Spyborgs, formerly known as Team Alpha GO!, is a futuristic beat’em up game for the Wii, developed by Bionic Games and published by Capcom, and released in September 2009. In Spyborgs, the player take control of a team of 3 cyborg secret agents, each with their own unique abilities, through several levels in order to solve a plot to kidnap and destroy every cyborgs in the world. Players can choose among 3 characters: Stinger, a soldier with a cybernetic gun arm, Bouncer, a powerful robot, and Clandestine, a female ninja.
Team Alpha GO! was initially a coop brawler with environmental puzzles presented like a campy and comedic Saturday morning cartoon that people could play. Each episode of the show would introduce a new level of the game. It also featured mini-games that served as interludes and took the form of commercials, in order to reinforce in the player the feeling of witnessing an episode of an animated TV show.
When the game was officially revealed, in June 2008, by Capcom, it was already known as Spyborgs, and it featured 5 characters instead of 3. In addition to Stinger, Bouncer and Clandestine, there were also Voxel, who used holograms, and Kinetic, who used some kind of flying skateboard and could teleport. IGN briefly wrote:
Bionic wasn’t ready to reveal the entire cast of characters, but a trailer showed a fellow with a gun for an arm, a DJ kid who uses some sort of hologram turntables, a ninja lady, and a brutish robot named Bouncer. A gameplay presentation was given highlighting Bouncer and a teleporting character named Kinetic. It took place in a sewer, populated by bionic piranha, alligators sporting jet packs, fish in robot suits, and rotting teddy bears. Kinetic was able to “jump” short distances, like the X-men‘s Nightcrawler. Bouncer could pound the ground, leaving large cracks that appeared to be permanent.
We saw some typical examples of co-op gameplay: Kinetic would teleport across a gap and step on a switch, lowering a bridge that allowed Bouncer to cross. Gameplay also consists of a lot of running around, beating up enemies and objects a la Ratchet and Clank. But since this is all presented like a TV show, the action is frequently interrupted by commercial breaks. These are humorous little vignettes parodying toy commercials or plumbing services. But since this is a game, the commercials are playable. A spot for Nuke ‘Em Now Robots turned into a rock ’em sock ’em mini-game that played much like Wii Sports Boxing.
There are also rail shooter sections where players aim with the Remote to blast enemies. The level we were shown culminated in a boss fight against an airship, played as a rail shooter. Our heroes were in a mine cart circling the ship, blasting away at its defenses.
Bionic Games said it chose Capcom as its publisher because it knows how to extend its properties beyond games into other realms of entertainment like TV, movies, and comic books. That’s exactly what the creators of Spyborgs aim to do with their property. It’s already designed like a cartoon, and Bionic says it is currently in talks with several companies to branch out.
Spyborgs has a very kid-friendly look, but the writing is a little more mature than the visuals. We noticed several instances where swear words had been bleeped out. Of course, a lot of the gags are of the childish, toilet humor variety, as well. One commercial features two banjo-playing fish singing about poo.
However, in August of the same year, Capcom announced that the game was going to have a design overhaul:
Shown for the first time at the company’s Captivate 2008 event in June, Capcom’s Wii-exclusive action title Spyborgs is undergoing some serious … re-tooling. This news comes as little surprise, considering the game was a complete no-show at E3.
In an official forum post, Christian Svensson, Capcom’s senior director of strategic planning & research, said, “You won’t see new [Spyborgs] assets for several more months,” adding, “We’re refining it considerably.”
When Spyborgs came back under the spotlight, it was redesigned to a cooperative more traditional beat’em up game. The campy esthetic which, according to former Environment Artist Alving Chung, was inspired by the works of Maurice Binder and Saul Bass, was scrapped, alongside the idea of a playable TV show, the mini-games inspired by commercials and some levels, including the boss fight with rail-shooter elements. Characters Voxel and Kinetic were also removed as playable characters as it was pointed out by Senior Producer Daryl Allison in an interview for Nintendo World Report from August 2009:
NWR: What was behind the game’s revamping? It went from having a humorous tone and the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon, to having the feel of something along the lines of Gunstar Heroes.
DA: Originally, we had about 10 different gameplay types between the platforming, puzzle solving, and action variations. The game jumped between them and short cut scenes like a Saturday morning cartoon and that flow provided the opportunity to set up and payoff humor. That flow also let us insert playable commercials, and with those the team could go crazy with the humor. As the game moved to a more classic brawler at its core (rather than an interactive cartoon), we had to make some tough decisions. We loved the commercials. They were awesome, fun, and funny, but they just didn’t feel right anymore. They felt tacked on and became distractions that broke the flow of the game. Removing them was mostly due to making the tough decisions that were best for the game.
NWR: Why were the characters Voxel and Kinetic dropped from the roster?
DA: While no longer a playable character, Voxel still plays a role as the brains behind the outfit. He functions as mission control for the team and is seen and heard throughout the story. As for Kinetic, you’ll have to watch the Webisodes and collect the hidden audio tapes to learn more of his fate. (He’s still a Spyborgs, just not the way he was originally…)
As part of the decisions to make Spyborgs an awesome brawler, we needed to ensure our three playable heroes had appreciably different brawling styles. While it goes deeper than this, put simply: Stinger – medium power, medium speed, ranged attack; Clandestine – light power, super fast, precision combat; Bouncer – heavy power, a bit slower, area effect and knockback attacks.
In addition to the variety in gameplay styles, we also wanted to go deep with the upgrades and the variety of combos. We have unique special moves for each combo of heroes against each enemy and against each of the bosses. You start expanding that out to four or five characters and all the different combinations and it becomes either impossible to achieve some of those goals or the variety gets watered down. We knew we could maximize the depth and variety with those three and that meant Voxel and Kinetic had to find new homes.
Spyborgs released in September 2009 and received “average” scores by the press.
You can find below a gallery containing pictures before and after the redesign of the 3 playable characters, alongside the original trailer from 2008, and various cutscenes provided by Alvin Chung.
Article by Daniel Nicaise
Original 2008 trailer: