tiistai 9. syyskuuta 2014

REVIEW - Silver Surfer | NES | 1990

GENRE(S): Shoot 'em up
RELEASED: November 1990
DEVELOPER(S): Software Creations
PUBLISHER(S): Arcadia Systems

Silver Surfer, the intergalactic herald of destruction, was created by Jack Kirby and made his debut on the pages of The Fantastic Four in 1966, from where he spun off to a series of his own two years later. Silver Surfer never became super-popular, but a cult favourite among Marvel fans; he gained some mainstream fame upon his important, namesake role in the 2007 Fantastic Four film Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, in which he was portrayed by contortionist Doug Jones and voiced by Laurence Fishburne. Long before that, in 1990, someone figured they'd finance the production of a Silver Surfer video game; that someone being someone other than LJN (!). Silver Surfer was developed by Software Creations, who at least got something right every once in a while - their most popular game, Solstice, had been released earlier that year. Well, retro critics' reception to Silver Surfer is, as is well known, extremely negative; but I must say, now that I've finally psyched myself to do it, playing Silver Surfer on the NES isn't quite the horrible experience I imagined it to be... and it's definitely not even the worst NES game of the marathon. It's just very, very, very, very hard.

No quarter

You'll be seeing this a LOT.
Galactus sends the Silver Surfer on a deadly errand to collect the parts of a cosmic device to protect their realm from the invasion of the Magik Domain. These parts are placed in the hands of some of the nastiest of the galaxy: Reptyl, Mephisto, Possessor, Fire Lord and Dorrek VII, with a sixth, anonymous villain calling the shots.

So, Silver Surfer, we meet again. Last December, I took a little dip into the world of the Silver Surfer, literally so as I reviewed the horrible, just horrible DS game based on that Rise of the Silver Surfer film - which in itself was quite abysmal. This game has nothing to do with the Fantastic Four, this is strictly based on the Silver Surfer stand-alone serial, rehashed and rebooted from time to time as if to test worldwide reactions. The Silver Surfer has always been a critics' favourite and a cult favourite among fans, but honestly not the first character to come to my mind if I was making a Marvel game at any point of time, if I wanted to make some money with it. On the other hand, it might've been a stroke of passion for gaming, not money. Or it might've been just be a random idea to disguise a basic 2D shoot 'em up game. Or just simply a random game made for random reasons.

Whatever it is, it's existed for 24 years, and no-one knows why. The game is one of the many "lucky" ones to be chosen for AVGN's shitlist, and when a game makes that list, when James goes to the trouble of shooting a video for a game - can't imagine how long the most complex videos have taken from him to make - you know it's something special, in better or worse, usually worse. That's why they call him "Angry". I have reviewed many games after James; if I don't know a game that well, and he happens to have a video for it, I very often use that video for research. The problem's been that his thoughts on the game have provoked me to pick up the same mistakes a little easier than I probably would've if I'd went cold turkey. Well, in this case, I don't agree with James all that much. While I absolutely do concur that Silver Surfer is an extremely unfair game, I don't think it's totally unplayable. I've seen much worse Marvel games bearing the Seal of Quality.

There are at least 11 ways to die on this one
Before I go into the game itself, I might as well address one of the critics' more superficial annoyances with Silver Surfer - apparently it doesn't properly support the source material. OK, especially in the case of Batman I've often griped if he's used an excessive amount of projectile weapons (Batman: Return of the Joker) or killed people (many early games, but Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu on the Game Boy Advance comes to mind), and that's because I'm such a huge Batman fan. I'm not a fan of the Silver Surfer. If you're annoyed by this game at such a level, I feel for you, I truly do, it's a bummer, absolutely no sarcasm involved - but I'm not. He's silver(ish), he has that surfboard or whatever, and I recognize some of the villains from another context. Enough for me.

If there's something critics have praised about the game, it's the music, which is no wonder since brothers Follin are in the house. Tim, of course, is the more famous out of the duo, having composed many classic titles such as Bubble Bobble, Bionic Commando, Ghouls 'n Ghosts, and of course, Solstice (thequestforthestaffofdemnos!). Just to pull the rope back a bit here, I don't rightly get why such a limited quantity of tunes would need two composers. Either way, it sounds great; it's magnificently sequenced, high-impact groove. Somehow reminds me of David Wise - which originally led me to believe that this was another Rare/LJN contribution to the pile of Marvel trash.

Silver Surfer is a 2D shoot 'em up, as very basic as they come, overhauled with a distinct comic book theme. The first NES comparison to come to mind is Disney's TaleSpin, perhaps not the most flattering comparison, but the most honest one. It's got similar, sticky controls in a world that needs more, and the side-scrolling's automatic up 'til the boss. Classic shoot 'em ups such as R-Type and Gradius were probably used as templates, but I never had any complaints when it came to the controls. They were hard, sure. Silver Surfer is just way harder, and not for a whole lot of right reasons, as if there are many reasons to go around at all in such a game.

A rubber duck? What the...?
You let your kids play Silver Surfer, you're practically begging for them to learn the ins and outs, and all existing variations of the word "fuck". Not even a kid has patience for all the death stored in this innocent-looking cartridge. It isn't like Ghosts 'n Goblins, Battletoads, Ninja Gaiden or any of the hardest Mega Man games - it isn't as appealing or playable to begin with, not on any level. It's JUST a shoot 'em up and it's just as much of a push as it is a draw. More specifically, a shoot 'em up with sticky controls AND just one hit point to spare, which is less than in any of those games I mentioned (even Ghosts has two). Projectiles, as well as enemies themselves, are flying towards you from every direction. In the start of a new life, you have one-time access to a screen-clearing bomb for an emergency; as you will see, though, the levels are filled with these kind of emergencies. Your bullets - or whatever - can be upgraded in Castlevania style with power-ups gained from shooting up enemies, but the changes aren't that grand. Remember: one hit from anything, and it's over.

There's one checkpoint per stage, but there are no extra lives to be had, and using a password is considered cheating outside the box, as you need two controllers and a simple cheat code in order to use them. You can play the levels in any order you want, but none of them are any easier than the next. One more level is unlocked after you've beaten the first five, and as expected, that one's criminally insane. It's best you just stop trying early.

To turn the tide again on this same subject, how can you be mad at a simple 2D shoot 'em up? How can you claim to actually hate a simple shoot 'em up as a game? Sure, Silver Surfer could present some fashion of slack every once in a while, but we've seen some of the most thoroughly horrible games of all time during this marathon - ones that give you just as little mercy, but are impossible to enjoy from any standpoint. You won't get very far in Silver Surfer, but at least you're eager to try for the first 20 minutes if you got any nose for vintage arcade.

+ Good music
+ Simple enough

- Kind of a random theme
- Stock enemy designs that don't belong here
- Impossible difficulty
- Sticky controls

< 6.3 >

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