With the various different interpretations of the many gaming genres we have grown accustomed to in modern gaming, some of us might yearn for the comfort of yesteryear. Retro gaming has always been huge, but it does not mean you have to dive into your storage to enjoy it as Mechanical Head Studios and Yacht Club Games have managed to wrap what is essentially Ninja Gaiden in the modern skin of Cyber Shadow, and what an enjoyment it is.
The ninja action-platformer formula might seem the same, but Cyber Shadow takes leaps and bounds in improving upon its inspiration. The gameplay is tight, constantly evolving to keep you on your toes. The same goes for the level design, where you hardly ever feel unchallenged. Even with the constant upgrades, you are getting more powerful, but the challenge ratchets up at the same time.
It turns a retro-styled action platformer from being straightforward fun into an exhilarating ride that mixes in twists and turns that delight and astounds. More importantly, it brings about the satisfaction of besting some devious obstacles.
In terms of a narrative, Cyber Shadow tend to refrain from diving into the details. Taking the role of Shadow, players awake in a city that has been decimated by rampant machines led by the evil Dr. Progen. Only you can stand between this evil and the destruction of the world, that is about all the motivation you need.
Of course, it would have been better if the game pushed the boundaries when it came to the story and personality of its characters. However, taking a backseat to the true star of the show definitely made sense as a whole.
Gameplay is king in Cyber Shadow, and it is apparent from start to finish. No matter which way you look at it, there is a certain level of polish that permeates throughout the different elements of the game. Be it the ways levels are put together, the variety of enemies and their designs, Shadow’s progression, and the various challenges like boss battles, it is all wonderfully put together.
As every hero knows, your journey often starts off with little assistance. For Shadow, that means being able to jump and slash whatever is in front of you with the sword. Considering that enemies and hazards can come from all directions, players already have to contend with plenty. That said, it is perfect practise before the chaos truly descends.
Cyber Shadow does allow for some modern comforts. Checkpoints are usually sensibly spread out throughout levels, allowing you to respawn without losing too much progress. They even restore your health when you cross them. In addition, you can spend essence to unlock certain permanent upgrades that apply at that checkpoint.
Need a magical boost or the help of a power-up? The checkpoints have you covered. These helpful spots also give you a hint of trouble laying ahead. For example, if a shield is there as a potential power-up, you know that there will be a torrent of bullets awaiting you in the near future, so it pays to invest in yourself sometimes.
Just as Cyber becomes more adept at eliminating the opposition, Cyber Shadow also gets immeasurably more awesome. With the ability to sprint, the way you approach situations will differ. Rather than being methodical about killing your foes, now you have a swift dash and slice that can go right through enemies and obstacles.
Not only are you able to function better as a force to be reckoned with, but you now have the ability to reach previously inaccessible areas. Try dashing your way from start to end in a level, it is a life-changing affair.
Alas, there is no New Game+ to let you truly run wild. The replayability of Cyber Shadow comes in the form of replayable levels, giving you opportunities to try out your new abilities in familiar settings. There are also some tough feats to complete, so if you are a trophy hunter, you are set for a good time.
It definitely helps that Cyber Shadow’s level and enemy designs are amongst the genre’s best. The game is not shy at throwing varying scenarios at you, asking you to balance your skills and platforming prowess in order to come out unscathed. The large variety of enemies also adds to the tantalising brew of fun, each sporting different quirks that need discovery.
Certain foes have multiple spots which you can destroy, resulting in a different behaviour that requires you to adapt on the fly. Others might be impervious to normal attacks, and requires deft reflexes to deflect their attacks back at them instead, The neverending strategising and demands Cyber Shadow makes of you is something unique and fresh, and also what makes the game stand out.
The outstanding gameplay is only enhanced by a lovely soundtrack that keeps the intensity going. Each level features its own song, with unique variations as the action ramps up or settles down. To say that these songs are catchy is an understatement, and the production values are simply stellar.
By merging the old with the new, Mechanical Head Studios have produced something truly magical with Cyber Shadow. Despite its lack of a more engaging story, the gameplay and design direction more than makes up for it at every turn. This is the start of something special, and a sequel to Cyber Shadow is now more of an inevitability than before.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
An undoubted love letter to the past that stakes a claim for the best modern retro-platformer, Cyber Shadow is the start of something truly remarkable.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10