Silpheed: The Lost Planet
Silpheed: The Lost Planet puts you at the forefront of defending Earth from an alien invasion. But as with most action games, an involving storyline takes a back seat to pure adrenaline-pumping combat. With graphics that are a living tribute to the power of modern console gaming and gameplay that is firmly rooted in the simply action-packed arcade games of the past, Silpheed is a very fun, very retro, shooter game.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Let's see if I can explain this correctly. You see, you have this little ship and you move it from side to side, up and down, and shoot at things. Yep, that's about it. Of course you have to choose the correct weapon combination for each section, with new weapons being added at the completion of each level. The weapons are your garden-variety shooter fare, with the obligatory diagonal shots, laser beam, and grenades. Thankfully you can change weapons halfway through the level, as certain main bosses require a different weapon combination from the rest of the level. Bosses are, as they should be, difficult, numerous, and one of the best part of the game.
Despite being modeled in full 3D, the game actually plays on a flat 2D plane, like your Centipede and Xevious of the past. The 3D aspect of the game allows for some background skewing and some intense graphics (more on that later), but it really doesn't affect gameplay much. Mostly, you'll be learning the pattern of the enemies and trying to destroy them before they can get their big shots off.
To be a true retro shooter, the challenge to achieve a high score is a prerequisite. Silpheed covers this beautifully by not only adding big, bright numbers that pop-up on the screen as you destroy enemies, but by showering you with multipliers based on how close the enemy ship gets to you before you dispatch it. So if you can defeat the ship right as it is about to hit you, you can receive up to 16 times the score, versus the normal shooter tactic which is to clobber it just as it enters the screen. This creates two different ways to play the game; survival and score hunting.
Silpheed is not easy by any means, which is represented well by the fact that there is no easy mode; just normal and difficult. You can choose between five or ten shields, which help considerably, and a ship comes by to refuel you halfway through each level. Having to use a continue though, means restarting at the beginning of the level and losing all the score you racked up. A PS2 memory card can hold your settings and your hi-score, but won't save your game.
The graphics in Silpheed are wonderful, as befits a next generation console game. There are large explosions, an abundance of particle effects, and fully three-dimensional backgrounds that fly by at a wonderful clip. One level has you flying through levels of clouds, with each layer blocking your vision until you break through to the next. Another level has you fighting through the rings of Saturn, with the planet turning below, large rocks spinning in the distance and up close, and huge laser beams doing their best to cross your path. One boss battle happens above a huge ocean of undulating lava. Very nice...
Unfortunately, as plagued the original Japanese version, there is some slowdown in a couple of places. Working Designs spent extra time trying to eliminate the slowdown before it was released here, but they weren't completely successful. During the few times in the game where it happens, slowdown is almost a welcome sight as it gives you a chance to catch your breath.
The cinema scenes that occur between each level are a welcome sight as well, as they are excellently done, both visually and with regards to the auditory, which brings us to'
The background music in Silpheed is an enjoyable techno mix and each track can be played from the options menu so you can listen to your favorite ones. The special effects test your subwoofer, as they should, and the voice acting is well done. What I thought was a nice touch, was hearing your fellow Silpheed fighters (who you never actually see on the screen) telling you what is coming up, or making comments on what is going on around you. It adds a nice audio touch to help you get further immersed in the action.
How much you will enjoy Silpheed is directly related to how much you miss the simple 'sit-down and play' shooters of the past and the old-fashioned idea that a high score means everything. Silpheed has excellent graphics and sound, and is a blast to play, and although it breaks no new ground when it comes to gameplay, for some it will truly come as a breath of fresh air. I give it an 82.
Download Silpheed: The Lost Planet
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Everything we've heard indicates that Game Arts Silpheed on the PS2 will very closely resemble the Sega CD version, except this time the backgrounds will be fully rendered in real time rather than simple, prerendered FMV. Six stages of shooting action await those who import the game later this year. Silpheed is kind of an odd choice for an update considering its relative obscurity, but we aren't complaining.
Now that we've had a chance to play the PS2 edition of Silpheed, we have a few concerns. We know Working Designs plans to add analog control before the game hits shelves this fall, but we're wondering if they plan to do anything about the massive slowdown found in many of the levels as well. There probably isn't a big chance of that happening. However, fans of the Sega CD game of old will recognize the option to load different weapons on each side of their ship, earn new weapons based on their performance in each level, and even relive some of the great music from the first game. The real question is whether the nostalgia factor will be enough for new PS2 owners to spend the dough. Look for our review next month.