Lukas' Journey to Silius Review
When I think Journey To Silius, I don't think action packed run and gun gameplay supported by long difficult levels filled to the brim with enemies (among some tough jumps) to challenge the player at every corner. No, that's what I think when I think of Contra or Megaman. Instead, I think an underrated run and gun classic which takes influences from Contra and Megaman while having a godly soundtrack and a fine story, but mostly a godlike soundtrack.
Journey To Silius is an action packed run and gun game supported by long, difficult levels filled to the brim with enemies (among some tough jumps) to challenge the player at every corner while having a godly soundtrack and a fine story, but mostly a godlike soundtrack. There were many games which were run and gun on the NES which were as fun as they get (such as Contra) and some even added some more elements to the genre while being fun (Megaman). Journey To Silius only fits in one category - FUN! It adds nothing new to the table, but what it has, it does those well.
Like what? Well, think Contra and Megaman put into one...I know they play about the same, but not entirely. I'll explain, while describing Journey To Silius's gameplay at the same time.
Much like Contra, you're constantly being bombarded by enemies and you have to take them out quickly before they manage to take you out. Also, the only challenging non-enemy related thing to do would be to time your jumping across platforms (much like in Contra, but Journey To Silius makes it a bit more challenging). It's basically a simple run and gun sort of game where you just go from left to right while killing huge amounts of enemies. Progress is also linear - there is one path and no level selections. Last but not least, the bosses are large screen fillers. And just like in Contra, they bite more than they bark, so be prepared to shoot a lot and dodge or take a lot of hits...Bosses themselves range from a reactor core with many lasers and a weak point, to a helicopter, to a tank with a body and a head and even as far as a huge ship with many, many lasers. The sub-bosses themselves aren't pushovers either. They may be not be as strong or screen filling, but they're still tough and require a bit of thought. Doesn't matter if you're against a boss or sub-boss - THINK BEFORE YOU ACT! Rushing in can cause a lot of damage to you, and in most cases, death. Contra often makes you do this sort of thing as well, but here you have a health bar. There, you don't, it's one hit you're dead. But just rushing in can make it look like that unless you fire quickly and dangerously. So yeah, it is a fair bit like Contra.
...and much like in Megaman, you have to collect upgrades in order to defeat the more powerful enemies and bosses without much trouble. The upgrades are basically more guns. You start out with a handgun and a shotgun, and as you defeat the last sub-boss of each level, you collect more guns like a machine gun, laser and homing missile, among others. Aside from your handgun, using your guns requires ammo...rather, gun power, represented by the blue bars on your HUD. Without any blue bars, you're stuck to using your handgun, and your handgun is the weakest gun. You can replenish the gun meter by collecting blue cylinders enemies randomly drop after being destroyed. Also, you have a health bar, which is the red bar on top of the blue bar on your HUD. Getting hit decreases this bar. If you run out of that, you die and you lose a life.
Oh and by the way, you start with 3 lives. If you lose all 3 lives, you get treated to a game over screen and can choose to end your game or continue. You have 4 continues in this game, which is 1 higher than the regular number of continues - most NES games, if they had a number of continues, had 3...or in some cases, 1. It feels a little generous, but as this game is quite difficult, you ought to feel good about that extra continue. You cannot gain continues or even extra lives for that matter, so don't screw around.
Basically, it's a run and gun game with gun collecting and screen filling boss killing. As such, the controls are simple - A for jumping, B for shooting, Start to access the menu and Select to pause, with D-pad moving you. In the menu, you can press Select to select a gun, and Start to equip the gun selected. The jumping controls a little whacked, with movements responding a little slowly in the air and taking its time to actually move, but that's my only gripe with the controls. I'll go more into the jumping later. If you want to go rapid fire, either equip the machine gun, get a turbo controller or mash the hell out of the B button. Yeah, it's a button masher, but at least it doesn't require high speeds or for whole levels (looking at you Silver Surfer). Overall, I'd say solid controls.
But hands down, the best thing about this game is the soundtrack. Words just can't express how good this soundtrack is. It was recorded differently from, say, Battletoads or Super Mario Brothers 3, in the sense that the bass tunes were coded as DPCM samples that added a lot of depth to the usual 8-bit soundtracks you're probably used to. Anyway, the soundtrack is full of win in this game. From the title screen up to the credits, it's just that catchy, technical and powerful that...put it this way - don't bother trying to make room in your mind for this, it'll just destroy any other soundtrack, whether it be 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit, Lord Of The Rings or today's sort, this game's soundtrack will destroy it. Speaking of credits, five people are credited for this, and oh boy does it show or what... It's not just one or two people doing all the work while the rest just put in little things either, this is easily a case of five people putting in 110% to give out the best soundtrack possible.
