Developed By: Mechanical Head Studios/Aarne Hunziker Published By: Yacht Club Games Composer: pentadrangle/Enrique Martin Categories: Retro, Platformer Release Date: 01.26.21
Sounding like a broken record at this point, but there’s no length that I couldn’t go on about how much I appreciate retro inspired games that actually get the feel they’re trying to replicate right. For example, the efforts of Inti Creates, Tribute Games, and Yacht Club. Yacht Club took a step back and published this game. Only assisting in developing this game from what I understand is a one man team. Despite this, Cyber Shadow still gets everything just right about a NES game. And much like a game I reviewed last year, Panzer Paladin, it takes knowledge of over 20 years since the time of NES games, and builds a better game around that. It sweeps up the terrors that plagued games like lives, continues, slowdown and flickering. Creating the ultimate NES game. For lack of better words.
There’s many a comparison to Ninja Gaiden with other critics or on a skin deep analysis. I find it more like an amalgamation of Sunsoft’s NES Batman, Shatterhand, Ninja Gaiden, and then a Zero playthrough of a Mega Man X game. Sure, you play as a Ninja, so it must be like Ninja Gaiden, right? It has the speed of a Ninja Gaiden game, but I feel it ends there. The game is more of a futuristic affair, cyborgs, giant robots, virtual areas. There’s checkpoints where for the currency you find can be used to heal or get powerups. This almost seems reminiscent of Shatterhand, which has you get powerups or healing items at certain platforms. Along with that game’s robot helper for attacks, which a handful of powerups in Cyber Shadow come as drones.
The artstyle, with it’s dark colors reminds me less of Ninja Gaiden’s bright palette and more of Batman. This being with it’s mostly black backgrounds. After bosses, you’re often granted a new ability, much like Mega Man. In Zero’s case they were more versatility orientated or physical moves. This is contextualized by the story being a quest to save members of your Ninja Clan, who’s powers are being harvested by an evil professor. However, with much of the included lore in the game, it’s almost as if his reasons aren’t so evil… You’ll search in stages to find health and power extenders, much like Mega Man. You could say that Cyber Shadow wears it’s inspirations on it’s sleeve, but nothing seems derivative or like a ripoff.
So how exactly does Cyber Shadow play? Level to level, challenging platforming and bosses. I won’t say it’s NES hard as the game goes out of it’s way to remove those issues. Well outside of moving back when hit. The game started quite easy, as I went through the first level taking almost zero damage before the boss. The difficulty soon creeps up on you. By the end of the game, it was a legitimately hard game that took to me several attempts to beat certain areas.
Early on the checkpoints that held healing spots and powerups were constantly getting filled. I had enough to go and fill each one. Such is not the case near the end of the game. Where if I wanted to fill a checkpoint, I either had to grind for more currency, or just pass. With the checkpoints in front of bosses taking my priority.
Levels start short, and progressively become longer and longer, with the checkpoints being further and further away. Stages at the end have the teleporters to quickly get between levels you’ve played, to get things missed if need be. Some chapters forgo that and there was three chapters where this wasn’t a thing and it felt like one large run. During these levels however, the game decides to try out new styles of gameplay. These include a big mech suit, which allows you to completely shoot through everything with ease and an autoscrolling bike segment.
The music by composer Enrique Martin (pentadrangle) is all fantastic. People can be sick of chiptunes all they want, but if they’re good, they’re good. And the music in Cyber Shadow is is good. Nothing sounds particularly out of what the NES could handle, which is always a plus if you’re trying to get as close to the source as possible. From an “On the NES” standpoint is phenomenal. From a modern standpoint they’re still great. Skill is making earworms regardless of the tools. If I had one not so shining opinion, I’d say there was one song that felt maybe a bit too chipper for the darker look and feel the game had. That isn’t a flaw or a downside though, not in the least.
On it’s own, Cyber Shadow is a damn impressive game, beautifully crafted to recreate games that so many harbor nostalgia for. It cannot be stated enough though, that it is mostly a one man effort. This by itself makes how good the game is even more impressive. Again, much like Panzer Paladin last year, Cyber Shadow, if released back on the NES, would be considered best of the best. A certified classic.
Buy Now: $19.99
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*Game Download Code supplied for review purposes