Silver - Staff Retroview  

Put 'L' Before 'I' And Jam Into Eye
by Mike Moehnke

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Less than 20 Hours
+ The music is pretty good
- Characters are too small to see, too often
- Very dark environments
- Temperamental inventory menus
- Limited save points
- Boring and repetitive hack 'n' slash
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   The Dreamcast was unfortunate in its early RPG library. Evolution and Evolution 2 are probably Sting's least distinguished titles, Elemental Gimmick Gear is a mediocre action RPG, and Time Stalkers managed to demean Climax's entire development history. Amongst such unpleasant company, Silver distinguishes itself in the wrong way with an enormous assortment of problems that are the responsibility of both the original developer and the game's Dreamcast publisher, Infogrames. So plentiful are Silver's problems that the game hits the bottom of the barrel even with the fierce competition for that award in the Dreamcast's RPG library.

   Silver's combat takes place as a real-time 3D hack & slash system vaguely similar to Diablo. The hero, David, and two allies have both melee and long-range attacks available to kill everything on the screen. Needing to kill everything on every screen is the first problem, because escape is impossible unless every enemy is dead. There are several melee moves available to impart the seeming of sophistication to the combat, but pressing the A button as quickly as possible works just as well in most circumstances. Switching between characters is very quick and easy, but the characters are completely unreliable when not directly controlled. At times they will aggressively pursue the enemy, and at other times they will stand still and let ranged attacks kill them.

   Navigation is an enormous headache in Silver thanks to the incredibly dark environments found in most areas. Squinting and turning off the lights may be necessary to reveal what the obstacle blocking movement is, and even by doing so, many areas are so dark that it forces one to simply move around everywhere until an exit is found. Holding the L button is supposed to bring up all exits and objects to interact with onscreen, but it does not always work, forcing the player to blunder around until an exit is found. Every screen in the game is at least uniquely designed, but this also means that there is no set pattern for where exits are to be located and increases the aggravation. Text that appears onscreen is also incredibly small, to the detriment of one's eyes.

The rodents from Lunar 2 have found a new habitat. The rodents from Lunar 2 have found a new habitat.

   The L button is also meant to toggle between targets when using a ranged attack, but it has faults here also. The game has a bad habit of targeting something offscreen, where missiles will not always go. It also does not pause the action to allow leisurely target selection, and this is a big problem when melee enemies will launch an assault while ranged opponents pelt the party. Elevation is very difficult to determine without actually launching an attack, but a difference in elevation (or having an obstacle in the way) can block attacks. Some enemies are inaccessible to melee strikes and the requirement that everything must die means players will have to muck about with the murky environments to find a firing angle that works.

   Enemies will often drop food items (for restoring Hit Points) and weapons, with an occasional gold drop. Experience is only granted after defeating bosses, with a sudden Level Up achieved at that point. Gold is needed for several story progression moments and to buy additional restorative items.

   Every environment in the game has a fixed camera angle. Some of them scroll because they are too large to be taken in with one screen, and most of them are far too zoomed-out to let the action be clearly visible. Party members and enemies are frequently so small that they overlap and cannot be quickly differentiated at melee range, meaning that one must hammer the A button as much as possible and hope for the best. The size of characters relative to the environments also means that movement is very slow and crossing an area devoid of enemies takes much too long.

   Equipment is not bought, but must be claimed from the drops dead enemies leave behind. The menus of Silver use a ring format that is similar to Secret of Mana's, except it is incompetent. For no apparent reason the analog stick must be used to navigate instead of the directional pad, and the analog stick must be held in the direction of the choice. If the player forgets to hold the analog stick, which is far more sensitive than the directional pad and thus poorly designed for this purpose, the menu is exited. Excepting this major issue still leaves significant problems such as the tiny text and the lack of any statistics on weapons.

   Silver's plot begins well, with the title character being an evil emperor who forces all the women of child-bearing age to be taken away so that he can choose a replacement for his wife, whom he just killed. The abduction of his wife makes David distraught, and he takes off to get her back by whatever means prove necessary. It is soon revealed that Silver is actually fighting on behalf of an evil god, and that eight magical orbs are needed to make him vincible. David also joins with some rebels fighting against the evil despot. In the annals of RPGs with this plot outline, Silver attains mediocrity at best.

The characters can and do get smaller than this. The characters can and do get smaller than this.

   The atrocious save system must also be mentioned. A fellow called the Chronicler will appear in certain parts of dungeons (his voice reminds me of The Haunted Mansion announcer at Disneyland) to save the game. Once the game is saved, the Chronicler disappears. He does remain permanently at a couple of non-dungeon locations but inside of the dungeons his disappearing act is infuriating. Even if the Chronicler remained able and willing to save the game at any time, the developer makes players go through a name entry screen with every save.

   At least the music in Silver is pretty good. The score has far more in common with a film soundtrack than that of a game, which unfortunately means that there are periods of ambient noise instead of music. What music does exist is fairly good, at least. Every line in the game is voice acted, and it is painfully apparent that there are far more characters than voice actors. The lack of any onscreen text for almost every line and the soft speaking voices of many characters make it very probable that the listener will be unable to understand what is being said.

   The challenge in Silver is the definition of unbalanced. Most enemies can easily be beaten into a pulp by hitting the A button constantly and healing every now and again. Sometimes obstacles will block the path to a ranged attacker, making their deaths harder to achieve. Later in the game, horrible enemies which can teleport any time they are approached and which will unleash a constant bombardment of magical attacks are introduced. To make these enemies even more unpleasant the other party members will run after them, prompting their warping and annulling any attempt at targeting them with ranged methods. Compounding the frustration is the seemingly random execution of the Specials that deliver much more damage - the manual's instructions on how to bring them about do not consistently work.

   Silver requires somewhere between 15 and 20 hours to complete. Players who enjoy a little masochism in their games can find reasons for replay, but any RPGamer who dislikes squinting at the television screen constantly can walk away without hesitation. The screens of the PC version that I have seen are brighter, which makes me suspect that Infogrames did not apply proper care in porting the game. Even if everything was brightly rendered, however, Silver is a boring game with plenty of other problems that consign it to the trash.

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