Genre: Beat-‘Em-Up Developer: Novotrade Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1-2 Released: 1993
Fighting robots is a risky concept for a video game today, and it even was back in 1993. It’s a very played idea that has been explored to death, especially in the 2D side-scrolling realm. The idea has flooded every game console ever since graphics were good enough to represent robots properly. The Sega Genesis game Cyborg Justice tried to take a different approach by emphasizing heavily on variety in weaponry and the result was not bad… just nothing to write home about.
In Cyborg Justice, you’re some sort of cyborg that crash lands on a planet where enemy cyborgs find you and take over your memory banks trying to turn you into a war machine to be used to conquer other civilizations. You somehow resist the virus and become an independent fighter with vengeance on your mind. The story’s not going to win any awards. It’s just there to serve as an excuse to fight a whole swarm of robots for the sake of some decent side-scrolling.
The game is much in the style of early side-scrollers like Double Dragon. Except in this case, it takes place in an alien wasteland, and it’s not as creative. The back of the box glorifies the variety of choices in arms, legs, and bodies to create your very own cyborg. Although it suggests that 216 different cyborgs are possible, the truth is you won’t care or notice. Whoever wrote that just did the math to come up with the most possible combinations of the three categories: six arms, six legs, and six bodies. In fact… yeah, someone just grabbed a calculator and punched in 6x6x6.
Upon starting the game, you’re given two main options. A single-player campaign mode that takes you on a quest to free yourself from the tyranny of evil and bring freedom to the cybernetic organisms, or a two-player mode which allows you and a friend to pit yourselves against each other, which quickly proves to be the strongest feature of Cyborg Justice, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Let’s just take a look at the single-player mode. It’s extraordinarily monotonous. You have five levels in the entire game, each with three acts. And each level looks pretty much the same as the last. There isn’t any true defining difference between them. They’re all your run-of-the-mill future world backgrounds. After selecting your arm, legs, and body beforehand, you enter the beginning of the game and simply walk in a straight line with the same background scrolling endlessly from behind. And every other 5-10 seconds, you’ll be stopped by one or two cyborgs that you’ll have to battle, a la Double Dragon. You can move all over the ground that’s visible on screen, but you’re essentially moving in a straight line.
Of course, this is where the game becomes unique and actually a little fun. You have your choice of six arms to choose from at the beginning of the game: a normal arm, a lance arm, a large cutting blade arm, a flamethrower arm, a gamma ray arm, and another one which is the stupidest choice I’ve ever seen. It literally shoots your arm out of its socket at the enemy, whereas you’ll have to walk over, pick it up, and reattach it to yourself, a feat that is extremely difficult to do since it requires you to stand still, immoveable, and vulnerable to attack while taking a full three seconds to get it back on yourself – and it doesn’t even do much damage.
The choice of legs also offers a lot of interesting variety in getting yourself around. You have normal legs which do nothing special (so why would you choose them?), you have spiked legs which help you walk fast, you have tank legs which let you roll across the ground for a few seconds (for quickly getting away from an attacking enemy), you have pneumonic legs that help you to jump extra high, great for making huge leaps over those bottomless pits you come to every now and then. There are also jogging legs that can be used to do some awesome backward flip attacks. Lastly, you have a pair of gigantic legs that make your leg attacks more powerful and make you invulnerable to hazards on the ground that other robots can’t walk on, except they make you walk slow.
The fighting moves are plentiful too and also offer lots of variety in fighting. There are many general moves, crouching block moves, punch moves, kick moves, few different jumps (depending on what legs you have), and different body attacks where you can latch onto other borgs and bash them with your arms, pick them up and throw them, or my most favorite move (which is all I try to do) which is to rip their arm off, and then rip their body off, a move combo which takes a cyborg down relatively quickly, as long as you don’t suffer a cheap shot, which this game is full of. It’s also really entertaining to watch and listen to it pop off of them. Ha! The best part of these moves is that you can attach an enemy’s arm to yourself and use it, giving you the freedom to change your arm many times throughout the game. Once you rip their body off, you can steal its energy which replenishes some of your life meter back, and you can pick up and attach their legs to yourself too. See something on your enemy you like? Just rip that sucker off!
Many of these moves are a tad more difficult to pull off than you’d prefer. Many of which are so hard, you’ll probably only figure out one or two moves that you’ll continually want to use. You can also saw, or lance someone’s arm off with the proper arm, although it’s the bots get faster with each level and after very little time, it’s such a frustrating challenge just to get the chance to even do it. The punching moves only take away a smidgen of someone’s life meter, and so if you don’t learn some other moves, you’re going to be insanely bored with this game. Since robots get stronger with each level, you’ll probably always want to just rip their arms and bodies off to get them out of the way. It typically takes three punches to make them immobile for a second to get a chance to rip something off and then three more punches to be able to rip off their body. If you deplete their energy before getting the chance to rip their body off, they break apart and fall into a pile of rubbish. But it’s pretty cool how you can actually put them back together two or three times by kicking their parts back together with your foot, and then popping their body back on. But eventually they can’t take this refurbishment anymore and simply explode.
But aside from the variety of attacks, the game itself drones on and on with very little creativity. You simply walk for a little while to the right, fight a couple of cyborgs, keep moving, dodge a random rocket that comes from off screen, fight a couple more bots, keeping moving to the right, dodge a rocket, fight a couple bots, keep moving, dodge a rocket, fight a couple bots, keep moving, dodge a rocket… and eventually, that pattern sets into your mind and the game wears kind of thin. The only thing that ever changes is that occasionally there’s a bottomless pit that fills up the whole screen that you have to jump over, or there are little magnetic puddles on the ground that render you immobile for several seconds.
But getting back to the two-player mode. This mode is where the game is essentially more fun. As you and a friend play the game on your own and master the somewhat difficult art of being able to pull off all the moves, you’ll probably be perfectly happy to take on each other in a fight to the death. A good best two out of three and you find out which is the Cyborg Master. Hopefully, trying to rip each other arms off won’t be all you try to do… nah, it’s all you’ll try to do I’m sure.
So, there you have it. Cyborg Justice had a lot going for it with its great variety of moves and weapon choices. Unfortunately its uncreative, linear gameplay is seriously uninspired and actually makes this a really forgettable game. The control is pretty solid but pulling off the moves is frustrating at times because even after you figure it out, there’ll be numerous times when you’re trying to rip someone’s arm off, but all you do is punch forward or slap ’em. The music is tinny sounding and awful, and the sound effects are not too bad, although they get repetitive too. The animation is not impressive, although the graphics are fast and fluid and it’s pretty cute to see them climb on each other and wreak havoc (except when it’s happening to you). But in a nut shell, there’s just nothing truly impressive or must-have about this title. The only reason to play is probably just to take a crack at that bizarre and ridiculous final boss.
SCORE: 6 out of 10