It’s a strange one I know but rather than going down the route of reviewing the original Mega-CD game from 1993 I thought I would have a little look into it’s direct sequel that has so many reasons it seems to check into so here goes folks, welcome to Silpheed - The Lost Planet for the PS2.
If you are not already aware of my love for the original then you must be new around here in which case, welcome. After you have gotten comfortable may I suggest you go and read the Mega-CD intro that I wrote a while back which clearly indicates the depth of not only my love for the original title but the incredible machine that it ran on. A machine that a lot of retro fans seem to dismiss as a nothing add-on for a popular console, not to my face of course because then how would they chew anymore once I had removed their teeth?
The first game was quite simply for the time only really possible on Sega’s ill-fated CD-based box of wonder because of the nature of the pre-rendered backgrounds and stunning FMV sequences coupled with that soundtrack of champions, sure a Snes could have done the 3D part well enough but the whole package? No way. A younger me used to show this to his friends as a reason to take the Mega-CD seriously, they never listened however, their loss though cause I had a whale of a time. But I’m getting caught up in the past, onto the present which is the review of an old game….Great, now my heart hurts!
Let’s take a journey back to 2001 shall we when the mighty PS2 had recently released and was stuttering after a very successful launch, it’s commonly accepted that the PS2 was the clear winner in the console race of that time however look deeper and you can see that only 2 things made that possible, the perfect timing of the increase in DVD take-up coupled with the fact it was the only console for a while to allow playback straight from the box and then the magic point when sony slashed the machine to 199.99, cue market dominance, cue last embers of Dreamcast resistance broken, cue Nintendo and Xbox never standing a chance.
During the post UK launch lull of the PS2 which was from around March 2001 - August 2001 several titles were released that quite frankly bombed, this was one of them. The days of the traditional top down shooter were already numbered and had seen their glory days in the arcades and consoles like the Snes and then briefly on the PS1 so when a new game hungry audience went to buy a new game and saw this they quickly moved onto something else, something that felt more next gen, again their loss.
Here’s what a lot of folk don’t know, this game is made by none other than TREASURE, yup that’s right those of Ikaruga, Mischief Makers, Gunstar Heroes etc fame, the one and only triple A take no prisoners master class developers, seriously go and find a rubbish Treasure game, you can’t do it. Now the reason so many people still to this day on other (cough) famous retro websites don’t know this is because there’s no logo on the cover, well not the UK edition that is, it simply says 2 companies… GameArts and Swing Entertainment. Only in the manual and in the small print on the back of the box copyright description does it mention them, the US and JAP boxes have the Treasure logo all up in that business, I still have no idea why it was missed for Europe, weird…..
Treasure worked on the game in what is now considered equal measure however after playing it you can see that Game Arts themselves probably only did minimal work because even though it shares the same name and on rails genre style it’s a whole different beast entirely, it oozes class, a class that only Treasure know how to create.
So what’s the story morning glory I hear you ask? Well glad you mentioned that because here is where the cool and worst part of the entire package collide all over your face. The instruction manual and box give a perfectly good enough version of events as does the initial intro sequence when you begin a new game. The scene is set that an Earth outpost is attacked and utterly destroyed by an alien invasion made up of creatures that are both mechanical and organic in nature, groovy eh? It’s another of those impossible odds situations that falls apart once you realise there’s nothing special about your ship at all, in fact in several sequences you see TONS of other identical ships so your left with that practical part of your brain tapping at your eyes saying stuff like….. ‘Makes no sense Mark’ or ‘What are all the other ships doing eh?’
Once you get past the fact that this is just a game and should not be taken as a work of Orson-wells like literature you just relax into it and let the story take you on the journey however this is not all smooth sailing at all even after you switch off the common sense or lack of logic issues but more on this later.
The game itself begins very much as a nod to the original with a lovely launch sequence after you have selected your weapons loadout, yup this is the first major difference apart from graphics that let’s you know Treasure was behind this. In the original game you collected power ups in the game to change weapons however this time you choose which weapons you will have to try and beat the level with from the off, it’s better if you ask me because it adds elements of luck and strategy to the mix rather than just learning enemy patterns.
Initially you only get to choose from 2 different types of mass destruction options, a simple forward firing bullet and a bullet that fires to the side on a kind of diagonal slant, each wing allows for one weapon so to start with you can have a maximum of 3 playing styles, shoot forwards on both, diagonal on both or a mixture of the two. As you complete levels you unlock the newer weapons from an ever increasing level of destruction, lasers come first then bombs then the crazy fun stuff. Remember once the action starts you cannot change until you reach the half-way point in each level where you can re-assess your weapons options once more for the second part of that area, another nice, clever and tactical addition to the title I feel. Your shields also get recharged at this midway point as well....Phew.
Back to the game itself and at it’s core it’s simply a top down shooter with moving backgrounds that gives the impression of real freedom and much like it’s predecessor it works just fine and dandy, the speed moves up and down to keep you on your toes and the action at times is relentless which again is the hallmark of a Treasure game. It is important however at this point in the review to mention that a western developer involved in the conversion to these markets did a bit of extra work as the original JAP version had some serious slowdown that sometimes made it nearly unplayable, thankfully almost all traces of this have been removed for the PAL version so for once we get the best possible edition, how awesome is this eh?