But at the end of the day, while the game does play, control, sound and look great, there are STILL SOME FLAWS, though they're quite minor and don't really mean much, especially when compared to other games. For one, the jumping, as I said, is quite a hassle to handle to begin with. Jay moves and jumps sort of realistically, so when he jumps, he isn't about to change direction or horizontal speed. Plan your jumps carefully! And your falls too! When he falls or jumps, he's not changing direction or horizontal speed until he lands...well, he might change direction, but it takes a bit of time for that to happen. Anyway, plan falls carefully...you might land on enemies if you're not careful. This has happened a lot to me, but thankfully I bounced back by destroying the enemy. Anyway, this takes a bit to get used to, so don't worry if the jumping feels awkward...it's supposed to. There's a lot worse out there...In the 3 NES Castlevania games, you can't change direction or horizontal speed AT ALL while in the air. God only knows how many times I died in the 3 Castlevanias combined (mainly 1 and 3) just because I miscalculated a jump and landing in a pit (or on an enemy which forced me to fall into a pit). Just takes time to get used to, that's all. The only other problem would be that the story may confuse some people, though I'm not too sure how. I guess it's because some feel that parts of it aren't explained that well. In the scenes before you play, there's only about 6 screens with 3 or 4 lines of story per screen, and... Wait a minute, is this even a problem? Journey To Silius has been around for about 18 years, do you honestly expect a detailed novel back then? I mean some do find it confusing but you can always just press Start to skip the story and act like it doesn't exist. 18 years ago, there weren't really any detailed stories out there. The games that forced this into obscurity didn't have much of a story (IF AT ALL), and look at how good they are (example: Battletoads).
Aside from that, there was no reason why this became an obscure game. This could've dominated the remainder of the 8-bit era along with Battletoads and Startropics in 1990, but instead it was burrowed further from existence for an incredibly strange reason...marketing? Who knows...But whatever it is, it shouldn't have been as it proves to be an incredibly powerful game.
...okay, it's nothing special aside from the powerful-as-it-gets soundtrack, but whatever it does, it does well while cutting the crap!
So to sum it all up:
Simple run and gun fare. You run, you jump, you shoot, what more could you ask for? Levels cater to this finely with many enemies and jumps, as well as being able to use other guns.
Jumping can be a hassle at first, but once you get used to it, it won't bother you. Aside from that, usual run and gun fare - simple and easy to remember.
Wow...Nothing special or captivating, well, by today's standards. But 18 years ago, this would've seemed like a pretty cool story (revenge story where the protagonist goes for the robot terrorists instead of continuing his father's work). In my opinion, it works for this game. How? It's simple, right to the point, doesn't need any mid-game development and is a perfect excuse to shoot some robots. Good work Sunsoft.
It's an 8-bit game, could you expect any better than these visuals? At least the human looks like a human, the robots look like robots and...yeah, you get it. The amount of detail on each character, aside from Jay, is astounding (for 8-bit). They almost look real or at least convincing. The ships are also very detailed. A few tints and shades here and there, as well as filling the screen and still looking good. Among that, the final boss (which is basically the evil Terminator from the first Terminator movie) looks exactly like what he's meant to - if you had to make the evil Terminator 8-bit, don't! Just steal from this game. Nobody will notice or care. In other words, just great.
The highlight of this game. I spent way too much time on the soundtrack so you know how good it is and that it's the best the NES has. The sound effects aren't pushovers either. Have to admit, the bullets sound a little weird with a plop sound, but hey, it's 8-bit and the technology was limited, what was there to expect? And besides, the soundtrack makes up for this a million times over, so who cares?
The game itself lasts about an hour with only 5 levels, but actually getting into the game will take a while considering how each level is long and difficult. Plus even after beating it, you'll probably want to keep beating it again and again. Unfortunately, there are no secrets or anything fancy like that. Don't worry, the way this game is played makes up for it, but that takes a bit off the score.
The only reason this is 4.5 and not 5 is because a beginner will get frustrated by how tough this is. This is not supposed to be for beginners - more for intermediate and professional run and gun players, maybe more beginner-intermediate - but if you're just starting and want to play this game, prepare to get fairly frustrated trying to learn the patterns of the enemies while trying to memorize the level structures and efficient ways to defeat the bosses.
Journey To Silius is a game worth playing. The way Sunsoft executed this game was flawless and it caters to a lot of people. It may not offer anything new to the run and gun genre, but it at least delivers very well.
I give this underrated classic a 4.8/5.0.