The sincerest form of flattery
Back when I covered Cybernator, someone suggested that I try 1995’s Metal Warriors on Super Nintendo. It was touted as a sequel to Cybernator. It’s not, but we’ll get to that. I said I didn’t have that kind of money to drop on a single game. Well, time makes fools of us all, as now I have a copy. Don’t ask.
Metal Warriors is something I only knew existed because of its value. I have a whole book on the history of Lucasarts, and I don’t remember it even mentioning it (though it has been a while since I last cracked its spine). It was designed by the creators of Zombies Ate My Neighbors, a game that I am very familiar with. However, Metal Warriors’ pricetag kept me away. Which is one of the biggest problems with the collector’s market.
Not to be confused with Metal Combat or Metal Marines
So, no, Metal Warriors isn’t any sort of sequel to Cybernator. It’s true that Konami published both, but it seems that the design was entirely up to Lucasarts. Completely unrelated developers worked on it, and it is not considered part of the Assault Suits series that Cybernator belongs to.
With that said, it certainly looks and plays like a sequel. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess.
Metal Warriors is a side-scrolling mech game, and while there are differences, if you played Cybernator, this is going to be really familiar. The controls, mechanics, and movement are largely the same. The way the narrative unfolds is also It’s plain to see that it wasn’t built directly over the bones of Cybernator, but the inspiration is painfully obvious.
You gotta find first gear in your giant robot car
If there’s one big difference between the two titles, it’s that Metal Warriors seems absolutely thrilled to be here. While Cybernator seemed to have a dour commitment to the gruesome realities of war, Metal Warriors feels more like its design was based around the phrase, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get out of your mech and board unmanned ones? Yeah, that’s pretty rad, and they handle it really well. If you get out of your mech and a little dude gets near it, they might jack it from you. You also sometimes have to gun your way through guys on foot to reach your objective. It’s a stylish dash of variety, and there’s some strategy in trading out your armor for something a little less dinged up.
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was no HUD, and everything was communicated right there on the mech? Absolutely. There are visible indications that your stompy robot isn’t feeling well. It’s a lot less obvious how much harder you can push your mech, while a health bar would make it apparent when it’s time to back off and find health.
Wouldn’t it be cool if your robot had a sword? Obviously.
Wouldn’t it be cool if your robot was hot rod red? Definitely.
Chicks dig giant robots
One thing that I wish Metal Warriors didn’t follow Cybernator on is its limited continues. Both games required a certain amount of level memorization to get through cleanly, and it’s hard to gain that when you’re forced to start from the beginning after five deaths. One of the game’s nine missions only pops up if you manage to get through the previous one without using a continue, so you might not even see it if you don’t replay until perfection.
There’s a reasonable amount of variety among the levels. Each one usually folds in a wrinkle to keep you guessing. There’s also some opportunity for exploration, as pick-ups can be hidden in vacant corners of the map. Different paths can be taken to get to your objective. Mission five, for example, allows you to take a tunnel under the map to avoid some of the big guns at ground level. So, while Metal Warriors is a bit of a dick for forcing you to start over when you run out of continues, it’s hard to stay mad at it.
War is hell. However…
Metal Warriors is just really happy to be here. While its narrative seems to imitate Cybernator’s “space-war is hell” message, it doesn’t feel as sincere when each mission is bookended by some rad cutscenes. Even the opening where it shows the pilot firing up their mech feels flashy on another level. Cybernator felt like it was making a statement (even moreso in the unedited Japanese version), whereas Metal Warriors just thinks it’s the coolest.
Even the music, while a bit repetitive, has a high-energy feel to it in contrast to Cybernator’s more cinematic efforts. It’s maybe not the best soundtrack, but it’s got some pretty good earworms mixed in there.
There’s also a versus mode, which I’m told is excellent. However, it’s difficult to convince my husband to play anything adversarial against me, and alternative company is hard to come by these days. There are certain hints in the game’s dialogue that make it sound like Metal Warriors was supposed to feature co-op, which would be cool, but that’s just conjecture.
While Metal Warriors and Cybernator are irrefutably similar, they do have their own special flavors. Even if Metal Warriors is more feature-packed, I’d have a difficult time claiming one is better than the other. They seem to have been developed with different goals in mind, and both achieve them just as deftly.
One thing that can be said for certain is that Mike Ebert and Dean Sharpe clearly loved their creation. There’s an excitement that exudes from every facet of the game. It’s just a shame that it came and went without much of a splash. Nintendo was reportedly going to publish the game but dropped it. Konami picked it up but only published a small run of the title. I don’t want to speculate too much on the possibility of a re-release, but few games deserve one more than Metal Warriors.