Cyber Shadow

#14 | PC | 8 Hours to Completion

Gameplay


The sole survivor of a clan, you embark on a journey to reunite with your master. Going in from a few trailers, I got huge NES Ninja Gaiden vibe, and boy could I not of been more disappointed when I found out it was nothing like it. While your character may look, swing his blade and run in the same fashion as Ryu Hayabusa, in your hands it feels nothing like it. For starters you move slower, and the world is designed to attack at only a moderate pace. I actually loaded back up the first Ninja Gaiden for comparison to make sure it wasn’t blind nostalgia, but it only confirmed that Cyber Shadow was designed to be a slower game. The worlds obstacles also cause you to pause regularly keeping the flow feeling disjointed.

If you can go in without the preconception it will equal the combat of this 1988 NES classic, there is still some fun to be had. For starters the bosses generally are well designed and overall largely have unique move-sets to one another. To finish it off, the game throws at you an epic boss battle that was one of my favorite highlights from the game.

The world is hand-crafted with 8-bit presentation and has mostly fluid controls and animations. Whats lacking in the controls is not how it responds, but what is missing. Cyber Shadow will regularly throw attacks at you from varying heights, and with a low invincibility frames after taking damage, you can easily get caught in one attack and end up taking hits from all the surrounding enemies on screen. A simple duck animation (Like the one in Ninja Gaiden but I digress….) would of alleviated a few of these frustrations. This low invincibility frame count did severely impact my enjoyment though. For instance, a fireball like attack in most games, if you take damage from the first shot you will typically do not take damage from the other one that is trailing it. That was not the case every time in Cyber Shadow and your character would get stun locked multiple times in a row.

To further make matters worse, I never fully mastered the parrying mechanic which required you to hit dpad and then attack button. If I hit the dpad, paused and then hit attack, it worked like a charm. If I hit dpad then attack right after it was 50/50 how the game would respond. I tried multiple controllers, sat in an area to practice I never got the solid feeling that the parry responded how it should have. In fairness, this inaccuracy is an NES staple as inputs mapped to multiple buttons could lead to failure at a moments notice (I am looking at you stairs in Castlevania games…)

Taking into account low invincibility & an inperffect parry, the final issue was the world design. While inspired by the 8-bit era, the levels in Cyber Shadow were not tightly crafted and dragged on for far to long. The checkpoints in these levels were also scattered oddly, some in close groups, while others as far apart as they could possibly be. The colors at times also gave me trouble as some enemies could blend in with the background when stationary.

There was two chapters though that were highlights for me, Chapter 6 & 10, which if future games followed those formulas I would give this developer another shot. The story is adequate at best, but I do appreciate the inclusion and paired with the cutscense kept me interested!

Sound


This is a matter of personal taste but I did not enjoy the soundtrack. Separate from the game, I think its got some great tunes but it follows a similar path many “retro inspired games” take which leave them out of place. Soundtracks from that era fought for the real-estate available on a cartridge. Cyber Shadow, like many others use similar sounds you would expect, but with unlimited space will over produce the song by adding to many layers. Like I said its personal taste and you may love it.

Asking Price


The game took me just over 8 hours to complete with 400+ deaths. Besides the main story, if you enjoy the gameplay there is a reason to stick around and replay levels to find hidden collectibles. Most of these range from HP/SP upgrades and were not something I personally needed to complete my journey.

Which leads me to the greatest thing Cyber Shadow does, which is its difficulty. While I found normal difficulty perfectly fine they implemented a smart system to assist players that need it without degrading the experience. At each checkpoint, two additional upgrades can be activated for that section using a currency that is easily collected throughout the game. These upgrades are not overpowered (Refill SP gauge & an item) but can easily turn the tide a little more in your favor. This is a huge debate with other series on if there should be an easy mode and the path MekaSkull took I think brings the best of both worlds.

That leads me to would I recommend Cyber Shadow? I think I would. While I did not personally enjoy the game, I came in with expectations that it would play vastly different. I also regularly play NES games and am reminded of both their strengths and weaknesses. While Cyber Shadow ultimately does not have enough strengths but still carries a number of the weaknesses I don’t think most players today will notice them as closely, leading to a fresher experience of an 8-bit style game in 2021.

RecommendationMaybe
DifficultyAverage, few sections Medium/Hard
Time to Completion8 Hours
Price$20

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