Friday, February 18, 2011

East vs. West: Cyber Core

Once in a while, NEC deviated from its usual "strategy" for marketing the Turbografx-16 console in the US, and actually brought over a genuinely decent game from the Japanese PC Engine.  One such title was Cyber Core, an insect-themed shoot-'em-up released in 1990 on the HuCard cartridge format by IGS in Japan, and by NEC in the States.  (The Japanese packaging also prominently features a company called Game Princess, which I am guessing is the game's developer, but thanks to Disney Interactive and Mario, it's hard to Google "Game Princess" and find anything definitive to confirm this.)

There were a few interesting differences between the Eastern and Western versions.  Here's the American title screen:

In Japan, there's an extra intro screen with its own little stereo musical fanfare, mysteriously cut from the US edition, probably because IGS retained its copyright but was less prominently featured:

Followed by a very similar title screen:

The introductory text has also been revised -- the Japanese version is rendered in charmingly odd English, while the US version manages to be more correct, yet epically lame.  This first bit of information, which would seem to be critical to the plot, is missing from the US version altogether:

The remaining bits of introductory text are more consistent, but I prefer the sincere awkwardness of the Japanese version (on the left):

Rad Ralph?  Seriously?  The guy is some kind of human/insect hybrid with an incredibly advanced fighter at his disposal, and the most impressive moniker they can come up with is Rad Ralph?

Anyway, once we're past the altered introductory material, Cyber Core is the same game in both territories.  It's a vertically-scrolling shooter with obvious debts to Dragon Spirit and Galaga -- we fly up the screen, shooting at aerial insectoid enemies and bombing ground-based foes, avoiding fire and picking up cumulative powerups in one of four colors.  The playfield extends beyond the screen on both sides, so we have to maneuver left and right if we want to maximize our score by hitting most of the available targets.  We have to dislodge the powerups from large green insects that occasionally fly past, and acquiring two or three in a row of the same color significantly upgrades our firepower (but also makes our ship larger and easier to hit):

Each level's midway point features a largeish sub-boss that flies around, firing at us while we try to get enough shots in to take it down:

Then we encounter a ground-based final boss that must be bombed while we dodge its fire (some levels reverse these conventions, so the sub-boss is ground-based while the true boss is airborne):

When we defeat a level's final boss, we are given an encouraging GOODPLAY in the Japanese version,  rendered slightly differently as GOOD PLAY in the American edition.

The Japanese PC Engine was graced with a large number of quality shooters, and TurboGrafx-16 users occasionally benefited as well.  Cyber Core's level designs occasionally suffer from a predictable symmetry, where the arrival of enemies on the left foreshadows the immediate arrival of similar enemies moving in a similar pattern on the right.  And as the game is HuCard-based, storage limitations force repetition of sprites and background graphics.  But Cyber Core is a challenging little shooter, with solid music and percussion effects and some very nicely-detailed graphics, and I'm glad NEC opted to bring this one out over here.

Now, Get Metamorphosis!

The Japanese version is generally similar in cost to the American version, but less portable as the HuCard format was not cross-compatible across regions.  Interested readers may be able to find a copy at one of these friendly retailers:

Cyber Core PC-Engine Hu

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