It’s a weirdly good time to be a fan of Shockman. It’s not an extensive series, consisting of three games on the PC-Engine (the Japanese version of the Turbografx-16) and one title on the SNES via its Satellaview add-on. However, we only got one of these titles in the West, which was the second game.
However, we just recently got a fan translation of the Satellaview game, and not long after that, Ratalaika has seen to publish an official translation of the first game in the series, Kaizō Chōjin Shubibinman. Choosing the name Cyber Citizen Shockman to differentiate it from the 1992 Tuborgrafx-16 title, Shockman, it feels as though it came out of nowhere. And while it’s maybe not a must-play title, I’ll always celebrate a title getting localized.
While Shockman was something of a Mega Man clone, Cyber Citizen Shockman has more of a slashing element to it. Your default attack is just a sweep of your sword, and if you want to fire rainbows, you’ll need to get permission from the sheriff. That’s just a fantastic assembly of ideas.
Cyber Citizen Shockman is a story about youths fighting Darth Vader. You’re maybe a robot. You get pushed out the door by a scientist who repairs you when you die. There are dragons? It’s a bit insane.
Rather than a series of levels, you’re given a map of the city, and you can choose your path and backtrack if you want to. After clearing a level, you’ll be rewarded by a citizen for saving them and can sometimes buy gear from specific spots on the map. It’s not a bad setup, though navigating it is strangely unwieldy. Most importantly, though, you don’t have to repeat stages if you die. You can just continue where you left off.
Speaking of unwieldy, however, Cyber Citizen Shockman controls like a dumpster on wheels. It was initially released in 1989, and I don’t know what it was about PC-Engine games at the time, but a bunch of them attempted some really half-assed approach to momentum-based movement. So your character is slow to get up to speed and difficult to stop, which makes platforming feel like you’re controlling it with a mouse ball.
The level design doesn’t help, either. It will use excruciatingly fast platforms and ones that will just drop or move in unpredictable directions. There’s no real instant death in Cyber Citizen Shockman, but it just sucks to helplessly watch your robo-teen repeatedly bounce on a hazard because they are only capable of running jumps, and the platforming won’t accommodate this.
To make matters worse, the hit detection is just balls. You can eventually adapt by figuring out what hazards should be ducked under and which should be jumped over, but it’s a needlessly painful process. The bosses, however, good luck. You can certainly learn the pattern, but you have to be overly cautious not to bump into the air around them. I guess they’re wearing too much Axe body spray because getting anywhere near them is hazardous for your character.
Hero of justice
The port isn’t bad. I don’t have any complaints. Weirdly, it seems to be running on the same emulation platform as the recent Ninja Jajamaru-Kun Collection. At the very least, they share extremely identical UI. I’m not sure why. While Ratalaika was involved in both products, City Connection handled Jajamaru while Shinyuden localized Cyber Citizen Shockman.
Regardless, while the Jajamaru collection had, uh, problems, Cyber Citizen Shockman doesn’t share them. Most noticeably, the CRT filter functions without completely destroying the framerate on the Switch version. I also didn’t notice any functional issues as I encountered with the bosses in one of the Jajamaru titles. These menus make me very suspicious, but I never found a problem with the port.
The supplemental material isn’t anything special. They include the instruction manual, but it wasn’t translated into English. I think it’s worth noting that Cyber Citizen Shockman is being released at an extremely reasonable $5.99. So while the recent Assault Suit Valken re-release not only included translated instructions but also a previously Japan-only guide, it was significantly more expensive at launch.
I can’t speak for everyone, and I don’t usually like to incorporate the cost into my critique, but $5.99 is generally the price I expect for a straight retro port. The fact that Ratalaika and Shiyuden not only ported the game but also translated it is enough. The manual, even not being translated, is just an appreciated extra.
On the other hand, Cyber Citizen Shockman just isn’t a very good game. It’s hardly a bad game, either, but it’s not particularly enjoyable to play. Poor hit detection and control completely overshadow any of its inventive qualities. That said, I greatly appreciate the effort that went into localizing it. Good or bad, any PC-Engine title from 1989 is going to be very niche in this part of the world, so there’s obviously a lot of passion involved in bringing it here.
I can’t exactly recommend Cyber Citizen Shockman if you’re just looking for a good platformer to play. However, if you know what you’re getting into, you can rest easy knowing that it’s a decent porting job that does exactly what it says on the package. Then again, it doesn’t cost all that much to find out for yourself, and may also encourage Ratalaika to localize more niche titles. So, I guess what I’m saying is: Yes, definitely buy Cyber Citizen Shockman.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]