B a s i c   I n f o

Title: Silpheed

Plataform: Sega CD

Release date: 1993

Developed by: Game Arts

Published by: Sega



C o v e r   A r t












P l o t

Taken from the in-game cutscene:

"In the year 3076 an unmanned solar space fleet suddenly started to attack the colony planets. The Greason System - the central photon computer that integrates and controls the whole galaxy network on planet Earth - was network-jacked by an unknown terrorist group. The leader of the terrorist group boldly introduced himself as Zakalite.

The survivors of the Galaxy Union and the Colony Planets Fleet assembled all their forces to strike at Zakalite. After drastic restructuring and the addition of reinforcements to the tactical fighter space craft, the SA-77 Silpheed, the remaining fleet began the counter attack. Their destination? The mother planet: Earth."


O v e r v i e w

At the beginning of the nineties the 16bits war started to get hotter. Sega placed its bets on the Sega CD. Nintendo, more cautious, didn't take the risk of releasing an add-on, choosing instead to use special chips on the cartridges itself. That was the case of Star Fox, a 3D shooter that used the "Super FX" chip to render polygonal graphics on the SNes. Released in 1993 to the Sega CD, many believed that Silpheed was Sega's method of showing that its new hardware could also render polygons.

As is the case with its predecessor (launched seven years erlier for home computers), Silpheed on the Sega CD remained a 2D shooter with 3D appearance. The arcade gameplay combined with polygonal graphics made it one heck of an experience to shooter fans - light years ahead of anything seen. It was impressive for its time. The little space ship dogfighting on the first plain, while at the background huge planets, asteroids and ships exploded on thousands polygons. The (hidden) fact was that all that's happening on the background is not rendered in real time - just a full motion video (FMV) playing, but a very well executed one.

Now here's the brilliance: everyone must remember how awful the videos on the Sega CD were with their limited color palettes and very low resolution. Game Arts did not tried to achieve a realistic look, choosing instead to use flat shaded polygons rendered with just 32 colors simultaneously - this way the FMV blended seamlessly with the polygons rendered in real time (the player's ship and the enemies). The flat shaded look was (at that time) associated mostly to advanced computer simulations and graphics, so the game had this "high tech" look on its side.

The sensation was that all those polygons were being generated in real time, and some background elements even "interfered" with the gameplay (you had to dodge incoming lasers, asteroids, maneuver through tiny corridors and huge spaceships). I take off my hat to the developers who managed this "trick". That's a true case of knowing the system's limitation and using the resources to make the best experience possible. Sega, surely, could say that Silpheed would never be able to exist without the CD power - only through full motion video you could have thousands of (pre-rendered) polygons exploding on your face without ever dropping the frame rate - something essential to shoot'em ups. Star Fox looks as slow as a turtle side by side - and this statement is coming from someone who likes that game and bought a SNes just to play it (but comparing Silpheed to Star Fox is like comparing apples to oranges: completely different styles of gameplay, sharing just the polygonal look and space theme). A few cutscenes along the way is the icing on the cake, complementing what's an already impressive presentation.

Compared to the first game, the mechanics remained mostly the same: you rank up your score based on how close to the bad guys (bosses) your ship is, and this is essential to boost your arsenal: new weapons types, including ammo for optional weapons (something that the earlier PC game didn't had), will be offered based on your score, and those are a must for later stages (and final boss). Once again you're also given the chance before each stage to chose which main weapon do you want to use on each wing.

Silpheed also made great use of the sound capabilities of the Sega CD. The sound effects do their job very well. Explosions, blasts, pilots chatting - everything you could expect from a star war (pun) is there. And what about the music? Oh well... Exciting, thrilling and inspiringl! That's what I have to say about the soundtrack. Each stage has its own music that usually marries what's going on the screen, which leads me to think if the FMV was crafted to make use of the stronger parts of the soundtrack or vice-versa (the first and fifth stage are great examples of this). Even the inspired "orchestrated" song at the intro and ending cutscenes matches the camera movement. Curiously, the in-game music was not a "red book" track played from the CD (which HAS red book / arrange versions of some tracks), but is generated from the hardware itself. It sounds better than the stock Genesis thanks to the eight extra sound channels that the Sega CD permitted. Listen to these samples:

Stage 01 In Game Game CD Soundtrack
Stage 05 In Game Game CD Soundtrack

After reading all my biased overview you must be thinking that I'm such a blinded fan that I cannot see any flaws. Wrong! While Silpheed is my favourite space shooter I cannot deny that it lacks some depth in its design - that is its own nature. The only thing that bothers me is the lack of variation on the bosses. They act always the same way, sharing the same movement patterns with little variation on their attacks (but they die hard on later stages). They don't have any kind of "personality" and are totally forgettable (except for the last boss, of course). This heritage comes from the PC version, but it's a minor detail that doesn't spoil the rollercoaster ride.

Closing, Silpheed is an impressive game and one of those few titles that made the Sega CD shine. Gameplay-wise, it may be seen as Galaga-on-steroids for most people. Shooters fans, however, will find that the game offers some strategy on its core. It was really worth at the time, and still looks cool even today (I think it's even better then the PS2). I know it will never happen, but I would LOVE to see a (true) remake done.

Overview originally written in 2010. Updated in 2012.


T r i v i a

- The north american version of the game suffered slight censuring on the dialogue when compared to the Japanese version. On the first stage, right after the phrase "Good luck gentlemen! Let's Go!", the Japanese version features another pilot that says "Goddamn sightseers! Time to go back to hell!". Sometime after the planet is destroyed and the pilot says "My god, they just wiped out our bed", another pilot shouts "Jesus!!!". On the eight stage, one pilot says "They got the carrier!" on the censored version, while on the japanese he adds "Shit!" before it. Also, on the cutscene where Gloire is first revealed and destroys part of the fleet, the pilot says "Great Scott!!! That bastard stills alive!" before saying "All right gentlemen we are going in."

- One think that I've always noticed is that the Game Arts logo appears to have been subtle reproduced on the 4th stage. An easter egg or just my imagination? Compare the images bellow and tell me.

- Since the Sega CD version is regarded as a remake from the original game, you can find lots of similarities between them. Many of the enemies make their return. Below you can see some of them and also Gloire (the stolen space craft on the PC version) and the final boss on the Sega CD. It's also worth noticing that on the PC, the terrorist is called Xacalite, while on the Sega CD its Zakarte. Probably a translation error.

- Your path extends beyond 64 light years, starting on an distant point on the universe and going all the way to the solar system. Players may notice that on the end of the 5th stage, after leaving the warp speed, Silpheed arrives in Jupiter's orbit where the allies fleet is waiting. The 6th stage goes through an asteroid belt and ends with Mars in view. The 7th stage is inside an enemy base, while the 8th takes place on space during a battle between two great fleets. On the 9th stage we go to the moon, to after that finally arrive at Earth.


S c r e e n s h o t s