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Cybernator (SNES) artwork

Cybernator (SNES) review


"Call it Assault Suits Valken, call it Target Earth 2, call it Cybernator. There are lots of things you can call this confusingly and frequently redubbed mech romp, but the sane among us who've played it will settle for awesome! On a system whose unsung sidescrollers shine the brightest over shallow Contra III and pushover Castlevania IV, Valken is at the very head of the pack, a system seller that never sold a system and a buried treasure that's o..."



Call it Assault Suits Valken, call it Target Earth 2, call it Cybernator. There are lots of things you can call this confusingly and frequently redubbed mech romp, but the sane among us who've played it will settle for awesome! On a system whose unsung sidescrollers shine the brightest over shallow Contra III and pushover Castlevania IV, Valken is at the very head of the pack, a system seller that never sold a system and a buried treasure that's one of the proud few still worth digging up today.

Robo-Contra this isn't, though. Your mech may not be as utterly lethargic as those in more modern snoozers, but Valken always likes to remind you that you're not controlling yet another 6'2" bodybuilder with huge guns in his hands and huger ones above his elbows. The robot lumbers, yet it's strangely agile. You'll never seem to have full control, but between being able to dash, hover, and lock your aim while moving, you'll always seem to have more than enough. You'll never quite be able to dodge every hit, but between your shield and beefy armor plating you'll never really need to. The first level acts as a perfect playground, letting you learn the ropes while tearing into what opposition there is with a vulcan cannon and giving gun turrets a big ol' satisfying robo-SMASH from your big ol' satisfying robo-fists.

But NCS were too smart to let Valken rest on the laurels of its mechanics. The very next mission sends your mech blazing into an asteroid field in a segment that's more R-Type than anything else, and it's packed with enemy robots and missile launchers just in case having to dodge all those cavernous rocks wasn't enough. And compared to later levels, that's tame. Number four has you plummeting to Earth, glowing ever redder as both you and a handful of reckless foes come close to incinerating. It only makes sense that you end up landing near a rocky mountain warzone where bullets litter the air and missiles swarm across the sky.

Not to imply that Valken isn't dynamic. The opening of your assault on the battle station Arc Nova is fairly slow paced, pitting you against massive cannons you'll have to hunker down and use your shield against, while the only opposition you'll find on its upper decks are diminuitive little folks who are almost as funny to watch try to stop you as they are to slaughter. Almost. It's only as you damage the base that things start to go haywire; you'll have to watch out for escape pods smashing into you as you make your way through a maze of shafts, and before you bust back out you'll be treated to a constant stream of the niftiest explosions the SNES' graphics chip ever churned out.

Surviving that won't even be the end. The level boss is a ten-story flying robot five times the size of yours that you'll brawl with while knocking out power generators on the base's topside, and by now it should just go without saying that you only have two minutes to nail his coffin before the whole station crashes into Earth. In strikingly opposite fashion, the aforementioned warzone ends with a shuttle launch that you're too late to prevent... or so the game wants you to think in the seconds before you blast off along with it, taking out its engines and its sentries alike with your newfound laser beam in order to stop its unwavering ascent. Valken is the sort of gal that packs one unforgettable moment after the next, but these easily stand out as even better than the rest.

More than anything, this is the sort of game where you can just feel the developers' care. From the very first level where you'll marvel at the unique controls and detailed bullet-holes on every accidentally shot wall to the rousing finale where you've upgraded all of your weapons and get to lay down a hail of missiles, lasers, and napalm death on a hostile city packed with opposition that's just as well armed, it's easy to see that NCS just loved their fucking jobs. Its butchered-for-American-release story is the game's only slip-up, and really, who plays SNES scrollers for their epic tales? Assault Suits Valken is the sort of labor of love that defines a genre. Essential.

Rating: 10/10

mardraum's avatar
Featured community review by mardraum (May 06, 2007)

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