standing and jumping, but cannot be used while crouching which is unfortunate as it can prevent dodging some enemy attacks. The attack is quite snappy, but if the player presses the button rapidly it is possible for inputs to be missed. The platforming is challenging as there is a momentum system implemented, with the player gaining a little speed as they move and continuing to move after letting go.
The jumping is a little slow, which can be troublesome when players are getting used to it. This is most noticeable when there are moving platforms, with the very real possibility of missing the jump or hitting an enemy/hazard. This does get easier when getting used to the momentum system, but will likely be a frustration when getting used to the game at first. All combined, the movement and attacks do work well making for a solid experience.
As the player progresses through the stage, they can collect money from enemies that are defeated which is added to their total. There are also special power-ups that can help the player get through the stages, with the drops including health recovery items, limited time invincibility and a temporary super jump. These items will usually drop randomly, but there are some sections that have predetermined drops.
At the end of a regular stage, the player will encounter a boss that must be defeated in order to progress. The bosses will follow set patterns in that battle, but the majority of encounters will be different from each other. There are two types of battle that the player will encounter, with the first being the Robot, which is rather straight forward. The other is the Dragon, which will need more care and skill to battle due to the varied patterns.
When the stage is cleared, the player will often receive a reward for defeating the boss and saving the citizens. The rewards that the player will earn are important as they are made up of upgrades, recovery items and the most important being the ShockBeam. This beam is used by holding down the attack button to charge, then when flashing let go, if timed right the player can take out a lot of enemies but it can only be used when standing still.
On the main map screen, the different paths will open up as the player makes their way through the game, with stages lighting up when cleared. When a path has been connected to the final stage, the player may challenge it as there is a non-linear progression system in this title. However, if the player is not careful, then defeat will find them quickly and that can be a real set back, as the player will lose money and their score.
When deciding what stage to challenge next, the player has additional options that they can select. There are three options available aside from map, which are Repair to heal all damage, Shop to buy upgrades for the Shock Beam and Hint to get extra information. All of these options will require the player to pay out for them, with Repair costing 1000Yen, Hint 300Yen and Shop has two prices, which makes earning money important.
If the player is defeated during a stage, they will be sent back to the main map screen where the Doc will repair them for a hefty chunk of change. The timer will move forward and the player may even lose a health upgrade, while also losing the score that they built up. This can be a significant setback, making the later stages much more difficult, especially for players who are not the most skilled at action platform titles.
This title is available to play in both single and multiplayer, but there is a caveat to take into consideration when taking on evil in tandem with another. In this release, both players take on the stage together, but they will share a life bar, meaning any damage that one player takes will affect both of them. This means that when one player takes fatal damage, both will perish simultaneously, so be prepared for this possibility when playing co-op (unless you use invincibility).
As a modern port of a retro title, there are some enhancements that have been made to this release of Shockman to bring it to a new audience. The first major enhancement is the translation, with the game being fully translated into English for the first time ever, while also offering the original Japanese release too. Then we have the implementation of save/load states where players can freely pause and resume their progress, allowing for a better pick up and play experience.
For this release there is also the inclusion of cheats for invincibility, for those who want to practice or just have fun, as well as a maximum money option to help out those who may struggle. The last thing to mention here is the gallery, which features special sketches of different characters from the game, alongside scans of the original manual and the box art/HuCard (game cartridge). All of these new features make the game accessible for a new audience.
Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to cover the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.
Controls – as Shockman is a PC Engine title, the game only uses two buttons, with one for jumping and the other attacking. With the porting of the game to modern consoles, there are also quality of life improvements that have been made to the game. These changes include new UI navigations that players are familiar with, as well as the ability to modify the controls to suit the individual preferences of each player.
Difficulty – this is a very challenging title, with an escalating difficulty curve and a need to learn the patterns for the different bosses that appear. For players that don’t play older action titles, this may prove to be a steep challenge, due to the beginners traps and rather unfair hazards. However, with the enhancements and modifications added to it, including the ability to rewind the game, this difficulty can be lessened for those who struggle.
Presentation – visually this is a very nice 2D title, with sprite work and backgrounds that are nicely detailed, along with cute character designs for the playable characters when in the menus. The sound comes through clean and crisp, with a soundtrack and digitized voice samples that are pleasing to the ear. There are also filters and adjustable resolutions that can be applied to the game, emulating a look that is closer to the original release for those who desire it.
Final Thoughts – I myself am a fan of the PC Engine and I had the fortune of playing this game, as well as the others in the series here and there. Being able to experience it on a modern system has been a real treat, I am very happy to see this title finally getting a release in the west and even if it does have a few scuffs to it, it is still a good time. This may not be for everyone, due largely in part to the high difficulty, but it is an excellent challenge to take on.
I can happily recommend Cyber Citizen Shockman to everyone that is a fan of action platform titles, as it is one of the hidden gems of the PC Engine. It may lack a little of the shine that its contemporaries in the genre have, but the day/night cycle and the map system make up for this, along with a unique charm that allows the game to stand on its own. I am hopeful that the sequels for this title will be released in the future, to sit alongside this excellent game.
In the end, I give Cyber Citizen Shockman a final score of 4.5/5. This title is an excellent action platformer that was a hidden gem on the PC Engine, with a progression system that was rather unique for its time and challenging action that will test the skills of most players. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below, the game is scheduled to release on May 19th 2023.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation version (HERE)
Link to Xbox version (Currently unavailable) – Will be added upon release