As big as the Gundam craze is in Japan it took nearly 20 years before the mega franchise would hit US shores, meaning there are an army of related video games that we missed as a result. Now, in all fairness most of them suck but it would have been nice to get the few gems here in English. That didn’t stop others from using it as inspiration to create their own mech games, and thus the Assault Suits series of games was born.
Cybernator, also known as Assault Suit Valken in Japan, was released by Konami in 1992. In the future the Earth’s fossil fuels have dried up, spurring humanity into space. Two factions lead the charge, the Axis and Federation, and are at war with each other to control what few resources are left. Jake is a Federation soldier tasked with using his Assault Suit to destroy the Axis super weapon Bildvorg. Inspired by the Gundam series but still wholly original in its approach, Cybernator was a drastic improvement on its predecessor, Target Earth (those of you that have played it are probably punching your monitor at its mere mention)and provides the requisite mech action US gamers had missed out on for so many years.
Unlike the gimpy suit you pilot in Target Earth your Assault Suit is nimble and possesses a wide assortment of abilities. You can dash for greater speed, hover over short distances, block most attacks with your shield, and punch close range enemies and the environment. Your suit is heavy and moves with weight so it’s obvious these abilities were added to offset that. There were many instances in Target Earth where you had no choice but to take a ridiculous number of hits with no means to fight back. Adding a certain amount of heft to your actions is more realistic while at the same time doesn’t make the game disheartening. Like any good mech game you have a wide arsenal of weapons at your disposal. The standard Vulcan cannon is fairly powerful and also reflects off walls. Secondary weapons such as missiles, homing rockets, and lasers are found in each level and can be powered up further.
The strongest aspect of Cybernator would be the varied mission objectives. Every level has a set goal that needs to be accomplished as well as secondary objectives that are optional but can influence the ending. The levels have no set path to follow and are as close to open world as you can get. With a few exceptions there is no time limit so it’s in your benefit to explore and power up. The scenario for some of the missions get the adrenaline pumping, such as the Attack on Arc Nova, which begins with you in Zero Gravity as you attack the ship, navigate its vast corridors that steadily ramp up its defenses and reach the Core. But that’s just the first half of the level! Now you have to battle a giant enemy mech and annihilate him in time to destroy the core before the space station crashes into Earth. It’s these situations that raise Cybernator above your standard action fare.
The beautifully detailed backdrops don’t hurt either. While Target Earth was flat and drab Cybernator is bursting with life and color. The entire experience visits a wide variety of terrain, all expertly rendered using the SNES color palette to its fullest. The animation is also flawless as well. Your Assault suit is comprised of multiple sprites that all animate in conjunction with each other, driving home that this is a mech built for war.
The US version featured some unnecessary cuts and censoring. Many of the portraits that accompany the in game text were removed, a large portion of the story was excised, and a scene featuring a corporate official committing suicide when confronted by your suit is gone. Let’s be honest, if a 50 foot robot busted in your office you’d probably either a. shit yourself, or b. end it all too.
For those that want to experience the game completely there is a fan translation patch but truthfully you’re not missing much. If anything, removing the in game chatter that interrupts the action frequently is a bonus in my book. Either way, whether it’s Cybernator or Assault Suits Valken this is a game that deserves to be played by any fan of twitch action games.