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Slipheed: The Lost Planet

Silpheed was never good. Never mind the great stories you hear passed down by your big brother or uncle or whoever. As a Sega CD title, it looked great (is that really saying much?)–ahead of its time even–but it was never a good vertical shooter. With that in mind, Silpheed: The Lost Planet is a worthy sequel! It looks positively smashing and debonair, all decked out in smooth as oil polygons, but it’s severely lacking in the substance department.

I could talk about the story now, and you could fall asleep. But you’d rather stay awake, and I’d rather not talk about a lone, drunken hero with nothing to live for, in a single ship on his way to save the world because it’s the right thing to do. Well, actually, in S:TLP, it’s worth pointing out that you’re not really alone. You’ve got these lame wingmen flanking you, talking absolute bullshit over your externals while you’re trying to concentrate on the battle at hand. They say stuff resembling: ‘I’m running out of ammo!’ and ‘Stop firing so much then’. These aren’t quotes, but they’re as close as I can get without replaying the game to memorize those sequences. As if I would do that! Haha. A scrumptious bit of comedy, that.

Why am I laughing? Why not sweating? This is a super-intense shoot-em-up straight from the old school, is it not? No, no it’s not. It’s an old school shooter ‘engine’ (Star Soldier for the NES seemed more advanced than this in terms of pure gameplay) with luscious looks. The designs are pretty uninspired and clich├ęd for the most part, but there are some truly magnificent moments. There’s the bit where you take on a spinning, bladed wheel emanating bullets. There’s also the bit where you take on an enemy craft over an undulating body of lava–this is simply gorgeous and it’s hard to concentrate on shooting because of the deliciously distracting nature of the scene (I’m not exaggerating, really).

But that’s where it ends. Memorable moments–over. The music is so useless, so pale and ineffective, it’s a wonder why they bothered at all. And we already know that the voice part of the audio equation is lame. Several bad actors make inane comments that drown out the crippled, dying tunes, while you ooh and ahh at the graphic splendour of very typical enemies who are rarely able to put a dent in the armour of your ship. That about sums up the S:TLP experience. The fact that the enemies rarely put up any kind of resistance, is exacerbated by your having a power bar of five or ten segments (you select which, from the option screen). Unlimited continues only serve to further sour the stew, and the sub-half dozen levels simply makes this one-hour game unpalatable. Did someone forget to tell our developer friends that the point of a shooter is for it to be engaging and intense?

Perhaps not. Because the stock of weapons you unlock from level to level is so unbelievably weak and underwhelming that the game can actually become frustrating at times. Granted, these times occur late in the proceedings, but they can happen. Weapons like the Thunder Arrow, and Plasma Ball have names only outdone in terms of lameness by the quality of their performances. This may be the sorriest line up of weapons I’ve yet seen in a shooter–they truly put the ‘arse’ in ‘arsenal’. All have a crap rate of fire, and do imperceptible damage with each shot. Only the Napalm Bomb is of any use; only it has any guts. But, as you might have expected, despite its decent power, it too has issues. It can only fire in a ‘V’ shape. Yup, it’s nice to know that you’ve got your 45 degree angles covered to a tee! Better pray nothing comes straight down the pike.

Silpheed: The Lost Planet is a good example of today’s developers losing a handle on what is important. Clearly lots of effort was put into making beautiful CGI cut scenes explaining your mission as it unfolds. The sad truth is that nobody cares. And these guys had to know that. If they didn’t know their stuff, know their genre, why the hell did they bother? We want loud explosions, rocking music, hard ass gameplay, and then it might be okay to gloss over great guts with the superfluous. As it is, Silpheed: The Lost Planet, got only the fluff right. R-Type Final can’t reach North American shores soon enough.

3 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in September 2003.

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