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Game Spotlight: Silpheed

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    Game Spotlight: Silpheed

    Welcome to the first of many spotlights on SciFi games that I'm going to do for the site. It was hard deciding on which one I wanted to do first, but after mulling it over, I decided to start off with Silpheed.

    Gameplay Screenshot 1Silpheed was originally designed by Takeshi Miyaji (Rest In Peace.) at Game Arts. Miyaji would later go on to create and direct some very popular titles for the company, including Lunar, GunGriffon, and the Grandia games. Silpheed originally came out in 1986 in Japan on the NEC PC-8801 personal computer. It was then ported to several other platforms over the years. The version I'm going to focus on today is the Sega CD version, which was released n North America in 1993.

    I remember it pretty well, as it was one of the few games I owned for my Sega CD back then. While the CD addon for the Genesis had a lot of potential, it didn't have a very big library of games that justified its high cost. This, though, was one of the exceptions.

    It put you in the pilot's seat of the SA-77 Silpheed dogfighter prototype. A terrorist group, led by a man named Xacalite (though the English voice acting makes it sound like Xacarte) hacked into Earth's central computer control system. The group gains control of all of the weaponry in the solar system. Earth doesn't have a lot of options to deal with this problem. The only thing they have left is an out of the way R&D facility where the Silpheed prototypes were being developed. Since this facility wasn't controlled by the Earth central computer, it was unaffected by Xacalite's hack. I'm not going to get into how dumb it is that the entirety of the solar system's armament was controlled by a single point of failure. What the game lacks in narrative cohesion and voice acting talent, it more than makes up for in gameplay.

    Gameplay Screenshot 2Silpheed is a vertically scrolling shooter. You can call it a rail shooter if you prefer, but the game shares more similarities with games like Gyruss and Galaga than it does with games like Star Fox. Enemies fly at you in groups and memorizing their patterns is essential to not getting overwhelmed. You also have to deal with all the crap that's going on in the background. Of which, there is a lot. You'll fly over planets, through asteroid fields, you'll even see space battles happening below you. It really helps to add a sense of being part of a massive-scale battle.

    The Sega CD wasn't powerful enough to throw around lots of polygons at once. So to compensate for this, all the backgrounds are pre-rendered video tracks. Game logic is then overlaid on top of them so that the massive lasers or incoming asteroids can hit you. It's a clever hack and one that worked really well. It was a technique that was used in many games until graphics accelerators became more capable. All the ships and aliens were real-time polygons, so the backgrounds had to be rendered to a level of detail that would make sense against the game's real-time assets.

    At the end of each level, you'll face off against a boss. Pattern-recognition and memorization are the names of the game here. The first couple of bosses aren't too difficult, but things get progressively harder as the game goes on. Your ship is able to take a few hits before being destroyed, but you only have one life in this game. Between levels, you'll get your health back, and you'll also gain access to new weapons that you can equip to the two hardpoints on the wings of your ship. There is no swapping weapons on-the-fly in this game. Once you've made a selection you're stuck with it for the whole level. If you don't like a choice you made you'll have to either wait for the next level to change the weapon out, or burn a continue to start over on the current level. Continues are scarce, so use them wisely. Thankfully, there is a cheat code which will give you 10 more. That's about the only safety net you'll get in this game.

    You can watch a playthrough of the game below. If it looks interesting, it may be worth it to you to try to hunt it down. Original hardware is getting more difficult to obtain in a working state, so emulation is likely going to be your best bet here. The game itself can be had for between $20 and $40 for a complete copy. With a bit of Googling, you can probably find a working disc image of the game as well.



    So is it worth the trouble to hunt down a copy and play this old game? Unlike another game I'll be talking about later, this one does hold up. Despite its dated graphics and early 90's quality voice acting, it's easy to look past those flaws because the gameplay is so engaging. It's simple, tight, and responsive. Everything that a good shoot-em-up should have. This is one series that I wish would get a revival. Or, at the very least, it would be nice to be able to buy this game digitally and play it on a console again.

    That's it for now. Do let me know what you think in a reply! I've put this in a normal forum because vBulletin's article system is totally broken. So hopefully you'll be able to reply now.
    Daryn's Signature



    “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob
  • #2

    Haha, well I watched a bit of that playthrough - quite psychedelic! It does look interesting though, especially the ability to move deeper in and the resulting perspective considerations. It reminds me quite a bit of an Amiga game we used to have, which from some Googling I'm pretty sure was Xenon 2: Megablast:



    But in any case, it looks like a fun game. And the voice acting isn't as bad as I was expecting from your summary! XP

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    • #3

      Originally posted by SliceOfDog View Post
      But in any case, it looks like a fun game. And the voice acting isn't as bad as I was expecting from your summary! XP
      Heh, Xenon 2 was a great game, even though it was exceedingly difficult. David Whittaker's soundtrack for the Amiga version was among some of the best at the time. Not so much on the Atari ST, though. There was also a Mega Drive version which wasn't great, either.

      And yeah, it's a full playthrough from start to finish. 45 minutes or so to get through the whole game, which isn't unusual for a game of that genre. Perhaps in the future, I'll do its sequel.

      Thanks for checking it out, Slice!
      Daryn's Signature



      “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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