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Preview: Cyber Mission

Someone recently asked me on social media if the Genesis needed more shmups, to which I quickly responded with a resounding “YES!” I’m a huge fan of the genre, and I love the fact that while they all share the same basic design premise – move forward and kill everything – they all do it in so many different ways. Some are vertical or horizontal, and they can be 2D or 3D. You don’t even need a ship to blast things in space! Some have you pilot a massive robot, and other shmups are just dudes flying around on their own.

Those are some of my favorites, and I hold Capcom’s Side Arms and Forgotten Worlds high on my all-time list. The latter remains one of the best shmups of all time, with incredible visuals, terrific boss battles, and a distinctive control mechanic where players can spin 360 degrees to shoot everything around them. The original arcade cabinet used a knob that players spun to fire. It worked wonderfully, but although consoles couldn’t replicate it exactly, they cleverly employed multiple buttons for changing directions. It wasn’t the same, but it worked fine.

 

Unfortunately, the dude-in-space shmup subcategory is grossly underrepresented in video games. The NES had a few, like the awesome-but-lamentably-named S.C.AT. by Natsume, but aside from Capcom’s classic, I can’t think of any others on the Genesis. Trouble Shooter came close and was excellent, though it lacked the directional change mechanic that made Forgotten Worlds so special.

In a great bit of surprise news, Russian indie game developer Pscd Games (Hunter Girls, Witch and Wiz, and the upcoming Black Jewel Reborn) seeks to fill that gap and are releasing Cyber Mission, a new horizontal shmup in the same vein as Capcom’s legendary hits. It was originally developed by the Spanish studio Game Energy Studio for PC back in September 2023, and Pscd is handling the Genesis version, which promises to be just as intense and exciting. The company is small but already has several releases to its name for multiple consoles, so Cyber Mission looks like a safe bet for those wary of backing Kickstarter projects.

Set in the distant Black Eye Galaxy, the story revolves around the planet HC-V, which has been attacked by aliens seeking to extract all its fossil fuels. The Alliance sends a special cyber team to battle the aliens across seven levels of lush and varied environments using a multitude of explosive weaponry and destroy reactors hidden inside the alien base. Destroying them all leads to the final level and the main boss.

Sounds fun, right?

Beating the first level opens the rest to be completed in any order, and there’s a wide selection of weapons to use beyond the standard shot, including a laser, a wide-firing plasma gun, and the mighty rocket launcher. Like Side Arms, players are accompanied into battle with support units – in this case two -that can be set to shoot in different directions: freely (opposite of the players’ movement), continuously forward and backward, or a fixed position. Though the game thankfully uses a life bar, there’s also a shield that can be accumulated and used for a five-second save during hectic spots.

Pscd Games has started a Kickstarter campaign to fund publishing, and I doubt they won’t reach their goal (they’re already a third of the way there in less than 12 hours). There are multiple tiers for those who want only the digital version or a full cartridge with box and manual. The campaign also has several stretch goals that include another character, more weapons, a boss rush mode, and even a new level and boss. Cyber Mission is looking great so far, and the soundtrack is extremely promising. But why take my word for it? Download the available demo and try it out for yourself!

If there’s one thing the Genesis will never have too much of, it’s heavily-armed dudes in space. Cyber Mission looks like it will add to the great legacy set by Forgotten Worlds and Trouble Shooter by giving fans another exhilarating shmup to enjoy.

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