Saturday, October 3, 2015

Friday Night Rentals: Annoyed by Cybernoid

Revisiting a game like Cybernoid makes me realize why James Rolfe AKA the Angry Video Game Nerd exists.  I'm fairly certain I got this game two separate weekends from the local video store when I was a kid and still have no clue why.  It was a frustrating experience the first time, and it was a frustrating experience the second time.  One of the game magazines I read back in the day said Cybernoid was an action shoot'em up.  Lies.

I had done well enough at the arcades when playing Galaga to think I stood a fair shot at playing well and maybe even beating the game over the course of a weekend.   Was this like Galaga or even Gorf?  No, it was a droning piece of junk back then and I had vastly over-estimated my ability to beat this game.  I was done trying to play it before the end of Friday night.  What does navigating space mazes and dodging random missile attack have to do with space shooters?  Nothing, that's what.  The only similarity is that in both of them you pilot a little ship around the screen.  So why did I rent it at all?

Well, back then I was under the impression that the really cool, space fighter-type levels were later on if only I could get to them.  The cover looked awesome back then and it still does today.  I never got past the second level back when I was a kid, even when I set it to easy.  So when I grabbed this game for two bucks at a local swap meet, I thought perhaps finally I wouldn't get so frustrated.  Perhaps now, as an adult I would ease through obstacles that caught me as a kid.

Or perhaps not.  


The NES version of Cybernoid got the short end of the stick when it came to music and sound design apparently.  From what I can tell via the videos I've found online the C64 and Amiga got a nice little soundtrack, but this port got a lovely droning, continuous wubbing that serves as a substitute.  And in terms of sound effects?  I swear there's only about five or six of them and they all remind me of things I've heard in Atari 2600 games.  Granted, you can't do as much on a game system as you can with a PC, but it's like Acclaim's team didn't even try.  At a time when games designers were pumping out memorable tunes that have stuck with us for years and melodies that made simple 8-bit games feel cinematic; Cybernoid provided forgettable bleeps and bloops and droning hums that weren't satisfying then and hold zero nostalgia value for me now.  This is made all the more sad because the intro screen had some pretty good music, but sadly we only got a taste of what might have been.

"Main Screen"


Cybernoid, the fighting machine?  I wouldn't trust this ship to fight a dandelion much less space pirates.  You get to pilot a spaceship that can't stay afloat, has limited ammo, and has the structural integrity of a bubble!  You pilot your horribly constructed deathship through a series of obstacles in an effort to stop space pirates who have stolen cargo or some such nonsense.  It's okay though, because the space pirates aren't doing a full out assault to stop you, but the traps will infuriate you as you die constantly.  Yes, there are plenty of classic games where one touch equals death, but in a funny sort of way the ones that were programmed well never made you feel like you were so fragile that a well place sneeze could end your life.  I meant what I said, driving the spaceship feels like you're piloting a bubble.  The control works well enough, and piloting your ship and using the limited weapons doesn't feel like a chore.  But what does feel like a chore is that you constantly have to keep a steady amount of pressure pushing the d-pad up as your ship sinks to the ground slowly, like it were made of a soap bubble trying to float to the ground.  The hit box on your Cybernoid ship feels huge and as a result of the one-two punch of having an ever sinking ship that pops--I mean explodes--at the drop of a hat and screens that are filled with cheap traps and enemies, you could easily cycle through over half your lives before you even realize what's going one.  This is only made worse by the quick respawn feature of the game. 


The graphics look trite for an NES game.  Again, in an era of video gaming where cinematic sequences and unique styles of character design were coming into their own; there are are sections of Cybernoid that feel like they came from the infamous "Action 52" cartridge.  Sure, repeating sprites and walls happen, but that doesn't mean they need to feel so bland when doing so that you swear you had already beaten the screen you advance to.  Each new screen should feel like a fresh challenge.  Instead, you feel like your hard work and efforts are rewarded with the knowledge that you deeply regret having started to play because now you feel the compulsive need to finish the game though you've grown to hate it so. 

I will say this for Cybernoid though, the little ship reminds me of the vehicle you pilot in Ballblazer, a far superior game I remember playing on my parents Atari 800.

Final Thoughts

I straight up laughed when I popped this game into my NES and kept dying.  I had set the game to the easiest setting, forgoing the aptly titled "Lethal" mode, yet I found myself almost out of lives before getting past the second screen.  It was even funnier when a missile randomly popped out of a screw-shaped sprite and blew away my last life only two screens later.  I was having a blast and not because the game was any fun but it felt so over-the-top cheap.  When I bumped it up to the lethal setting I laughed even harder.  Random, nonsensical firing patterns from some enemies, varying speeds from others--it was gloriously ridiculous.   

One last thing I want to mention is this:  I've seen via youtube videos that you can beat the whole game in ten minutes or less, and that seems so weird to me.  When I rented games, of course the objective was to beat them by weekend's end if possible.  But had I the skill to beat this game back then I can't imagine how frustrated I would have felt getting stuck with something I had beaten before the sun set.  It was $40-$50 back in the day for video games, and I can't imagine having laid that much down for Cybernoid back then and boggles my mind to think some one could have purchased this and beaten it in the same day.  I'm thankful I only spent a couple bucks to pick this up to add to the collection because aside from rounding out the collection, I can't think of a good reason to put this back into my system again.

Unless maybe I need a good laugh.  

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