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by Working Designs

03-01.jpg (5663 bytes)There’s just something compelling about the simplicity of the shooter. No real strategy is involved; there are no tactical decisions to be made, and the control basically consists of one joystick and one button. Yet somehow the genre persists. Shooters endure from system to system relatively unchanged whether they’re being played on the newest powerhouse platform or the dusty antique in your closet. The graphics get a little better, the names change (sometimes), and any given title will have a small distinguishing feature to remind you that you haven’t played this game before.

04-01.jpg (5675 bytes)So the question persists; what is it about shooters that makes us want to keep playing them, and what makes one shooter better than another? The answer to both of these questions is the same, but surprisingly difficult to articulate. Playing a good shooter is a nearly Zen experience. As your fingers twitch across the sweaty controller, and your eyes phase into the mesmerizing pulse and flash of the TV screen, reality fades away. The mind knows only action and reaction coupled with the intense drive to blow the hell out of the alien bastards, save the earth, rescue the hostages, throw down some tyranny or another, or perform some other equally heroic task. Hours, days, and sometimes weeks fade away under precisely these conditions.

13-01.jpg (7847 bytes)Even really good shooters aren’t for everybody; we always know what to expect from them, and when they deliver to their audience, everyone is happy. On the other hand, really bad shooters aren’t for anybody. Since the core shooter audience are the ones buying the game, the loyal fan base is the first to get burned by a bad shooter. Fortunately for shooter fans across the world, Silpheed is a good shooter, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with Working Designs.

11-01.jpg (7879 bytes)A three star rating might seem low for a game that, for the most part, delivers when it needs to, but Silpheed will not have an across the board appeal. A select audience will enjoy it immensely; everyone else will find it mildly diverting but will have exhausted their desire to play after a few hours.

09-01.jpg (11235 bytes)True to conventional form, Silpheed is a top down space shooter. The graphics are pretty with good use of texture and color to keep things interesting and to give each stage a unique feel, but as you might expect from a 2D shooter, you won’t be blown away. You play the pilot of the last remaining Silpheed craft. As such, there are no quick continues once your ship explodes. Instead, your Silpheed has ten shield counters. Every time you’re hit you loose one counter. When they’re all gone your game is over. At select spots you meet a refueling tanker that will recharge three of your shield counters and allow you to switch weapons. At the end of each level, all of your shield counters are restored. While there are no quick continues, you can restart at the beginning of the current level.

15-01.jpg (9499 bytes)Silpheed’s most compelling feature is the ability to equip a different weapon to each side of the ship. It’s a lot of fun to try out the variety of weapons, and while some levels are more suited to certain weapons it quickly becomes apparent that some weapons are simply better than others. New weapons are unlocked as your score increases which leads us to the first area of potential frustration. If you have to continue from the beginning of a level, your score is reset to zero. Since the first couple of levels are the easiest you can build a high score early on. If you have to continue on the later levels, resetting your score to zero effectively eliminates the possibility of unlocking any new weapons, so you will have to complete the game with the weapons you have already unlocked. This means it is imperative to either never die before unlocking all the weapons, which is incredibly hard, or at the very least unlock all the weapons you want to use. Since the average gamer will not put in the time required to get good enough to unlock all the weapons, many will give up in frustration, and others will simply never see all the options the game has to offer.

08-01.jpg (9540 bytes)The lack of a save feature, although relatively standard for a shooter, exasperates the above problem. In addition, in order to finish the game the earliest levels will have to be played and replayed and replayed some more before the later levels can even be seen. Those wary of excessive repetition will quickly be put off.

06-01.jpg (11936 bytes)Yet in all fairness, those wary of excessive repetition probably aren’t big shooter fans to begin with. Recommending Silpheed to shooter fans is relatively easy. It delivers what it needs to, looks good doing it, and is fun to play, but those not interested in shooters will find nothing in Silpheed to change their mind. 

Jeff Luther   (06/25/2001)


Ups: Nice graphics; customizable weapons; great gameplay; excellent example of shooter genre.

Downs: Shooters aren't for everyone; save features increase difficulty and frustration.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation 2


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