Cyber Citizen Shockman 3: The Princess from Another World review

Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog weren’t the only platforming heroes receiving system-selling sequels in 1992. Over in Japan, the PC Engine’s Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman (Shockman) series gained its third entry. US gamers had only just received the second game, and while there was hope of the CD-based Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman 3 making it to the US, it was never to be. After playing through this newly translated re-release, it’s easy to see the potential it may have had – it’s comparable visually to Mega Drive/Genesis games released the same year and would have likely been positively received in the likes of EGM and GamePro.

To recap, the first Shockman released in 1989 in Japan only and was a typical side-scroller, albeit one with a world map and the ability to tackle stages in any order. It wasn’t much of a looker, recycling backgrounds while boss battles were against palette-swapped dragons of increasing ferocity. Shockman 2 – the only entry released in the US – equips our heroes with a hand cannon and consequently is more in line with Mega Man. It also introduced horizontal shooter stages and had a few impressively large bosses to beat. Both Shockman 1 and 2 have recently gained inexpensive digital re-releases via Ratalaika and Shinyuden, with the first game being translated into English for the first time, complete with typically ‘90s lingo.

Cyber Citizen Shockman 3

This third entry is presented in the same manner with an identical set of options as before: screen filters, a rewind tool and save states, artwork and manual scans, and cheats including invincibility. It also has a few extras including a narrated art competition showcase that appears to have been in conjunction with a Japanese magazine. The short animated cut-scenes, in addition to the boss battle dialogue, also now have English subtitles. The story involves our heroes – known as Arnold and Sonya in the US – sunbathing on a beach, only to witness a mysterious UFO descend. The titular Princess makes herself known, threatening to claim our planet as part of a new Galactic Empire. Before confronting her Highness, her cronies must be dealt with – and she also has a surprise in store for Arnold and Sonya before they meet face to face.   

Shockman 2’s Mega Man trappings have been ditched here, reverting to arming our heroes with a beam sword. Sprites are larger, while bosses feature a few graphical effects, such as a snowman formed from numerous snowballs. You’ll spend as much time here battling bosses as platforming, with the levels short but high in number, each ending with a boss. It experiments with a few new ideas such as wall jumping and mech-suit armour, but it never fully commits to these, throwing these concepts to one side as quickly as they’re introduced.   

There’s a shooter stage here too, although it’s a bit too chaotic for its own good, with the screen often full of asteroids and the pace thoroughly breakneck. It’s also a shorter experience than Shockman 2, which gives it an arcade-like quality – think along the lines of Clockwork Aquario.

Cyber Citizen Shockman 3

It’s easy to get the impression that the developers enjoyed themselves creating Shockman 3, or perhaps didn’t take its development all that seriously. It’s quite a peculiar thing in terms of content and pacing, with the first half seeing Arnold and Sonya board the UFO and battle robots, before ending in a hellish landscape with demons. Cut-scenes are quite jokey, and the ending credit roll features daft doodles provided by the programmers. It’s a bit of a trip, all told. Dragons, snowmen, mech suits, beach vacations, laser swords, and a magic train powered by magic (well, duh) – Shockman 3 certainly isn’t short on variety or creativity.   

The biggest downside, other than its fleeting runtime, is that the difficulty level isn’t particularly smooth; it’s vital to mow down the constant onslaught of enemies to gain and restore health, and most bosses will take a few retries. Upon death, the character select menu abruptly appears, and you’ll likely curse at how far back you’ll be sent – which is often to the start of the stage. This re-release includes a bunch of cheats, all of which serve to make Shockman 3 easier. A double edged sword, as if you activate any of these, you’ll blitz through it in around thirty minutes. To unlock all achievements/trophies, both Normal and Hard mode must be beaten, so there is at least a bit of an incentive to return. That’s about it, though.

Cyber Citizen Shockman 3

If you’re curious about the Shockman series, or even the PC Engine in particular, this is worth investigating. It’s the best game in the series and a fun little diversion. It’s also bolstered by the advantages of being a CD-based game originally with its cartoony cut-scenes and CD quality soundtrack. If you decide to dive in, I’d suggest checking out the original Shockman at the same time, if only to see how far the series came in just three years.

While this isn’t an all-time classic franchise – there is a reason for its anonymity – it’s still reasonably interesting to see what was propping up the PC Engine in 1992; a portal into a world we didn’t see in the UK outside of the occasional import review.

Cyber Citizen Shockman 3: The Princess from Another World is out May 3rd on consoles, published by Ratalaika Games.