Today’s topic : Cyberbots.
The first game in the Cyberbots “series” was developed, produced and published by Capcom in 1994 for the Arcades and the SEGA Saturn, while it has recently been added to the collection of the American PSN, it’s the untranslated version of the SEGA Saturn. While the series wasn’t as clear cut as others produced by Capcom, it had a spin-off of some kind and a “spiritual” successor. These were Powered Gear – Strategic Variant Armor Equipment or as it was known in the west, Armored Warriors that came out in 1994 but a bit later than Cyberbots for the Arcades and used the same mechas Cyberbots used, but had a different story, characters and gameplay being a Beat’em Up instead of a Fighting game with mechas. Finally, in 1998 the final entry of the “series” was Choko Senki Kikaioh, roughly translating to Super Steel Warrior Kikaioh Chronicle or as it was known in the west, Tech Romancer, for the Arcades and the SEGA Dreamcast.
Meet Ryu…I mean Jin Saotome!
All of the games were connected one way or another, but most of the time these connections always led back to a single man, the hero of the Cyberbots, Jin Saotome. Jin could very well be Ryu from Street Fighter, another Capcom fighting franchise, but set in an environment full of mechas and come out like this. He is a hero through and through, even being voiced by Furuya Toru, one of the voice actors that almost always voice heroic hot blooded youths. While the games are a “series” in the loosest of senses, this trilogy is still held as that. The series could very well release a fourth game as of now that connects all of the above games in a far more concrete manner, features everyone and everyhting and make them the King of Fighters of Capcom but with mecha fighting.
Starting with Cyberbots…
The first game was a fighting game where the player would first choose a pilot character to play his or her story and then choose the mecha he or she desires, starting with the default one. The mecha had the ability to be slightly customized by fitting different types of legs and arms that reuslted in different ways of movement and different attacks; it was not unlike Armoured Core in the customization and fighting aspect. The fighting was slow but frantic and required skill, not unlike a non trubo version of other Capcom fighting games of the time. All in all, the pilot was used for the storyline while the mecha for the gameplay.
Ryu Saotome here…Jin,JIN GODDAMMIT! X/
The game featured many different combinations that resulted in great customization with great depth for the time and it was unlike other fighting games that featured mecha. Thought it was 2D, it doesn’t fall behind on the graphics section as it had great sprites to illustrate the mechas movements and attacks, along with great effects. Even now, the game is challenging and quite good and Capcom could take many ideas from it, not to mention other developers that make fighting games that focus on mecha fighting.
…moving to Powered Gear…
Then came Powered Gear, the Beat’em Up spin-off of Cyberbots and possible prequel. The game itself was a standard Capcom Beat’em Up game for the arcades, no apparent core difference from the Final Fight series or other games like that. The main difference was that the players could pick up parts and enhance the mecha they had or change a part for another and had a fun multiplayer option. It was a good game for the arcades, but it clearly lacked the thunder of Cyberbots.
…and ending with a Mazinger Z and Brave Saga inspired Choko Senki Kikaioh!
Choko Senki Kikaioh or Tech Romancer, came out 4 years after the first Cyberbots game and was a 2.5D Fighting game,having 3D CG graphics but moving on a 2D plane(only back and forward) with the ability to sidestep with mechas. While this time each and every character were unique, they could not change their mechas or customize them, for they were so much different but also made to fit together as each and every one of the characters and their mecha was either a shout-out, an affectionate parody, a reference or all of the above to something and someone from the grand lore of Tokusatsu,Mecha and Shounen manga and anime.
My God, the references Capcom is making here…let’s just say that it takes so much from Mecha, Tokusatsu and Shounen manga lore that it’s ridiculous to try and list them here.Challenge yourself in trying to cath all of the references and parodies. 😉
The fighting this time was much faster and much more pressing but the spirit of Cyberbots remained. The game was much more fun, as a sequel should be and unfortunatelly hasn’t received as much fame as Cyberbots,were Jin Saotome was feature in Marvel Vs Capcom and in Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 as a card to show his legacy.
Guess who got a cameo here! 😉
Oh yeah, Jin and BX-02 Blodia were secret unlockable characters in Kikaioh. 😀
All in all, this series needs more love, but not from the west it seems, something that Capcom unfortunately values immensely, especially these days as evident with their games and the uneccessary “westernizing” they’ve done to several of their franchises. No, it needs more love from the japanese and the fans who are willing to take a bit more time and import these kind of games. Like the Sengoku BASARA franchise, Cyberbots needs to remain in Japan for a little while until it builds a strong fanbase and then come over to the west, when we will be more open to tokusatsu and mecha anime. I hope it gets revived and I know it’s going to be easy over there, but it will need it’s time before it comes over. It’s a really rare gem among fighters and a great showcase of Capcom’s skills…or the skills the employees that left had. Still, I trust those that are faithfull to their games inside Capcom, to bring it back to life, if there’s ever such a rare chance. Or wait until DIMPS get their hands on the license if it ever expires and revive the series.