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  • Summary: It is the near future. Resources are dwindling, and the major powers of the world are in dispute over territory. Pilot the Cybernator G5-E for the 95th brigade of the mechanized marines and throw yourself into the war.
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  1. Nov 8, 2011
    Allegedly from the team that brought us Contra 3 comes an under-appreciated title for the SNES, "Cybernator". Known in Japan as "Assault SuitsAllegedly from the team that brought us Contra 3 comes an under-appreciated title for the SNES, "Cybernator". Known in Japan as "Assault Suits Valken", "Cybernator" is a run-and-gun shooter with a giant mecha motif reminiscent of "Gundam" or other similar works of Japanese animation, although the western versions of the game eschew much of the dialogue and all of the character mugshots of the original Japanese release, which is a shame, since there was such a large amount of it. What isn't a shame, though, is the core of the work, the gameplay proper. While it does fit into the run-and-gun genre to an extent, at least enough to definitively call it that sort of title, it possesses some unique quirks that allow it to remain unique and identifiable amongst its software peers. For instance, one button on the controller (the control scheme is mostly customizable, mappable, which is by itself another plus) is dedicated to raising an invulnerable shield. Out of context, that seems pretty imbalanced, but you can't attack while your shield is raised, and it only guards one side of your mecha. There's also a weapon switching and weapon energy system -- you can only hold two weapons at once, switching between them with a button press, and each weapon has a limited amount of uses before a brief cooldown period. The shield and weapon systems, coupled with 16 directions for aiming, a jetpack for extended jumps and some shmup levels, a dash function, and enemies with weaknesses to certain types of weapons, allows for a level of combat depth mostly unseen in other titles of the genre.
    The visual presentation is adequate, if not great. The art style has no really significant flaws, and there are plenty of fun effects: satisfying explosions, fullscreen color filters, rotating cannons and dynamically animated ropes and other such attaching cables. "Cybernator" cannot be accused of under-utilizing the SNES' hardware.
    The audio is, on the other hand, mostly forgettable. It can't be said anyone having played the game hummed a given level's tune to themselves unconsciously or otherwise. They aren't bad; they just aren't all that good. Sound effects are more actually flawed. They are discernible and understandable, but they are also often muffled-sounding, and lack the "punch" that their context demands. When I hit a robot in the legs with my robot fist, I'm expecting a metallic whine or crack, not a dry fart through a loveseat cushion. An exaggeration, sure, but not too far off from the truth.
    Overall, "Cybernator" is a game of terrible quality -- and I use that word in the older sense. It's a tightly knit package in terms of its gameplay, creates a measurable rhythm between attacking and defending, and the realization of that rhythm in the player results in an awesome feeling of accomplishment. Really the only flaw is in some of its sound design. Had the audio received more attention, had it been given more "oomph", "Cybernator"'s sense of hard-hitting robot action would have been far more cohesive and satisfying. As it stands, it is still heavily *mechanically* satisfying, and still an under-appreciated classic deserving of a spot in anyone's collection.