3/2 Cyberbots

     How many of you out there played Marvel vs. Capcom? No, I'm not going to shoot you this time. Now, how many of you were curious as to who the heck Jin Saotome was? None? Oh, you don't remember who he was. He was the guy in the white suit with the robot. The one with the exploding clothes. Sir, that's not the exit, that's a broom closet- oh well, too late.

     Jin (among others) originated in Cyberbots, a mid-nineties gimmick fighting game featuring giant robots. I really can't see why Capcom never saw fit to port this game to the USA considering the eagerness with which they bludgeoned us with other second-string fighters like Star Gladiator. Of course, before any rabid Star Gladiator fans start rattling their glowing semitransparent things in the air, keep in mind I mean "second-string" in the context of "Not Street Fighter." That said, back to Cyberbots.

     Cyberbots has a few things going for it. The 'boost' system, while kind of frustrating at first since I spent a lot of early matches hammering it instead of an attack button, grants you an extra bit of maneuverability. It's kind of like a double-jump, except you can keep doing it until your boost meter runs all the way down. This comes in especially handy in battles against opponents who like to attack the ground with area effect stuff. The mechs (called VA's, for the record) also have a 'weapon' button, kind of like the vulcan cannons in Gundam Wing: Endless Duel. These things range from floating laser pods to land mines. You can also lop off your opponent's arm with a steady barrage of attacks, but they can pick it back up. (It's kind of like the deal with Vega's claw. Only the flashing arrow says "1P/2P ARM.") Oh, and they also added an SNK-style super system. Meaning you can charge up if your bar isn't building up fast enough on its own. Once filled, you begin to glow and your attacks get stronger for a little while, fortunately unlike SNK's old MAX system, your bar doesn't vanish after the powerup, instead it remains until you perform an actual super. Which all seem to be two quarter-circles forward followed by light or hard punch. Just so you know.

     First and foremost: This game is hard. With four (five on Sega Saturn) bosses at random intervals, and special attacks with huge area effects, it's hard to clear some rounds, let alone with a good score. Case in point, Blodia Swordsman has mines that create short energy walls, and while you're kept at bay by those, it casually swats you with a full-screen laser sword.

     You'll probably be disappointed the first time you see the pilot select screen, with only six available characters. After all, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior set the absolute minimum at 8 (with Waku Waku 7 being the rare exception.) But once you've picked your pilot, you have your choice of four mech types, with three forms of each available. For example, and because Blodia is usually the only frame type I ever pick, the Blodia type comes in regular Blodia, Riot, and Swordsman modes. Why a Swordsman type has a tread assembly for a lower body is beyond me. I'm not really sure what effect the pilot you choose has on the gameplay, since playing as Jin gave me the same set of moves as when I fought as the space pirate girl.

     Speaking of the pirate girl, here she is with The Girl in the Plastic Bubble. Whereas Jin fights for justice in his dead pop's mech, I assume she's fighting for profit ('cuz of the Jolly Roger insigna on her cap.) I like Pirate Girl. She looks kind of like what would happen if Chun-Li gave in to Bison and became a Shadowloo/law officer.

     And while randomly doling out motivations for people I don't know, I'm guessing the green haired girl in the Tupperware wants out of there. She cries a lot. I really could spend about five minutes on Google before writing these articles researching, but ehhh...

     And what's a mech game without some random characters who have no business piloting mechs in the first place? We have a cyborg knight who bears a casual resemblance to Arthur of Ghosts n' Goblins fame, and some little wild kid with his easily spooked sister. At the upper right, is Nondescript Rastafarian/Rocker Bounty Hunter Man. Thankfully, he's learned to use weapons as weapons instead of trying to use music as the weapon. (Open note to Aerosmith: No, we'll never let you forget about that game.)

     Devilotte and her lackeys show up about three matches in to challenge you with a flying octopus mech named Super-8. Talk about product placement. For a while, I was convinced she was the final boss as she effortlessly blasted my mech away over and over. Unfortunately, they don't let you off that easy. There are two other bosses designed specifically to suck quarters/yen/press of the 5 key out of your pocket. First, There's the aptly-named Helion. I say 'aptly' because he's both a transforming helicopter, and from hell. I can't express in words the exact amount of frustration that comes from fighting an opponent who seems to have a full autoguard on at all times and can fly about the screen at will. Unfortunately, as I said with Super-8, that ain't the worst of it. I spent a half hour fighting the stupid thing and its Borg pilot, only to find out there was still more game. From there, I got in a fight with a small, extremely fast VA that never seemed to run out of Boost. After apparently befriending the Kiyone-ish pilot, I then set off for space. Whoopie.

     One battle with Riot Blodia later, I find myself face to face to face to face with the living computer subtly named G.O.D., and its AV, Warlock. All I can say is that Capcom must have been practicing for the infamous God Rugal with this one. It can split into two copies of itself without using its meter, it uses slash attacks with ridiculous priority and wide angles, fling ring lasers that take up nearly all the screen that return back to him, and probably some other things I've shut out of my mind for the moment. Oh yeah, and there's a floating dead angel or something in the background. Because dammit, you can't have a 'final boss' encounter anymore without someone sprouting wings.

     All in all, Cyberbots is pretty well done. The graphics include a variety of background damage effects, including an undersea battle that sends a portion of the continental shelf plummeting into the deep. The best part of the entire game (and also the worst) is the boss fireball defeated mechs go up in at the end of the match. This isn't your standard "explosion sprites flashing over the injury animation" blast, or those strange perfectly spherical anime explosions. You get a nice thick cloud of black smoke, sparks and shrapnel as little bits of your mech fall to the ground leaving you in a goofy little escape ship. "TARGET DESTROYED." No kidding. If only all death animations were so satisfying. Maddening final bosses and limited character select aside, go ahead. Make Jin's day. Just don't look directly at him when his clothes explode.



Blodia is confused by being the only 3-D object in the game.

Chun-Li joins the Bonne family pirates. At right, a prophetic young lady with a fear of germs.

Did someone order the first of four exceedingly cheap boss battles?