As the first title in what the prolific localiser and publisher eastasiasoft hopes will be a long and fruitful partnership with developer Zoo Corporation, Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic is a solid example of what we can expect from these two companies working together.
For the unfamiliar, Zoo Corporation is a company that has been around since the late ’80s, and they have a rather curious portfolio in that they work on both medical technology and video games — with the latter having a strong tendency towards the saucy side of things.
In fact, over the years, Zoo Corporation has had several subsidiary imprints that focus on different types of explicit eroge; sadly very few of these 18+ games have ever come west in an official capacity, but Zoo’s other titles often make oblique references to them or feature artwork and characters that have previously appeared in them.
Compared to some of Zoo’s other work, Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 is pretty tame in terms of content. But it’s still a good, representative example of what to expect from the company’s games: simple, solid arcade action inspired by classic games with no unnecessary frills, coupled with a showcase of some beautiful, distinctive artwork.
Sadly the artists in Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic don’t seem to have been credited within the game itself — at least, they’re not in the Help menu, where the music composers and font designer are credited — but it’s clear that a selection of different people worked on the character designs, as there are some noticeably distinct styles throughout.
So what’s the game all about? Well, as longstanding fans of arcade games featuring cute anime girls will have already figured out, Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic is a take on the Gals Panic formula, which itself is a spinoff of Taito’s classic arcade game Qix.
In this type of game, you control a “tool” that can move around the perimeter of the playfield, and moving into the playfield itself causes your tool to draw a line behind itself. Complete a line from one border of the playfield to another and the smaller of the two segments you create fills in; if any enemies are trapped in that filled-in segment, they are destroyed, and if the filled-in area covers part of the silhouette for that level’s girl, you reveal that part of the image. You then repeat the process until you have filled 75% of the screen or more, or you have lost all your lives.
While you’re trying to fill in the screen, enemies of various descriptions are trying to defeat you. They can do so either by colliding with your tool while it is in the playfield, or by colliding with the line you’ve drawn before you’ve reached another border. Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic also features spider-like enemies that move around the perimeter of the playfield much like the “Sparx” in Qix; these are the only enemies who can get you while you’re still on the border.
Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic features a few tweaks from the classic Qix and Gals Panic formula — most notably the fact that you can double back on your own line and “retract” it if you think you’ve been a bit too hasty to start drawing. This is a godsend in later levels, since Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic is much more liberal with the enemies than Qix ever was — and that’s where the majority of the game’s interest comes from.
Each stage features a different formation of enemies, and there are several different types. Pinwheel-like enemies simply bounce around blindly; balloon-like enemies follow a set pattern; spiked enemies occasionally home in on you; static turrets fire shots at you. In the early stages of the game, you’ll be facing maybe one or two foes at most, but as you progress you’ll start seeing more and more at once — and this will make a significant difference to your strategy for each stage.
This is a good thing, because in the original Qix there is very much a “winning strategy” that works most of the time if you pull it off successfully, while the variety of enemy formations in Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic keeps things constantly interesting and requires you to vary up your tactics from level to level. In some stages, you can quickly get away with claiming half the playfield at once; in others, you’ll need to nibble away at it a tiny bit at a time in order to gradually take control of more territory.
Being an arcade-style game, there is of course some “risk versus reward” at play, too — claiming more territory at once nets you a “Big Capture Bonus”, which doubles the points for that capture, and claiming multiple enemies in a captured area provides you with significant bonuses, too. On top of that, you get a chunky bonus at the end of the stage for any lives you have remaining — and an additional half a million points if you can clear the stage without losing any lives.
It’s a fun game that initially feels like it might be a little light on content — but the more time you spend with it, the more you’ll appreciate that each stage is markedly different from the last thanks to the enemy formations. With 50 stages in total, and a difficulty curve that ramps up fairly quickly, this game has the potential to keep you busy for a while — and online leaderboards for each stage allow you to test your skills against others, too.
The girls in the background of each stage are beautifully drawn and will be absolute heaven for those with a military and/or mecha fetish — particularly if you’re someone who can’t be arsed with all the faffing around required to play mobile games like Girls’ Frontline and Azur Lane — though it’s a shame they’re not integrated more tightly with the game mechanics.
There are no score bonuses for uncovering the silhouette rather than blank space, for example, and the 75% target for each stage simply refers to percentage of the play area rather than silhouette — you also get to see the whole image when you complete a stage anyway, so there’s no real incentive to focus your efforts on the girl specifically. That said, this is probably just as well, given the complexity of some of the later enemy formations.
It’d also be nice to see some additional controls in the gallery mode so we can appreciate the lovely artwork up close; some simple zoom and pan controls are all that is needed — and perhaps a “rotate” function so those playing in handheld could look at a full-length, portrait-orientation image if they so desired.
Ultimately these are minor nitpicks, though; Bishoujo Battle Cyber Panic achieves exactly what it sets out to do, which is to provide a simple slice of Gals Panic-inspired arcade action for Switch and PlayStation 4.
It’s not a game that demands hours of your time at once, nor one that has a vast amount of content to keep you busy in the long term — but it is a game that is fun to boot up once in a while when you fancy some straightforward arcade action that rewards you with the very pleasant sight of some awesome, kick-ass military and mecha girls for doing well.
And if this doing well means we’ll see some more of Zoo Corporation’s other games on Switch and PS4, I say nab it while you can; I’m personally hoping that Delicious! Pretty Girls Mahjong Solitaire gets a Switch release, myself, since that game is one of the most monstrously addictive puzzlers I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing.
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