After the first level has finished and you have fought the mid level and end level boss you are treated to a ranking screen that displays your score along with a breakdown of the multipliers that gave you said score, it doesn’t mean anything however unless your into high scores themselves in which case this is a nice touch, for me though, pointless.
Remember I said earlier about the story being great and rubbish? Well here is where the bad part comes in.
After each level you are treated (and I mean that sarcastically) to an officers log report about the events of what has happened and what is about to come next, the problem is the terrible voice over sends you to sleep as they spell out every single number and word, considering each report has the date and star-chart co-ordinates etc this is like someone hitting your ears with freezing cold water followed by punching you in the face, It’s utterly terrible and I have to admit that I still have no idea what the actual story is because listening to yet another badly worded Jap set of story dialogue is something my Anime hating brain cannot stand to hear anymore.
The Arc foundation sensor FD-9 force star excelsior command exp alpha 9237134 delta max initiated the self destruct sequence in the (insert rubbish enemy name) core mark reactor…. BLAH BLAH BLAH, NO!!! Take your same old, same old crap dialogue and F**K off Game Arts, theres a reason people don’t buy Jap games anymore, none of your writers have moved on since the Nes days. I know people who are actually mentally ill and could be described as slow that can sit down and create better dialogue than most of you head bowing bastards, sorry but stop… NOW!
How can I explain this without sounding even more like a right douchbag, when your playing a game than in itself is really great but the part of it that keeps you in touch with on screen action either makes no sense or is just flat out boring it can ruin the entire experience, it’s just annoying if nothing else and is a symbol of a decaying and stagnating way of making games, it was the same in 2001 when this was released, it’s the same now in 2014. 13 years and they are still doing it, holy crap even dog’s learn!
What I’m trying to paint a picture of here is how great the game itself really is but how it’s in-game presentation stops it from being a true classic of it’s time and a true classic now, everything else about the title is fine or great but the sound and voiceover is either poor of flat our crap. I have read other reviews of this that state the music is great, well it’s not and they are wrong.
Back to the gameplay and as mentioned everything runs very smoothly with nicely paced injections of speed or moments when the backgrounds shift to give the impression your moving down or up or flying at an angle the mechanics of it all I cannot fault, the weapons have very different spread patterns and impact strength and really do add to a lovely amount of thought provoking strategy when you die….. And you will die, quite a bit actually.
The real genius moment here is in how the weapon selection works with how you continue after dying, your Silpheed ship has a shield of sorts that is broken into health bar chunks, one hit and you lose one part of the bar until the shields themselves are gone and the next hit destroys you. Death however is met by the option to continue however not from that exact moment but from the start of the level itself which personally I find is fantastic as it forces the player to learn enemy patterns, pick the right weapon loadout and then actually get good at the game, there’s no extra life spamming through this at all.
In total 6 stages await your playing pleasure and the difficulty curve will test both your skills as a gamer and your patience if you cannot embrace the weapon loadout elements but for a fan of shooters this is a fantastic change of pace, for collectors it’s one of those games a lot of folk won’t know to look for now so it’s very cheap but being a Treasure developed game it will one day hit pricier levels for sure and for retro fans it’s a lovely mix of old school gameplay with newer look visuals, for me everyone wins here.
It’s not perfect and it’s absolutely not one of Treasure’s best however it is totally worth playing and for shooter fans definitely worth buying, the gameplay is sound, the action is fast and furious, the enemies are very varied with some very cool bosses and it’s hard enough to give a sense of real satisfaction once beaten without making you want to smash a controller through a wall (my signature move) when times get tricky.
Replay comes through high score attainment and beating levels with inferior weapons however for me that’s clutching at straws so I will score it based on the course of the one playthrough and the experience I had from one of Treasure’s buried… Well…. Treasures (Sorry, I will get my coat).
Verdict:- I wont mark this down based on the rubbish vocal work and soundtrack which at times is less than impressive because as bad as that part of the game can be it doesn’t break it or make a deal breaker of the situation.
Is it fantastic or a classic? God no, however it is a real blast and full of moments of core or pure retro gameplay mixed with some lovely (for 2001) modern touches, It’s hard but not impossible and for this writer is a worthy sequel that overall is not as iconic or great as it’s predecessor but is a fine compliment too.
Whilst it’s cheap as hell to buy my advice is to snap it up and have a great evening blasting those alien scumbags back to wherever they came from, seriously I have no idea where because the voice actor and story creator both make me want to kill someone rather than pay attention, make the noise stop…. Make it stop…. Please!
Second Opinion:- Well for a space shooter it has more than two levels so instantly I see problems here - lol. In all seriousness though it's really rather spiffy to look at and moves along nicely too. Visually it's great. The sound however... Hmmm
The voice samples are diabolical and really annoying and when you mix that in with a story that's so utterly stupid it can and indeed does spoil the great blasting action. It could have been a real system classic, it just get's a few things wrong is all.
Transbot Scores:- 6 out of 10