Cyvern - Kaneko - 1998

Cyvern - The Dragon Weapons
Kaneko - Arcade - 1998

Reviewed by Malc

Possibly THE game I'd take to my desert island, Cyvern is a little-known modern shooter which proves to be amongst the very best arcade shmups ever. Taking inspiration from Raiden fighters, various cave games, and a chunk of later Raizing titles, it combines an interesting variety of shooting techniques and pacing into a beautiful tight package.

Taking control of your mutant cyber Dragon ship (see below for types available) Cyvern is a modern shmup which seems to do everything right. It has absolutely class graphics throughout, from the intensive attract mode titling, styling on the cyber dragons, and bosses with multiple chunks which last forever. I simply can't find anything which looks amateurish at all about Cyvern.

Audio is equally fabulous, memorable tunes of the old fashioned punchy arcade variety, chilling screams as your dragons take a hit, as well as loads of effects from squishing bugs to huge explosions of dying bosses. Cyvern really is a masterpiece of design.

All that means nothing though if the game is a dog. And it is - a vicious slavering rottweiler of a shmup. (that's a good thing by the way). There's everything for everyone... Theres fast aimed bullets, there's patterns, theres huge amount of variety in things to shoot and how you are shot at, with fast speedy bits and claustrophobic bullet crammed bits, a simple but compulsive medal system, as well as a few secrets hidden about the levels, of which I have found hardly any!

The key to medalling in cyvern is the Banish Attack - a secondary charge weapon which is powered up by shooting any enemies. But, using the charge attack to kill ground enemies, will result in medals of increasing value appearing, assuming you don't miss any! Getting long runs of maxxed out medals is necessary for those stratospheric scores, and the extend lives you absolutely need to reach further than level 4!! One thing thats quite important to know is you only need to finish them off with Banish, you can pelt medium sized ground enemies with some normal bullets to soften them up first.

In all, it's hugely satisfying to play, raising the heartrate like only the best shmups can, those games in which you immerse yourself totally and be at one with the joystick. I won't blather on here too much, instead I'm going to try and caption a whole bunch of pics fairly sensibly for once, so please read on....

Definitely recommended and an uncontestable 10/10.


Level one isn't the most exciting level ever, although it has some nicely pleasing trains and tanks to blast to bits.

This is a good level to practice your medalling - using your Banish attack on ground enemies results in a medal, and if you don't miss any of these, eventually you can build them up to full value - a simpler system than in say the Raiden Fighters games and easy to get the hang of.



How cool it is to pilot Dragons, especially cyber mutated dragons like these ones. You have three to choose from: 1 has a fairly wide shot with a firey Banish attack, 2 has a widershot still with an electric Banish attack, and 3 - my favourite - has a thinner stream of normal shots with a laser Banish attack. If you are playing 2 player, the colours and names of the dragons change, but the weapon types are the same.


Strangely, I wasn't trying to get the green train when playing it for snapping screenshots, but I managed it anyway. Take it apart bit by bit for best scores, chopping off the cannon turrets before concentrating on the centre.

What soon becomes evident is that Cyvern is turning into one of these pattern based shmups, similar to Gigawing and DoDonPachi, but theres always a good amount of fast aimed shots as well - it's certainly no slow-bullet hell from start to finish.



See what I mean about it not being the prettiest or most innovative first level ever?

Well, in a way, once you get experienced, its a good level to show off on, getting your medals up as fast as you can, and trying not to die or use any bombs - because if you do manage these things, the boss changes from a tan coloured mega train, to a much harder green one - almost letting you double your score for this level.


Each level seems to have a little secret or two, we're onto level 2 now, and attacking the two large ground planes - If you can manage to Banish attack both of these (left, then right) before they run offscreen, you can get a super mega medal worth 10 times more than the normal largest medal. The trick in using your Banish Attack is to normal shot a lot of other enemies, airborne ones especially, which charges the gauge up... then use Banish on the ground baddies only.



Yup, see? Quite fast patterns though, more akin to how Feveron works - your Dragon's hit area is quite small and obviously this helps a lot with those tight spaces. If you do get in a very tight spot though, there's always a smart bomb to loose off, and you do seem to get a lot of them to pickup every so often. Same goes for weapon upgrades - it doesnt take you long to get up to full power.


Chasing the shuttle as it launches from its platform and speeds high into the sky - you lose track of it for a while and get to fight a lot of smaller and mid sized airborne enemies here. Naturally, this isn't a good level for medalling as the ground is about 20 miles below at this point and theres nothing to shoot on the ground. Variety is Cyvern's strongpoint and one reason I return lots to it!



Level 2's second half is taken up by fighting this shuttle type craft, which launches from a massive set of rails directly into the sky.

The control of your character goes a little wobbly here as it blasts off to chase the shuttle - a very cool touch as you can feel the pull kicking in.


Arggh I fking hate the stringy attacks - seemingly very simple to avoid, I always manage to die once ever time I get here. I tend to bomb twice and not even try to dodge. Bombing renders your ship invincible for a little while, which is a feature I DO LIKE!!



