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Cyber Shadow @ PAX East – Hands on impressions

Yacht Club and Mechanical Head’s upcoming release looks great and plays better.

When I heard that Yacht Club Games, maker of one of my favorite nuevo-retro titles of all time – Shovel Knight – was teasing a new release, I was ready to purchase it sight unseen. I’ve spent countless hours playing through the ever expanding adventures of the various Knights, and that experience has made me trust them.

First hinted at last month with a post apocalyptic and mysterious gif:

The game has officially been announced as Cyber Shadow – a cyborg ninja action game.

Yesterday, I got a chance to get hands on with the game, and spoke to the developer Aarne Hunziker while I played, and these are my impressions.

Aarne has been developing the game over the last several years on his own, before Yacht Club approached him to polish and publish, and yes – Ninja Gaiden is an obvious inspiration. We joked about how near impossible the original Gaiden game was and how this nuevo-retro genre allows that same level of gameplay and difficulty, without the incredibly annoying permadeath restart option. I died just enough in my playthrough to respect the challenge, but didn’t get frustrated.

The days of this being my only game to play and I had to just suck it up and get better at it are gone, as there’s far more options out there, and far less time. Thankfully there are some save points and upgrades that can ease that difficulty scale back a little, while keeping you very much at the edge of frustration and flow.

Gaiden wasn’t the only inspiration though. He also mentioned that the boss battles were very reminiscent of Contra’s aesthetic, mixed with a Castlevania-like experience, and personally I think the soundtrack is at an almost Mega Man 2 level of catchy, which for me is high HIGH praise.

The game plays very smooth, with upgrades and unlockables that most resembled Ninja Gaiden 3. I found the platforming to feel very fast, and the level of control was very high. This is almost the opposite of the annoying jumping into a medusa head you’re stuck with in the old Castlevania games, and that responsiveness is very welcome.

With this upcoming release, I’m proud to see that Yacht Club seems to be turning into a very dynamic and respected developer AND publisher, and it coudn’t have happened to a nicer group of people. Keep an eye out for Cyber Shadow – publishing “soon” on Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and Steam.

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