Cy Girls is a new straight-ahead action game from Konami that may have flown under your radar up to now. From what we've played of the final game, though, action fans should keep a close eye on it from now on. Cy Girls is based on a line of Japanese action figures (made by Takara) called "Cool Girl." Specifically, Cool Girl focuses on the buxom-babes-with-deadly-fighting-powers toy genre. The Japanese version of the game actually shares its name with the toy line. However, for the US release, Konami has given Cy Girls a slightly edgier title that fits in with the varied and entertaining action you'll find in the game.
The setup for Cy Girls goes something like this: In 2058, a 24-hour global power failure, known as "Damnation Monday," throws the world into utter shambles and causes governments and economies to collapse single-handedly. Years later, the face of the worldwide corporate and political landscape has been rewritten in the aftermath of Damnation Monday to favor those with the acumen to rise from the chaos and carve out a position of power in the new world order. In the midst of all this intrigue come two heroines, Ice and Aska, both of whom you'll be able to play from the beginning of the game. Though the girls have entirely different skill sets and beginning storylines, we're fairly certain their paths will intertwine later in the game.
Ice and Aska are pretty much at opposite ends of the action hero spectrum. Ice looks like the typical futuristic blond bombshell and relies on an assortment of firearms and stylish rolling and dodging moves when she takes on enemies. She's also a computer expert and master hacker. Aska, on the other hand, is a classic female ninja, equipped with a deadly katana, a grappling hook, shurikens, and a graceful jumping ability. The gameplay types offered by the two discrete halves of the game are strikingly different, so at times, you'll almost feel like you're playing two different games.
At the beginning of Ice's game, she's preparing to infiltrate a corporate high-rise in search of some sort of rogue data. With the aid of her radio-equipped hacker partner Sancho, she has to fight off a legion of security guards while navigating the cold hallways of the building and searching for the proper data terminal. You begin with only a weak shock pistol, but as you play, you'll pick up an assortment of new weapons, such as a basic pistol (two of which can be wielded in dual-handed John Woo fashion) and a deadly submachine gun. Ice's gunplay has two control modes--auto, which automatically targets enemies for you, and manual, which allows you to freely aim your targeting reticle so that it's not constantly switching between new targets as they appear.
This first level of Ice's story shows off her other major gameplay type, which is brought about by her ability to enter "cyberspace" in an attempt to hack whatever computer system needs hacking at the moment. In cyberspace, Ice looks a little shinier and more colorful, and her surroundings, frankly, look like something out of The Matrix--with environments made out of monochromatic, computer-stylized lines on a black background. Speaking of the seminal sci-fi action film... Ice's cyberspace abilities are pretty similar to those of Neo's, since she's able to perform some unrealistic, high-flying melee attacks and can also download new skills at data points that she finds scattered around the virtual world. To access these skills, you'll bring up a command window and then quickly input a button sequence that corresponds to the desired ability. This command window has a cool minigame sort of feel to it because you have to access it and input the proper command while the game's action is still occurring all around you.
From what we've played of Aska's game, she's a lot less about hacking and a lot more about straightforward ninja action. Her storyline begins outside the estate of the villain who apparently murdered her father. Along with her brother Kogetsu, she must infiltrate the manor and collect evidence against her father's killer rather than strike him down out of vengeance (and possibly in cold blood). Aska's got a basic sword combo that's extremely useful against enemies, and she'll pick up various kinds of throwing stars, for use in ranged attacks, as she progresses.
As a fully capable ninja, Aska is extremely mobile. Her grappling hook can be used just about anywhere to bring her up to a higher position, in those cases where her considerable jumping skills won't quite cut it. She also has some sort of one-hit-kill power attack that we were able to invoke several times by leaping at enemies and slicing at them from the air. In these instances, the game briefly switched to a hands-off cinematic view while Aska descended on the unlucky foe and authoritatively cleaved him in two. Aska will occasionally have to access switches and panels to progress but only in a hit-the-switch-to-open-the-door manner and not in the same way that Ice hacks into cyberspace.
Visually, Cy Girls contains a unique and appealing presentation. Ice's game has a cold, blue, sterile look to it that evokes thoughts of gun metal and computer parts, both of which she is familiar with in plying her trade. So far, Aska's path has the look of a classic ninja hack-and-slash game, so her Japanese estate level looks just like you'd expect it to. Both girls' levels look nice and run at an ultrasmooth frame rate with no hint of slowdown whatsoever. When enemies appear, the game uses an interesting effect that shows them in an orange wire frame before they materialize into their corporeal selves. There are a lot of neat little touches like this that give the game a slightly futuristic tinge.
Our build of Cy Girls is marked as reviewable, and indeed it seems to be fully complete and ready for its US release, which is set for the second week of March. From our initial experience with the game, it's got a very diverse mixture of gameplay types that should keep the action fan entertained throughout. Ice and Aska's different storylines and gameplay types will make for two very different experiences, both of which are quite cool. Look for more on Cy Girls in the coming weeks.