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Cyborg Hunter (SMS)

Console: Master System

Game: Cyborg Hunter

Genre: Action

(Sega / Activision, 1988)

Can you help bounty hunter Paladin defeat Vipron and the cyborgs in this 8-Bit action classic?

Oh... So close!

Cyborg Hunter for the Sega Master System has an interesting backstory. Also known as 超音戦士ボーグマン (Chōonsenshi Borgman or Sonic Soldier Borgman), this release by Sega for the Sega Mark III and Master System in Japan was based on an anime series of the same name by Toho Animation / Nippon TV. As is common with some Japanese games based on animation or manga properties, when being localized for release in other regions, the entire premise of the game, including characters and story, may be changed to suit other territories.

Such is the case with Cyborg Hunter. While the game is essentially the same as its Japanese counterpart aesthetically speaking, the story has been reworked to more suitably fit the games English title. The Sonic Soldier Borgman anime series sees a team of 3 (Ryo, Chuck, and Anice, with Ryo being the lead character) who have special cyborg enhanced suits that aid them in their fight against creatures from the Demon World.

Cyborg Hunter for the Master System however, changes the lead character's name to Paladin, and Chuck and Anice to Trevor and Catherine respectively. The main storyline has also been reworked to change the demons from Sonic Soldier Borgman into cyborgs! Ryo (and his teammates) are protectors of sorts in the anime series. The lead character Paladin for the western release is instead a Cyborg Hunter who is infiltrating Cyborg Fortress to defeat Vipron and and his cyborg baddies to hopefully receive a nice bounty hunter style paycheck when all is said and done.

Another interesting change to the characters for the western release, is in the headquarters support character who appears in cutscenes during the game. In the anime and Japanese version of the game the character is known as Memory Gene, who has blue hair and glasses, while in Cyborg Hunter the character lacks the glasses, has blond hair, and is named Adina.

With the, albeit confusing comparisons out of the way, you may be asking, "Ok, but how is the game?" And the answer is, really good! Whether you're playing the Japanese Mark III Borgman original, or Cyborg Hunter, they both exude a very cool 8-Bit Sci-Fi vibe, despite the differences in characters and story. Although there are major differences in the story for Cyborg Hunter, it is surprisingly successful in its own right.

Cyborg Hunter's gameplay can be challenging at first, and the level of difficulty may be on the higher side, which may turn off some players (and beware the elevators! They are tricky to figure out how to work. You must be facing the right side door under the Exit sign and press up or down to operate). However, the graphics and sprite animations are impressive, and there are some memorable chip-tunes to enjoy while venturing through the Cyborg Fortress's 7 stages (Areas A-G).

For the collector reading this, one of the coolest features of this game is in the excellent Activision SMS box art. Activision distributed a handful of SMS games in North America back in the 1980’s for the Master System (Bomber Raid, Cyborg Hunter, Galaxy Force, Rampage) and while these games retained the classic Sega grid box design, Activision’s SMS games opted for unique box colors that really stand out from the general white box aesthetic found throughout the SMS library.

Cyborg Hunter remains an interesting and unique title in the SMS library, and is a game worth checking out for collectors (with its box art and design), and very much worth playing or watching a YouTube speed-run on, to see what the game has to offer.

So, as the Sonic Soldier Borgmen catchphrase goes in the anime... "Borg, Get On"!!

*At the time of this writing, physical copies of Cyborg Hunter (both the North American black box, and the UK white variant) are currently going for anywhere between $20-50 on eBay (with and without instruction booklet).

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Jordan Itkowitz
Jordan Itkowitz
26 thg 1, 2021

Great write-up of a long-forgotten gem! I remember picking this out at the store. (My brother chose Rampage that day, which we played through first). This one took a lot longer to get into - I think that elevator thing tripped me up for awhile! When I finally got into a good groove with the game, I couldn't put it down and cruised through to the end. Sonic Soldier Borgman was a waaaaaaay better title though! So much more quirky than the bland 'Cyborg Hunter' - typical marketing department blandness... though they do get points for the black box, it made it pop on the store shelves.

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