- Available on PC, Switch, PS 4/5, Xbox One (Gamepass)
- Played on Nintendo Switch
There have been various takes in the ninja genre over the years, and each one does one thing right: challenge. From The Ninja on the Sega Master System to 2018’s The Messenger, with power-ups, new moves, and tight controls, a player must learn what it takes to become the ninja that particular game needs you to be. Cyber Shadow, Mechanical Heads’ debut title published by Yacht Club Games, brings a familiarity to the genre but does it in a way that may make you think. Does Cyber Shadow have a deadly effect to keep you playing, or does it need some repairs that won’t leave you in the dark?
Slice of Life
Cyber Shadow takes place in the ruined city of Mekacity. You play as Shadow, a cybernetic ninja who was in stasis when a mechanical robot named L-Gion releases him. You are shown a past event as Mekacity is destroyed in an explosion. Surviving the impact, you are told that the Master is in need of help, and away you go. You must do everything you can to get to the bottom of things since you are at risk of dying.
Throughout the game, you are shown flashbacks about Shadow and the clan and the connection between the Master and Shadow. The antagonist, Progenitor, plans on stopping Shadow and more. Taking cues from Ninja Gaiden on the NES, the cinematic expositions help the flow of the game, which captures the retro feel with cutscenes in the ‘80s. You can also come into contact with bodies lying on the ground and data systems that will bring more information on what happened to the Master and the clan. It’s nothing that hasn’t been seen or explored in this medium, but the narrative is nicely done and comprehensible.
Retro Futuristic Action
Cyber Shadow’s 8-bit graphics will remind you more of a Konami game than Tecmo’s. It differs from Shovel Knight, as the sprite-based Shadow has more of a Double Dribble look and outline of the character. Where Ninja Gaiden has a simpler look in motion, Cyber Shadow uses modern effects and scrolling that run smoothly. There weren’t any frame rate drops or NES hiccups (i.e., different coloring in environments, pop up, screen tearing, slow down). The game runs smoothly and keeps the fast pace action and platforming going.
The detailed environments will remind you of Batman from Sunsoft as the destroyed city of Mekacity’s buildings, sewers, caves, reactors, and other areas in this 11-stage game bring that mechanical look to the levels. A normal NES title couldn’t handle these features, but seeing the game on today’s hardware, it’s very eye-catching. With the lighting, water effects, and machinery movements, it gives that 8-bit appeal life.
Patience Is Your Friend
Cyber Shadow starts off as an easy platformer, and as you collect powers and revisit areas à la Metroid, the game challenge seems balanced. Well? That idea you have to adjust to. The challenge ramps up, and the pattern play comes in with quick control inputs you have to do. One thing you must know is that you’re a Ninja who cannot duck. That’s why. You can’t press down or a button to avoid bullets that come your way.
You will be given an arsenal of moves to make you a tougher ninja who must exercise those moves to the best of your ability. Outside of double jumps, wall slides, throwing stars, and kunai, your best friend will be the parry move. When done right, it will turn a projectile shot at you into a blue orb that you can swing back and cause more damage. Not all bullets can be parried, but when you can, it will save you time and health.
Cyber Shadow also carries checkpoints and shops within it. You can buy Health restore, Spirit Restore so you can throw your kunai and more, and Item Synthesis that will give you random power ups to use in the level. With the items, you can get them only at the checkpoints, and if you are hit three times, you lose them. If you die and start at that checkpoint, you receive whatever you brought there.
Speaking of checkpoints, the first half of the game is balanced well. The second part,though… that’s when the frustration of the checkpoints comes in. With their being spread out after 4 or 5 scenes, you will have to do your best to have patience to get to them. If you die, you have to redo a hard area multiple times to get to it, and if you haven’t mastered the controls, you’ll be punished each and every time by having to replay long sections. Believe me: the last level will test you once you get there.
Bosses and mini bosses will also challenge your skills. With two health bars you have to eradicate, you must be aware of your placement and take your time with some of them. If you plan on speed running, you have to be quick to react and attack. It really becomes challenging, and with nothing improving your basic attack, you’ll have to be smart about everything.
Cyber Shadow also adds a variety in its levels at times. You’ll have a motorcycle shoot-’em-up, control a mech, ride a boat, and perform upscale platforming. It’s a nice break up to the linear level design. I wanted more, but what I got was satisfactory enough.
Music to My Closed Ears
The music in Cyber Shadow isn’t catchy. It needs Batman by Sunsoft and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest rocking 8-bit music for the awesome action when you have a great flow going. It’s decent enough if you care to hear it, but I couldn’t find a track that is worthwhile or outstanding. If you can tolerate it, you will be fine.
The music in the story points capture that ‘80s kung fu flick. Just hearing the somber synthesizer playing as the dialogue is appearing just feels right. The boss music also works, but the levels themselves have quite annoying music and just make you want to mute the game and play another game’s soundtrack.
The sound effects with the muddled-yet-crisp sounds are exquisite. They hit hard and just right when you take action. You can hear the mix of Tecmo and Konami working together in that department. Mechanical Heads did a superb job in that department.
Ninja, Ninja, Shlack!!
Cyber Shadow is an astonishing 8-hour experience of a game. With challenging levels, fast-paced action, and tight control, it’s one of the best retro action games to date. Although the forgettable music hinders it, you will enjoy slashing robots, rebounding bullets, air dashing in the sky while never touching the ground, and boss fights that keep you engaged. Mechanical Heads and Yacht Club Games deliver another impressive title that is worth owning. Don’t stay in the shadows and miss this game.
Rating: 9 out of 10