Lots of fast paced action here, swathes of enemies coming in from all angles, with a bunch of mid sizes enemies launching patterned attacks at you. Lots of opportunities to grab bombs and powerups!


Argh! Just as you thought it was dead, it's nose detaches and the music changes suddenly. The music is extremely fine shooter tunage, context sensitive like here, and I love playing it loud. Arcade tunes the way they used to be - Great!

Anyway, what's going on....



Finally we manage to catch up with the boss, you can see I've continued (for the sake of reviewing!) and chosen the 2nd type Dragon - lovely swirly electrical attacks, not as focused as the 3rd type dragon's laser though, but still does a fair bit of damage. I prefer to focus my Banish Attacks though, and chop bits off bosses surgically.


Unlike the missiles, which will cause many many deaths for the novice. Or clumsy pro. Missiles are best taken care of by trying to avoid them whilst using your Banish Attack constantly. I really hate the missiles!.



This is where the true brilliance of Cyvern really starts to show - a very difficult boss, and takes a long time to kill. Every time you blast a chunk of it off, another bit grows back with a different weapon! The laser attack here is quite easy to avoid, as it gives you plenty of warning.


Quite an enjoyable pattern this one, particularly as the Cyvern veteran knows the damned thing is almost finished. A swirl of closely spaced bullets with a secondary faster swirl of large bullets - a classic modern shmup pattern which will prove no problem once practised.



Hah! No it isn't!! Very fast spread attacks here, superfast patterns that take a LOT of concentration to get around.



I don't think I've managed to show you the bigger medals yet, they start off as single small ingots and grow bigger with extra bars on them - a quick way to build up is to shoot 1 ground enemy, pick up the medal, shoot another one, pick up - and continue like that. You CAN blast a lot at a time, but each group of medals onscreen at one time are all worth the same value until all are collected.


<< LEVEL 3

Back onto ground again, and a combination of sea and land attacks. Build up your medals again if you need to, as there's a lot of ground enemies later on to max out your points with.

Yes, I've changed to the 1st style of Dragon here, with the Firey Banish Attack - it's more focused than the electric one, but not as precise and powerful as the lovely Laser Type.


I was trying to take a piccy of 2 smash tv style Mutoid Men that come on here, they have a series of attacks and usually cause me to die at least once too. I THINK if you manage to charge blast these properly (first right, then left), you can also get the super mega medal, but I haven't done it yet. At least they have left behind two of the normal maxxed out medals to pick up - yay!



Suddenly, hundreds of squishy flying bugs appear onscreen, and if you aren't powered up enough you're going to have a really hard time avoiding all of these! Cool little diversion and change of pace.



Ok, it's here, and I fear. Very fast patterns coupled with moments of slow masses of pink.



Nearing the end of level 3, and its an amazingly good time to start medal grabbing... with rows and rows of various ground tanks and trucks - reminds me very much of DoDonPachi here.


Looks easy? Nope its not - the missles travel downwards fast and also close in on you just as you are trying to squeez through. Be very afraid!



Now nearing the last form, and the bullet count is increasing rapidly - this boss never lets up, and a lot of memorisation of what is coming next is paramount to surviving it.


Same applies to the pink ones, especially as they are superclosely packed together and you have to be quick as fook to find a space to nip through. The difficulty which you thought on level one was pretty pussy easy is now ramped up to extreme levels - but practice is all that's needed. You don't need to be a Cave master to survive, as careful defensive playing coupled with quick kills on the difficult turrets will see you through.



Guaranteed to die at least twice here on first visiting, take these out as soon as possible with a bomb or a full Banish charge.




After a very very hectic level with loads of prime medalling spots, this boss pops up and watch out - he WILL kill you with those hard to see grey acorns.


<< LEVEL 4

Now I really do not want to spoil this game for you by showing you all levels, but this one is beautiful. Unfortunately if you are playing this in mame, it currently has a layering issue on this level, you can't see the floating platforms the tanks are driving on.


Classic patterns here, he throws out handfuls of radial bullet attacks, stay as low as you can as they handily slow down a little at the bottom.

And that's it! One level more, a lazy one in which they regurgitate a lot of previous bosses shamefully, but it works really well and the pace is extremely hot. I've once made it to the 2nd lap, in which you do it all over again, and found... the 1st level train was now REDand VERY ANGRY!!



This is generally as far as I can get in Cyvern on a good day, on one credit.

The orange spam is moving very fast by now!



You want to play this then? Well, I can only really recommend grabbing the arcade board, a nice cart/motherboard combo called the SuperNova system. On this you can also play Sengeki Striker, another great shmup by Warashi, although not as inventive as Cyvern by far. Mame does an OK job of emulating Cyvern, but needs a pretty fast machine to keep those framerates up and there are those layering issues I mentioned.

There's lots of intriguing things I'd love to know more about, especially the various secrets on each level (the green train being only one of them that I can find) as well as the almost mythical Cyvern Plus mode, in which the bulletcount goes through the roof. I haven't a clue how to do it though. Any elucidation welcomed! - Malc


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie