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Journey to Silius

Released: 1991
Company: Sunsoft
Genre: Soldier Shooter

For the most part, I know what I'm getting into when I buy an NES game. Either I've seen pictures of it in Nintendo Power, or read about it in one of the Jeff Rovin books I've read, or heard people mention it in the message board I frequent. However, that wasn't the case for this game: the only familiarity I'd had with Journey to Silius was witht he fact that it was given away in almost every episode of Video Power during its game show days. So in essence, I was coming into this game with a blank slate, and it didn't waste its opportunity. It is flawed, mind you, but is still a very good game.

On of the most intriguing things about the game was the story behind. And I'm not talking about what was in the manual or the opening cinema: I mean how this game came into being. Originally, it was supposed to be the NES adaptation of the movie The Terminator, but a contract dispute left SNK scrambling for a plot they could use to fill up the exposition of this game. This would explain a few things, such as the absence of an ongoing story. The opening cinema scene was interesting, but that element only works if you use it throughout the game, not just plop it at the beginning. Still, the storyline does everything it's supposed to do, and I did like the whole element of the son avenging his father's death.

The one thing that led me to buy this game was the fact that someone had mentioned how good the presentation was. And let me tell you, this guy wasn't blowing smoke. Journey to SIlius has some of the best audiovisuals on the system. Granted, Jay could stand a little more detail, but that's not too much of a gripe. The scenery is well done, both futuristic and foreboding, while the animation is quite fluid. Maybe even a little too fluid, but I'll get into that later.

Where this game really shines is in the soundtrack. If you pay close attention to the music, you'll notice how much attention the programmers paid themselves. Case in point: the second level. The music there goes for 3 minutes and 46 seconds before it loops back to the beginning. That's an incredibly long piece by video game standards. And leave it to the themes for the title screen and first level to get you pumped up for the challenge ahead. I'm not as fond of the fourth level's music, although it's decent enough, and I wish they had made another theme for the final level instead of rehashing the first level's music, but neither of these gripes are big enough to prevent this game from getting a 6 in the Audio score.

On the whole, the game controls pretty solidly. The hit detection is accurate, there's minimum recoil, and Jay moves at a decent clip. I would've liked a little more flexibility in how I could aim my gun, though, since you can't aim up or down in this game. Also, regarding the animation issue, there's a point in the game where Jay has to negotiate some falling platforms. Since they animated the action of turning around, I did waste a few lives on those platforms because they dropped while Jay was turning.

As for the challenge of JtS, this game is pretty hard. But I'm not going to dock points simply out of the difficulty in this game; I'm more worried about how the game is hard than how hard the game is. First off, the entire game is only five levels long. Maybe they'd have been better served by adding an extra level or two to dilute the learning curve a bit. Also, I fail to see the point of giving your hero a new weapon upon defeating the sub-boss of a level, only to face the real boss immediately afterwards. Since there's a finite amount of ammo for the special weapons, and chances are you've used up most if not all of it on the sub-boss already, it renders the new weapon moot. And lastly, while getting to the end of the game is a challenge, the final boss certainly is not. Especially after going up against a massive spaceship right before it which is a trial in and of itself, I can lay the final cyborg to waste quite handily.

Since it is a difficult game armed with infinite continues, beating it really isn't an issue. Rather, this is one of those games where you see just how far you can get before having to spend that first continue, or maybe even losing that first life. Obviously, the butt-kicking soundtrack is partially responsible for the enjoyment I get out of this game, but the gameplay alone is quite solid. If I had to rank it among the soldier shooters in my collection, this game would be up there with the Mega Man games, MetalStorm, and Contra.

To put it simply, I didn't know what to expect when I bought Journey to Silius, but I'm glad I did. This is an enjoyable game that's well worth your time.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 15
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 19
Overall Score: 81%