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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Working Designs

Ups: Furious 2D action; great graphics; really unique characters; super tough.

Downs:  Impossible pricing scheme for upgrades; really, incredibly tough.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

sm-01-01.jpg (5927 bytes)Silhouette Mirage was released for the Saturn three years ago in Japan, but the long anticipated U.S. release never materialized. The games developer, Treasure, is know for other Sega greats such as Guardian Heroes, Dynamite Headdy, and Radiant Silvergun, and anybody who’s played these titles can give you the scoop on Treasure. They aim for out-of-control gameplay and thumb blisters, and they have a history of delivering both. There was a time when Treasure was cranking out Sega exclusives while the rest of the world watched and wimpered, and while Sega smiled on. Those days went belly up with the Saturn and, for U.S. gamers, so did Silhouette Mirage. As the days of the Playstation wind down it is both fitting and poetic that Sony adds another exclamation point to their dominance of the console market and delivers for U.S. gamers where the Saturn failed to. The Playstation’s ability to handle the really great 2D platform games has long been suspect, but Silhouette Mirage settles the issue at last. The graphics are superb, the control is great, and slowdown is non-existent.

The premise of Silhouette Mirage is simple. Well, it’s reminiscent of simple anyway. Essentially a 2D platform game, Silhouette Mirage demands that you guide the game’s heroine, Shyna, over treacherous terrain and fiendish foes alike. The world is in danger, and unless you can find the misguided Edo computer system, life will grind to a halt. In this world you’re either a Silhouette or a Mirage, except for Shyna who has the ability to switch between them. Foes are divided into two types; blue Silhouettes and red Mirages, and each can only be destroyed by attacks of their opposite color. Shyna switches between Silhouette and Mirage by changing the direction she is facing, and by use of special techniques. To pass a level you have to hone your reflexes to perfection and figure out how to evade enemy fire while maneuvering into a position where you can come at them from the correct side.

sm-08-01.jpg (4588 bytes)There are also a few special techniques that need to be mastered to progress in the game. When you attack enemies of the same color, you can’t kill them, but you can drain their energy bar and use it to replenish your own. When you defeat an enemy you also receive a small financial reimbursement in the form of a shiny gold coin left on the ground which can be used to purchase better guns, as well as life and energy replenishers. To get the big money you have to execute a Cash Bash on your enemies before you defeat them. Simply pick up the unfortunate foe and beat the cash out of ‘em. Every time your fist slams into the poor chap’s face, his pockets get a little lighter. I myself had this technique preformed on me many times when I was a kid, so it’s nice to be dishing it out for a change. In addition to the all important shooting and Cash Bashing, you also have to master the reflector shield, throws, crouching, sliding, running, and flying. All an all it makes for a pretty substantial arsenal for a 2D platform game. And you’ll need it, I guarantee.

You won’t have to play the game for long before one thing becomes abundantly clear: Silhouette Mirage is a difficult and challenging game that leaves little room for error. This isn’t necessarily bad thing, in fact, it’s usually a really good thing. The problems arise when games are difficult for the wrong reasons and this is the first area where Silhouette Mirage runs into trouble. You are given nine lives to make it through the entire game and this is just short of impossible. You can save after every level, but with so few continues you are forced to constantly re-do the levels in search of perfection; it’s the only way to be thrifty enough with your life supply to make it through to the end of the game. Gone are the glory days of other classic 2D platform games like Skull Monkeys, where you spent all day burning through continues as you face a seemingly impossible obstacle course, until finally, with sore thumbs and bleeding eyes, you finish through the sheer force of will alone. Silhouette Mirage leaves little room for do-overs, and this means constantly reloading the game from your last save point to try again. The otherwise joyous gameplay becomes methodical and unnecessarily tedious.

When Working Designs decided to bring Silhouette Mirage stateside, the difficulty level was jacked-up from its Japanese counterpart. The enemies cause more damage, the special guns are more expensive to buy, and once you buy them they drain energy when you use them, limiting their effectiveness. The intent was obviously to make the game more difficult. This is a noble idea, but the charm of a 2D game is found when you become so obsessed with the game play that you don’t want to stop playing. Try, try, again is the proven motto of every legendary 2D platform game. When the game itself overly restricts your ability to do this, something is lost.

Although you can use the money you have collected to buy a variety of upgraded weapons, this is extremely difficult to do. Even executing the Cash Bash on every opponent will give you barely enough money to keep buying the health refills that keep you in the game, much less be able to afford the exorbitantly priced weapons. The new weapons can be upgraded after every level, so even on the off chance that you save enough money to buy a cool new weapon, you’ll be stuck with it long after better versions are available as you try, in vain, to save up enough money for the better weapons, which will be dated by the time you can afford them. When you get taken out by an enemy, you loose a big chunk of your cash, reminiscent of Sonic. This is yet another reason why Silhouette Mirage demands perfection. While being able to afford the good guns is improbable and difficult, it is impossible if you are forced to continue. I began to wonder if perhaps Silhouette Mirage wouldn’t be more acutely described by its initials alone.

I had fun with Silhouette Mirage, but it was clear that the game just wasn’t fulfilling its potential. As much as I enjoyed the game at times, it went out of its way to work against me at other times. It requires dedication, tolerance, and lots of time. Platform addicts only, casual gamers need not apply. Even the options menu allows only one function, the Dual Shock control, to be manipulated at the start of the game. You will have to beat the game through all five paths to unlock the rest of the functions such as difficulty, game speed, and shop items. What could have been an amazing game is instead a pretty good one that once again proves that sometimes you should just leave well-enough alone.

 --Jeff Luther