Years ago, when Silpheed hit the Mega CD/Sega CD, people were in awe of the amazing graphics being displayed before them. During this point in time, the game was not only considered to be revolutionary, but was ultimately more successful since it was released during an era when shooters were in their prime. Unfortunately, after its release, the series inexplicably disappeared from sight. Thankfully, Game Arts, in their infinite wisdom decided to bring the Silpheed name back into the spotlight once again. Using the power of the Playstation 2 and genius of the developers at Treasure, creators of some of the most intense, original games of all time, everything should be simply breathtaking. Well, when it all comes down to it, nobody's perfect, and this is a prime example.
The premise, more than likely the least important aspect of a shooter, is typical and bland. The game opens with an extremely promising (albeit boring) movie, defining the nature of the obligatory threatening alien race. The creatures appear very organic in shape and style, replete with writhing tentacles. But it's here that you get a feeling of what you are up against. Typically, the Silpheed fighters are dispatched to take out the race...will they be successful?
The set up is typical, but what about the execution? Well, the hook of Silpheed is it's camera angle. This isn't just a normal vertical shooter. You are actually flying into the screen, following the Silpheed fighter. This allows you to follow the ship, having total control over it, while providing a certain cinematic appeal. Throughout the experience, certain scripted events will take place, and the camera will zoom in and around the craft, providing an epic feeling to the whole battle raging around you. The thing is, the camera angle either works incredibly well, or it can simply hinder the entire playability of the situation. For instance, sure the "wheel" boss of the third stage looks cool as you follow it while it rolls in every direction, but the whole gameplay aspect of the encounter suffers when it begins to roll sideways and towards the player. The camera quickly becomes the most frustrating thing about the game.
Weapons, weapons, weapons. This feature is by far, where the meat and potatoes lay in a shooter. Shooters are all about what weapons you can add up, and the kind of firepower that will be displayed once you have gotten enough. Once again, Silpheed comes up short. Strangely enough, you don't actually collect power ups during a level, you select two (one for each wing) before a level starts, and you can change them up at the half way point in a level while you refuel if your current firepower isn't working for you. After each level, you receive a few more attachments to apply towards the next level. Sadly, 80 percent of these weapons are next to useless, even I found myself going for the typical Optic Laser/Vulcan cannon combination level in and level out. Strangely enough, the button assignment allows for shooting individual weapons. Why anyone would ever just want to fire one for their guns during an onslaught of alien craft is beyond me.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of Silpheed is it's overall pace. The action on the 7 stages takes place very, very slowly. With multiple boss encounters per stage, you will find yourself wanting to crack the poor little dual shock 2 in half when you play a stage for 10 plus minutes, arrive at the boss, only to die, and be sent all the way back. The first instance of this occurs on stage 2. While this stage is extremely pretty to look at (you should see that lava) it seems to last forever. With it's 3 boss encounters, you feel drained by the end. To make matters worse, the final boss of the stage uses one of "those"camera angles, where it's almost impossible to navigate the battlefield. Sadly, it's this aspect of the game which kills it the most, making it near impossible (or motivated enough) to sit though the compete duration of the game.
Graphically, the game doesn't push the Playstation 2 to any kind of limit, with only a few events standing out. Like the previously stated lava to CG movies introducing the stages. Strangely enough, you will find that objects presented in each level that seem in your line of view cannot be interacted with. For instance, in stage one, there are a couple of slabs of space debre floating at you. Try as you will to avoid them, it wouldn't matter if you did because they are totally and completely non-interactive. Pretty to look at none the less. Collapsing buildings falling in front of you? Go ahead try to fly into them. Happily, Working Designs went in and did away with the slow down that plagued the Japanese version, though not completely.
The music in this game doesn't really try to stand out at all either; it simply conveys the mood, nothing else. Working Designs did a nice job with dubbing the voices narrating the story, but the radio chatter is a little questionable. The pilots of the Silpheed ships say just about the dumbest, most contrived things I've ever heard. Sayings like "Holy Galaxy!" are followed up with even dumber remarks such as "My God...look at my hands...they're shaking!" C'mon guys, just leave 'em out unless you are actually going to replace them with something cool, or even witty.
Overall, shooter fan or not, this is neither a crowning moment for shooters or even a display piece for your Playstation 2. Once you can bring yourself to sit through the entire game in one sitting (which wouldn't be so bad if it moved a bit faster), you will find little or nothing to go back to this game for. Working Designs did a nice job translating it, save for the radio chatter, but little else in this game is noteworthy.
· · · Mezz