Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Silpheed (Game Arts)

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If I mention the game Silpheed, those who aren’t Sega CD fans probably won’t be familiar with the game.  On the other hand, if I mention a very similar title that came out at about the same time I know most gamers will instantly recognize it, Star Fox.  While both are on-rails shmups, Star Fox had a new perspective directly behind the ship or in the cockpit, not to mention that there were many more SNES consoles than Sega CDs at the time.  That doesn’t mean that Silpheed should be discredited; it offers some of the best polygonal graphics of the time without the groggy slowdown and keeps the traditional vertical shmup perspective.  Oh yeah, did I mention it originally came out in 1986?

As a brainchild of Takeshi Miyaji (you know him better for his RPG franchises like Lunar and Grandia), this title released on the Japanese PC-8801 in 1986 and in 1988 made the jump to the Fujitsu FM-7.  At that time Sierra took notice of it and ported it to the US (along with a rough translation) for the MS-DOS format.  At the time the game featured pre-rendered graphics to create the polygonal effects we see in early 3D games like Star Fox.  It wasn’t until the game was ported to the Sega CD/Mega CD in 1993 and actually featured polygonal graphics for all of the ships in the game, a feat for the time that was somewhat common in Sega CD titles. 

At this point Silpheed is a rudimentary and quite easy shmup, but it retains the roots of the genre better than titles it’s often compared to like Star Fox or Star Wars Arcade.  I’m still amazed with the graphics, especially when you know the game was already 7 years old when it came to the Sega CD and yet has a lot of similar dialogue to Star Fox – is there really a chance Nintendo “borrowed” choice phrases?  If you have a Sega CD and you’ve avoided this title because it either didn’t look fun or had some of the most generic cover art you’ve ever seen, it might be worth giving this inexpensive game a chance.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm

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