Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero review

Something is intriguing about late generation Mega Drive and SNES titles. 1997 was the final year at retail for both systems, with barely a dozen games released for each. The PSone, Saturn and even N64 were available, and so these late arrivals were mostly licensed games, tired annual sporting updates, or aimed at younger gamers who’d gained an MD or SNES as a hand-me-down. It seems that the same rules applied in Japan, with the Super Famicom’s Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero – the fourth entry in a series previously associated with the PC Engine – being far simpler than the entries that came before it.

The Cyber Citizen Shockman series itself is interesting likewise. Much like the Wonder Boy and Alex Kidd games of yore, no two entries are alike. Thematically they’re similar with Shockman being a cybernetically enhanced warrior of justice, guided by a white-haired professor and often pitted against a goofy gang of villains, but they all play differently. Zero was clearly influenced by the immense popularity of beat’em ups, as our high-spirited hero is now able to perform a succession of punches, launch fireballs, and leg-sweep foes. Fireballs, in particular, cause hefty damage to bosses.

Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero review

Level design, though, is as generic as can be. Stages are short and involve simply running to the right, leaping over the occasional pit, and pummelling enemy robots. Unique elements, such as chunky laser beams to avoid and pusher plates that activate traps, are few and far between. Death often comes at the hand of being knocked backwards into a hazard or gap, although the general difficulty here is lax with more than enough extra lives to see it through to the end. Gaining high scores will also lengthen the health bar and make Shockman more powerful.

Boss battles are the highlight, although it seems the developers faced time constraints. Around half are reasonably creative and show off such effects as sprite rotation, while the other rest are simply against a returning adversary seeking revenge – meaning you’ll have to fight them a handful of times during the game’s 1 hour (approx.) duration. There is at least an attempt at establishing an engaging storyline, taking us from construction sites to temples and eventually into space – all in the name of retrieving a unique propulsion engine.

Dialogue is appropriately goofy, including the ‘90s classic “So funny I forgot to laugh.” Incidentally, this is the first time Zero has seen an English translation – the original never made it outside Japan. Disappointingly, there are no extras such as a manual or box art scan. The original being a Satellaview title is likely the reason behind this, although the developers should have ideally included a text-based history.

Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero review

The few extras present are still easy to appreciate. It’s possible to activate invincibility and one hit kills – making an easier game even easier in the process – and the options screen also details how to unlock an alternative karaoke intro and a stage select. There’s the usual selection of filters and screen size options too, along with the Japanese ROM.

Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero isn’t bad at all – there are no surprise difficulty spikes, and it controls well – with fireball throwing being quite a fun mechanic. It even supports two players simultaneously, which may appeal to anyone with children. A hidden gem though this isn’t; it’s merely adequate. It obviously launched when the Super Famicom’s demographic was skewing towards pre-teens, and diminishing returns meant big budgets were no longer viable. This re-release does at least mean all four Shockman games are available on modern platforms with English translations – this was the final piece of the puzzle. It’s no Vectorman 2 or Donkey Kong Country 3. But then again, what is?

Cyber Citizen Shockman Zero is out now on consoles. Published by Ratalaika Games.