The Essence of Cyber Shadow: Interview with Mekaskull and Yacht Club!

You saw our review of Cyber Shadow, and if you know me personally, then you know I’m a hyper addict to Shadow of the Ninja and Ninja Gaiden. Yet, as I was playing through the game, I had a few questions on my mind (along with a general one about another YCG thing), and I figured I’d send them over to Yacht Club for answering. Thankfully, they passed them onto game creator Aarne Hunziker, and thus, he answered me, leading to this interview for you to enjoy!

Q1: So, Cyber Shadow has been made as a tribute to a lot of the 8-Bit fast action games of the time. Stuff like Shatterhand, Shadow of the Ninja and Ninja Gaiden have been cited a bunch already, but have there been any other, more obscure titles that inspired the creation of this game? It seems to have a lot more influence from Natsume-Atari titles than Tecmo ones.

A1: Interesting thing about the Natsume games is that I only recently found out how many of my favorite games were made by them. To top it off a lot of my favorite game graphics from the NES and SNES era were made by the same person, Shunichi Taniguchi. He worked on games such as the aforementioned Shatterhand and Shadow of the Ninja as well as The Ninja Warriors, Wild Guns and Gundam Wing. Not sure if obscure, but at least a different type of game with graphics that inspired me was S.C.A.T with its post apocalyptic cities and robot enemies (also the C stands for Cyber so that’s cool).

Q2: One of the bosses in this game is named Biohunter, and it stood out to me a lot mainly due to his design. I couldn’t quite help but wonder, so I just have to ask: was this boss influenced by the Biohunter Silva character from the Bioman Tokusatsu? If so, was Cyber Shadow partially inspired by some tokusatsu as well, perhaps Jiraya?

A2: The character received his name from his task of hunting people to be used as robot fuel, so the parallels are coincidental, yet the game definitely draws inspiration from heroes suited up to battle gigantic monsters and mecha. Particularly Shadow’s face was under the scalpel a lot to make it look a specific way. Another way these shows helped form Cyber Shadow was how their poses were often very exaggerated, making them a prime source of reference material.

Q3: Overall, I felt the flow from Cyber Shadow to just mesh together so perfectly, and one factor in that came from the removal of lives, meaning that you can keep trying and trying again to improve and eventually reach the next checkpoint. Even with the gaps between them, it still feels very fair and the perfect way for new and old gamers to train and experience everything this game has to offer. How did you manage to strike such a perfect balance?

A3: This is where some modern development touches were utilized. The game went through beta testing while sporting an analytics tool that would record where the player died, what they did and how much playtime had elapsed when reaching a room. All this data could then be combined in-game for a chart that showed places where the game might not have enough challenge. 1-3 deaths between checkpoints was deemed acceptable, while some spikes were allowed in the 3-6 range. If the analytics unearthed a section where no one would die, that would receive a healthy increase in difficulty. Also I looked for a sine pattern in the chart in order to have variance and avoid a completely flat level of challenge. As a backup, you would not lose currency when dying, but rather can accumulate it if you’re stuck, allowing you to purchase an item at the checkpoint to help you progress.

Q4: The Messenger, from Sabotage has been cited as a recent Ninja Gaiden throwback lately as well, so I’m pretty curious: when that game launched, did it end up leading to any new relationships or ideas for Cyber Shadow? Could we perhaps see some sort of crossover between the two ninja throwbacks, like how Shovel Knight crossed over with a bunch of things? It’s very exciting to see this sort of action game paid tribute to.

A4: Would definitely be fun to have guest appearances. There’s some that have been in the works from early days of Cyber Shadow, but those are currently -SECRET-

Q5: Being a game on multiple platforms, akin to Shovel Knight, you guys no doubt had to work with each system and find out how everything worked, especially with the newly-made PS5: Did any of these systems offer a lot of trouble in particular? Or did porting manage to work smoothly due to the publisher’s experience with Shovel Knight? I know the Switch has amiibo exclusive content, so did stuff like that provide any troubles?

A5: From the technical side I never experienced troubles first hand. YCG and MP2 Games handled the porting in a way that never interfered with the gameplay development. The finer details of system specific implementations were abstracted to the point where implementing them was very easy for me. I couldn’t have dreamed of a smoother process.

Q6: Cyber Shadow has a pretty excellent narrative and it all comes together rather well, so it’s pretty hard for me to think of a sequel or even expansions in the way that Shovel Knight got. Are there any plans for DLC or extra modes/content updates? Or is everything here just polish, polish, polish? I can’t really say I can think of much to add to begin with.

A6: The game itself shares a fraction of the full story that was written. I feel old games, especially arcade ones had a deep story underneath it all but didn’t spend too much time on it as the focus was on skill based gameplay (to drain your quarters). It’s designed to show some and leave the rest to your imagination. Similarly there’s room to take it to a number of directions, but is also a self contained narrative. In terms of support, there’s a pixel or two that need to be moved around so the next step is to make sure those are where they should be.

Q7: Cyber Shadow also has a ton of cool upgrades, from an upward attack, a helpful dash, and a downward thrust: which of these are your favorites, either on the dev team, or the publishing?

A7: While each skill has their use, the parry and shadow slash are definite favorites as they allow for very fast gameplay with a high skill ceiling. Mastering these can easily get your completion time to under two hours.

Q8: Of course, this question was an inevitability, but I have to know: any plans for a physical release of this game? If so, would it be via you guys akin to Shovel Knight, or a third party? Likewise, any plans for a Vinyl OST release through Bravewave? This game’s godly soundtrack would definitely benefit.

A9: Both the game physical release and OST are up in the air. Would love to see both happen of course.

(NOTE: Question 9 was aimed for YCG themselves, since this last question linked into one I was specifically asked to inquire about due to a community of PS4 collectors that are seeking info on the following)

Q9: Mainly one for Yacht Club Games, but along with the earlier question and hopes for a physical for this game, how’s the physical for Shovel Knight Treasure Trove on PS4 going? It came out on Switch and Xbox OK, but the PS4 disc with all DLC continued to get delayed again and again… Is that still alive and kicking?

A9: Hi, Celia here! I handle marketing at Yacht Club Games so I thought I’d pop in on this one! A physical release for Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove is still in the pipeline! We are still ironing out a few details so, once we have an official update we will be sure to let everyone know on our social media pages and website. We appreciate everyone’s patience throughout all of this!

Q10: Last but not least, do you have any special words for those who waited so long for this game to come out? Or for readers who may be on the fence due to the difficulty of the games that inspired Cyber Shadow?

A10: I hope you enjoy playing the game as much as I enjoyed making it! For anyone on the fence about difficult games, if you do complete Cyber Shadow, you’ll notice on a repeated playthrough that you have now become a ninja and many other games won’t feel very difficult at all. This in effect will increase the range of games you can enjoy.

Thanks so, so much to Aarne and co for answering my questions! As you know, last year’s interview initiative was pulled aside a bit early due to COVID19 slowing down my productivity along with that of many other people in this world, so it felt really good to get back to interviewing folk again: I don’t know if the initiative is 100% back in place yet, since I still have that list of others to sort out and get the courage to ask about, but I do hope you all enjoyed this insight into Cyber Shadow nevertheless!

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