Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Cyber Cross - Busou Keiji (PC Engine)

I don't know why, but transformation became something of a theme in single-plane beat em ups during the late 80s, as the genre was in its waning phase and belt-scrolling beat em ups become more popular. In the arcade, there was Altered Beast and Wonder Momo with transformation gimmicks, though they were very different in both execution and theme. Cyber Cross is another to add to those, though it was never in the arcade, being a PC Engine exclusive. And it kind of takes thematic cues from Wonder Momo, and mechanical influence from Altered Beast, but executes both much better than its more famous forbears.

Like Wonder Momo, it's themed around tokusatsu superheroes, though it does this in a much better way than Namco's. While Wonder Momo seeks to replicate live stage shows, Cyber Cross goes directly for a TV show feel, and, despite being on a HuCard rather than a CD, makes a valiant attempt at having a TV-style intro. There's not much animation, and there's no actual vocals, but it does have lyrics displayed onscreen if you're Japanese-literate and want to sing along with the intro to a thirty-year-old videogame.

The mechanical influence from Altered Beast is only very slight, however: you collect items to gradually take on ever more powerful forms. It works in a much more interesting way then Altered Beast, though, as rather than havign a different final form on each stage, there are three kinds of transformation items, and each has a different final form. You start as a regular guy in a red jacket, and the first time you collect one of the items, the only difference between the three is the colour of your costume. If you manage to keep your health higher than 50% until the next time one appears, then you get to take on a slightly more impressive form, with armour and a weapon. The weapon you get depends on which colour item you've collected: red gets you a fairly useless sword, green gets you a slightly useless boomerang, and blue gets you an actually pretty useful gun.

You should always take whatever you're given though, since all the weapons are better than your regular punch and the armour on your sprite in this form isn't just for show: It protects your health bar from three hits before you're shunted back down to the basic transformation. Unlike a lot of tokusatsu-themed games, Cyber Cross doesn't cheap out on the enemies. Though there are a few different varieties of the same foot soldier that appears in every stage, right from the start they're backed up by various other monsters like giant flies, big dung beetle-men, and other buggy fiends. The bosses aren't bug-themed, oddly enough, though they do tend to stick to the human-animal hybrid template. Also, unlike a lot of PC Engine games, it wasn't designed with turbo controllers in mind, as all the bosses will crumple like wet cardboard boxes if you turn on the turbo and crouch next to them punching at maximum speed.

Cyber Cross is a pretty strong entry into a now long-forgotten genre, and if you want to get a real copy, you can get it boxed for pretty cheap. I recommend doing so, too: it might take a while to really click with you, but when it does, it's a really fun little game.

No comments:

Post a Comment