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Item - The Cyber Warriors

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Series: Eternal Champions — no. 1
Author: Thomson, Jamie
Illustrator: Longworth, Mark
Date: 1994
Length: 300 sections
Number of Endings: 15
dArtagnan's Thoughts:

Based on the popular Mega Drive game (which was graphically very impressive though hard as nails to beat in single player), the two Eternal Champions books could probably be mistaken for cash-ins. Do not let this dissuade you from finding them though as they are well worth it.

The Cyber Warriors basically follows the plot of the game (the reatest warriors throughout history are restored to life to prove themselves worthy) with a sort of "Terminator" scenario added to it in that there is a war between humans and machines and the Eternal Champions (which you join at the start of the book, though you cannot actually play as any of the 9 champions from the game) must battle the evil Overlord machine and his army of cyborgs. The Overlord is trying to thwart the Eternal Champions' efforts by replacing them with robotic clones of themselves and you must defeat a certain amount of these clones to get to the final showdown. To be honest though, this story is basically just an excuse for you to battle the Eternal Champions while still being a good guy. You are required to go to various timezones (e.g. 1920s Chicago or the rather unlikely date of 110 BC Atlantis) and defeat the clones there and protect the real Eternal Champions.

The gamebook itself is similar to the Way of the Tiger series (only a little more forgiving) in that each fight requires you to choose how you want to attack your opponent (e.g. a punch to the jaw or a kick to the groin) and eventually beat him down. You also get to select a fighting style and depending on what your fighting style is you will find certain attacks easier to do (e.g. choose Savate and a low kick would serve you well, choose Aikido and you are best sticking with throws) this works quite well, however Jujutsu is a rather unbalanced fighting style and seems to come in useful a lot more than the others, which is somewhat annoying though forgivable. In addition you also have 6 stats: Speed, Endurance, Power, Recovery, Defence and Equilibrium which you get a certain amount of points to assign to each one. Again there is a problem of balancing here. Speed and Equlibrium are rarely used, but when they are they can save you from sudden death so it is hard to know whether it is worth having high scores in them are not while a high Defence score makes you very hard to beat in combat making Power and Endurance less important. Still this is not too much of a problem. You also get to select a special move and, as with Way of the Tiger, you draw upon Inner Force to use these moves and can learn new ones throughout the adventure. These special moves are mostly used in battle, but can have other uses which is a nice touch.

The book itself offer quite a bit of replayability as there are 9 time zones to finish and you only need to visit a minimum of three to complete the book. The timezones themselves are a bit linear, but that is mainly because the focus of the book is on your fights with the clones rather than anything else you may do in these various timezones. Jamie Thomson is a talented writer and actually gets the characteristics of the different champions to come off quite well. It also comes to an interesting conclusion, which I will not spoil here. Fans of the video game however may be somewhat annoyed by a few changes Jamie Thomson has made to the continuity for seemingly no reason. Jetta Maxx, while a cousin of Tsar Nicholas II in the game, is a Communist rebel in the books and Midknight has been moved from the Vietnam War to Futuristic London (although being a pseudo-vampire, I suppose it can be argued that he has lived on from the Vietnam War until 2100, but I find that doubtful). Still these two continuity problems are unlikely to lessen enjoyment of the book and this makes an excellent gamebook and a more accessible version of Way of the Tiger.

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Shadeheart's Thoughts:

[Rating: 1/10]
[Recommended? NO]

Having grown up with the Sega Genesis game upon which the "Eternal Champions" gamebook duology was based, and having held a generally mixed to negative opinion of said game, I fully expected "The Cyber Warriors" to be an appreciable yet incomplete experience from the beginning - and to that end I wasn't disappointed. Alas, there are definitely things I enjoyed and things I didn't - and it largely boiled down to how closely I believe the book followed its own expectations of the reader. With heavy reliance on letting the ability to make choices create the illusion of a (short-lived) novelty factor, I was certainly disappointed by the relatively average writing, lack of narrative innovation, gimmicky attribute assignment, poorly-executed balancing and the overabundance of drawn-out battle sequences. What surprised me the most was how I found the timezone-hopping doesn't increase the replay value: you can expect much of the same thing no matter where you choose to go, and in a story that is kept so dark due to its set-up, the urgency is insensibly clashed with the grim atmosphere too uncomfortably to succeed. At no point did I find the story to be in any way immersive, and this threadbare excuse for an overworld comes across as cold, distant and uapproachable... not to mention how it renders any readers' emotions as obsolete.

Unfortunately, this is a gamebook experience I cannot recommend - the cheap set-up and overreliance on fitting the story into the conventions of its genres are an initial no-no, and what's more is that at no point did I find myself suspending my disbelief because of the unevenness of the book's tone and plotlines. I suggest you take a pass on this one - this is hardly better than an escapist excursion into an underwhelmingly barren world, and besides, there are plenty of better-executed gamebooks to champion out there. ^^

(Mysteriously disappears into the shadows.)

More reviews by Shadeheart

Special Thanks:Thanks to Nicholas Campbell for the cover scan.
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