Review: Cyber Citizen Shockman 1 & 2
Shocking by name, shocking by quality
I think game preservation is very important indeed. It's a utopian concept that one day every single game ever produced will be available for purchase and/or play. In the meantime, though, we enjoy a steady stream of re-releases, including content that until now never saw the light of day, such as Clockwork Aquario. Obscure PC Engine titles Cyber Citizen Shockman and its numbered sequel are fresh for modern gamers - finally translated into English and fully playable. That said, these are titles that raise the question "was it worth it?" I'm glad they've been made available, and Ratalaika's usual suite of options and cheat modes are available. The games run great, but... I'm sorry to say that they're just not very fun.
And it ought to be! Visually it's got a pleasing sort of wonkyness; a sort of cross between Master System and Mega Drive visuals, lacking detail but bold in colour. The music is pretty good, too. It's just a shame that the games are so poor to actually play. The original Shockman is so amateurish in its level design that if you told me it was a bootleg I would believe you. It's a sort of Mega Man clone, with jumping, shooting and charge shots, but the enemies and platforms seem to be placed arbitraily, with sequences of moving platforms where the same creature appears on every single platform... and it just keeps going and going. There's some novelty to the way you can accrue money to upgrade Shockman from the map (which is charmingly rendered), but even that is quite limited; two upgrades and you're done.
Shockman 2 is better, but not by much. The level designs resemble something that actual thought has gone into, but it's still a far cry from its biggest influence, Mega Man. The jumping and shooting is present but it's just all so limp. There's a shocking amount of dialogue, too, servicing a story that isn't all that interesting to begin with. Look, you know me, if a platformer has any merit I'll find it, but I struggled to do so with either of the Shockman games presently available. The collision detection, particularly on the boss battles, is utterly woeful and drags the whole experience down.
But, again, I'm glad these games exist. I'm glad they can be bought, even just for curiosity's sake. These are cheap games with a nice interface wrapped around them and are likely worth the less than a fiver they cost to those of you with an eye on gaming's past, or for general fans of Japanese action games. I'd leave 'em on the digital shelf, but the future of retrogaming requires time and space be given to every game, not just our faves. May Ratalaika go on putting out these re-releases with what seems to be a pretty solid front-end to all of it. With them and Limited Run Games utilising the Carbon engine to save ever more classics - not to mention Digital Eclipse's industry-leading efforts - we're in a pretty good place as far as the whole of retrogaming history and preservation goes. So, Cyber Citizen Shockman and its sequel are pretty bad games. But they're also history, and they deserve to be treated this way.