Approximate Release Date: April 4, 1993
It really feels like you’re controlling a giant robot in Cybernator.
It would have been easy for Konami to have the developer, NCS, slap a mech theme on top of Contra III: The Alien Wars and leave it at that. Most games with robots don’t really take advantage of it, like the earlier Super Nintendo run-and-gun game Xardion. That’s the path of least resistance.
Cybernator gives the player a heft that’s hard to describe without playing. The mech isn’t nimble, though it has a boost jump, and it’s not quick, though it has a dash move. Dodging attacks is difficult, so the right shoulder button lets you pull out a shield and take an immobile defensive posture to block projectiles. The first level does a great job of introducing the limitations of the mech, while putting you in situations that take advantage of the 360-degree shooting. It’s such a big deal, it’s on the box!
I love that first level. It’s a great level that plays well to what the game seems to be going for. It even has multiple paths and hidden powerups to find. Even the first boss fight in Cybernator is interesting, where you have to destroy a central column while it summons turrets to protect itself.
The second level is a disaster in comparison. It starts off with a forced side-scrolling section where you have to dodge enemy fire and asteroids, which is challenging mostly because the robot you control is extremely large. Some paths are so tight you don’t even have room to maneuver vertically! The second half of the level is a zero-G, open-ended level that could have been fine if Cybernator‘s controls were better adapted for it. You can’t block projectiles with your shield, so you have to dodge everything. But you shoot in the direction you’re moving, so you can’t fight back while dodging. And there are many enemies here, making this level much more difficult than it should be.
One miscellaneous annoyance: there’s a lot of chatter that breaks up the action. Cybernator likes to interrupt you in the middle of firefights for poorly written and interminable nonsense between characters that you never see. It breaks up the action in a bad, bad way.
Cybernator makes a great first impression, but the second level sapped all my goodwill and interest. I wasn’t able to push through to the third level to see where the game would go, but the sudden difficulty spike doesn’t bode well.
Tomorrow: I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but American Gladiators is one of the worst games on the Super Nintendo.