I’ve been a fan of Game Arts’ and Treasure’s work over the years. I’m a fan of shooters, too. It would seem that uniting these past loves would yield perfection or at least something fun. Well, if you’ve never played a shooter before,Silpheed might be a good place to start, but genre veterans can safely steer clear.
The packaging makes the game look like it has great visuals, a lot of intensity, and so on. I must have had the wrong disc in my case. The case looks nice and the manual is a sight for sore eyes, but the game did little but give me sore eyes. There are a few nice effects here and there, but everything else is very ho-hum. There’s a lake of lava at the end of the second level that looks cool as I descended towards it and into a boss fight. The closer I got, however, the worse it looked. When we reached cruising/fighting altitude, I could clearly see the big, blocky points on every polygon (there were about 8) that made up this supposedly intimidating background.
The weapons are standard fare: a peashooter, laser, bombs, etc …you know the drill. There’s nothing new to see here, and what is here is hard to really do anything interesting with. Two weapons can be mounted at a time, but the left-right mounting system has them both fire off-center, making the ship look lop-sided in action and the aiming less intuitive. The weapons don’t have any oomph and typically fire either straight ahead, making it hard to tackle swirling swarms of enemies, or too far out at an angle, leaving your nose wide open to be bloodied.
In addition, weapons are chosen at the beginning of the level and can only be swapped out once mid-level. That’d be helpful if I had any idea what was awaiting me in the latter half of the level. Trial and error in a game like this makes play non-strategic and a huge waste of time. Plus, with no flash or variety or wallop, you might as well throw spitballs at the screen. Sometimes I can scarcely tell I’m even doing damage to an enemy.
Three buttons control all firing. One shoots the left weapon, one shoots the right, and the third fires both. I really see no point in firing them independently. It’s not like the ship has energy reserves that can be diverted all into one weapon and make it fire differently, or certain enemies are only vulnerable to one type of weapon. There isn’t even a charge-up shot or a screen-clearing mega-bomb. I thought these things came pretty much standard. Guess not.
The sound comes across adequately. Actual effects and music are pretty basic, but there is constant voice chatter over the radio, implying a large force looming right nearby. Too bad you never see them. You don’t have any wingmen. It’s really just to fill in all the massive gaps left by the overly ordinary sights and sounds.
The one thing the game does have going for it is some nice looking cut scenes. They do an attractive job of conveying the story behind the conflict. I know, who needs story in an all-out action game? Not me, but without it, the game would have felt entirely pointless.
The draw behind Silpheed is that it’ll tug at the nostalgic heartstrings of the hardcore. Only really nutty people–myself included–actually bought the Sega CD back in the ’90s, the home of the original Silpheed. It tried some bold moves, graphically speaking, and received a warm reception from fans on both sides
of the Pacific. A lot has happened since then with shooters. I guess it wasn’t on the to-do list to bring this series up to snuff with its contemporaries.
As usual, I can think of a number of games I’d rather be playing than
Silpheed within its genre. If you need some suggestions, keep your eyes open for Blazing Lazers (TurboGrafx), Space Megaforce (SNES), The Raiden Project (PSone), R-Type (virtually all systems), and G-Darius
(PSone). As you can see, there isn’t really a definitive PS2 shooter. Only a year or so till the PS3 comes out. Somebody better make one, lest we see shooters die altogether. Efforts like Silpheed: The Lost Planet aren’t going to keep it alive.